Salem Food Digest: Sunday Brunch - The Village Tavern Enters the Fray

A jazzy brunch effort brings a new player on the Salem brunch scene

By The BaldOne

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Brunch as defined by the Salem Food Digest is, "a late morning to mid-afternoon meal offering both breakfast and lunch type offerings. It may include either buffet or menu style service and MUST include a full cocktail bar."

The full cocktail bar requirement eliminates many of the regular breakfast joints in Salem. That does not mean that we discount their efforts, but for purposes of brunch we require the ability to serve a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa.

Recently twelve of us ventured to The Village Tavern at 168 Essex Street, which is on the pedestrian mall behind the big fountain that is known to sometimes have actual water in it. The Ingemi family, a long time Salem restaurant staple, think of the Beef & Oyster, Hared's, Texas Red's, and City Side Pool, have been running this business from inception.

The first ever brunch at the Village Tavern was just a few weeks back. We invaded their space during the third Sunday of this omelet and oyster adventure.

Taking up space in the small dining room, except for the California Lovers who sat at the bar we wasted no time in exploring out options. Some of us were presented with a lunch style menu, and some of us were not.

Most of chose to fill out omelet cards which we then brought to the chefs station. I thought we were supposed to give them to James the waiter. If that was true the chef didn't know and he took our cards and began cracking eggs.

Menu items were available but the chafing pans beckoned and we all approached them with anticipation. There was house made sausage and biscuits, one fried potatoes, hash browns with sausage, eggs benedict, bacon, and a banger type of sausage available.

The omelet station was a bit of a challenge. A few of us had our omelets come out quickly, some others had to go up and ask when their omelets would be coming. One or two were made incorrectly, but amends were made quickly. Overall the omelets themselves were a great hit, stuffed generously and cooked properly.

The lovely Jacqui commented that the "waffle was great" but that there are a few issues to be worked out with keeping the food warm and fresh." Jean was in agreement finding the eggs benedict to be a bit less than warm.

Jean, she of the broken sidewalk can be a bit tough, but she has plans to go back sometime soon

Beth's Beau was quite impressed with his omelet, but felt that the ordering system need a bit of tweaking. He would have liked for the sausage gravy to have a "bit of a kick". He is also planning on a return trip.

The Bloody Mary's impressed all around. The mix is made in house and they have a good selection of vodkas. Yours truly is a bit of a bloody snob and found that they quite strong, I prefer a more balanced bloody in order to explore the base, but would never complain of a strong drink.

As we were eating the buffet crew fell behind in keeping the stations filled. It was good to see that Arthur Ingemi, the "Bull of the Woods" at Tavern,  step right up and pitch in by changing chafing trays and checking on the omelet process. He introduced some scrambled eggs to the mix which was a good move.

Overall what we saw was a new concept being introduced and a staff learning how to handle the challenges. The music added to the experience, brunch and jazz after all goes together like ham and eggs.

We'll be back Village Tavern, but you won't know when. That Sunday night prime rib has gotten our attention.

Wicked Good Books: A review by The BaldOne

Wicked Good Books – Food For The Brain

By The BaldOne

Once in a Salem of long ago, when the Mayor was a Frenchman and our other U. S. Senator was a Republican I wandered into a new bookstore located in Derby Square. It was a neat and organized little operation run by a nice older couple named Munroe.

After some browsing time I settled on a paperback novel of middle-eastern espionage and intrigue titled, Thirty-Four East. It was the first book that I ever bought with my own money.

Twenty-five years later I wandered in to the same bookstore. It was still the same business and was now being run by the sons of the couple that opened the store so long ago. Much had changed as indicated clearly by the seemingly haphazard piles of book scattered around the room. The entire place seemed a curator’s conundrum, 

Most people loved it even as the stacks of books became higher and more precipitous and the carpet became threadbare. Some were intrigued by the challenge of finding a book amongst the tall spires of books, while others were to terrified to even enter.

Times have changed. A new era has dawned in the world of the Salem bookworm.

Wicked Good Books has brought a wicked new attitude to town.

As you approach the store from any direction the first thing to catch your eye are the windows. You can stand on the outside to look in and actually see to inside of the store.  

On entering you will discover that the spot where you used to have to narrow your shoulders and turn your hips in order to fit into the tight aisles has changed. Now it is wide spaces and a clean finished floor that greet you. Bright streams of sunlight bathe the room accompanied a cheery and comfortable atmosphere.

Wicked Good Books is not what many have come to expect at Derby Square. It is a breath of fresh intellectual oxygen. Filling your primal need to read is their priority. 

It is easy to find what you are looking for. I went directly to the history section and found some civil war hard covers that were remnants of the Munroe Brothers. They were in good shape, written by reputable authors and certainly sated my desire to read of Grant and Lee, Jackson and Sheridan, and the West Point Class of 1846.

The old fireplace, which many of you probably never saw is exposed for all to see, as is a space for a wall safe and an ancient bricked over basement entrance. The desk is now located the back which serves well to open up the space throughout the store.

New titles are a part of the business plan and are there for you to browse. There is a section devoted to the summer reading list for Salem school kids and also a section for children’s books. 

No matter how much you may miss the original funkiness of what is gone you must drop in to Wicked Good Books and see for yourself what it is that they bring to the reading table.

We are a city of restaurants, a city of museums, a city of history. Many a successful person has bas been born and raised here because we are also a city of intellect.

The next time you travel downtown to feed your belly at Rockafella’s, or to feed your soul at the First Church, consider a stop at Wicked Good Books to feed your brain.

Visit Wicked Good Books Online

Photos by JYS