Easton’s Lunch Bunch

Lunch! It’s such a happy little word, and oh so versatile. Consider how often we use it in our day-to-day conversations.

There are lunch breaks and working lunches. There are ladies who lunch, and some people are “out to lunch,” even though they’re sitting in the same room. You better watch out, or he’ll eat your lunch! And everybody knows there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Then there’s this. Eating lunch really didn’t come into vogue until the late 20th century. In days gone by, people ate dinner, their largest meal, in the middle of the day to give them the strength to complete their work, usually manual labor. They settled for a lighter supper for their evening repast, often soup that had simmered all day or leftovers from dinner. Modern work changed our habits and our vernacular, and these days most Americans call their noon meal lunch.

If you’re going out for lunch in these parts, there’s no better place to do it than downtown Easton. As the governmental and economic center of Talbot County, this town keeps business-friendly hours. Easton has long had a number of full-service restaurants that serve lunch in addition to their dinner menus. But now, there are a handful of eateries dedicated primarily to serving daytime meals. Let us introduce you to Easton’s Lunch Bunch.

Located inside the original Hill’s Pharmacy, Hill’s Café and Juice Bar feeds our sense of nostalgia. You can get your prescriptions filled, shop for gifts and treasures, and enjoy the ambiance of an old-fashioned soda fountain, all in the same trip.

They serve a wicked egg salad BLT sandwich, and they make a mean burger. The tarragon chicken salad, with grapes and almonds, is a true star, while the oven-roasted tomato and melted brie is unbeatable. If you want to know the specials of the day, just log on to Facebook to see the listings.

The folks at Hill’s Café have also embraced the health benefits of juicing. A steady stream of locals stops by for a dose of JMX, short for Jenn’s Magic Elixer. The original Green JMX includes a long list of ingredients from spinach to parsley, but the JMX line has expanded. Now you can drink your ABCs (apple, beet and carrot), or guzzle some GOG (grapefruit, orange and ginger).

Hill’s is also a standout at breakfast, which they serve until 10:30 a.m. They’ve recently abbreviated their menu and offer only counter service, but you can still get their fabulous pancakes and the Morning Rush, an egg sandwich with grilled ham and Vermont cheddar cheese.

Healthy eaters will certainly want to check out Sunflower and Greens, an elegant lunch spot under a blue awning on Federal Street, located just across from the Talbot County Courthouse. It’s impossible not to admire the attention to detail here. The exterior of the French Revival building has been painstakingly restored. The interior is awash in pristine whites, French blues, and stainless steel.

Chef Harley Peet pays just as much attention to the food. Fresh greens and produce, sourced locally, anchor the menu. Included in the list are watermelon and feta salad, poached pear salad, and a cold soba noodle bowl. You can choose from the salad selections like these, or you can build your own. Specialty ingredients run the gamut from sugar snap peas and roasted corn to edamame and quinoa. Premium proteins include free-range chicken, Berkshire pork, and seared tofu. If you want to indulge just a tiny bit, spring for the St. Louis-style ribs with cornbread or the scrumptious butterscotch coconut pecan cookies.

The restaurant’s sister establishment is an equally beautiful and unerringly healthy cold-pressed juice bar called Bumblebee Juice. Other menu items here include smoothies, acai bowls, and artisan honeys.

Krave Courtyard is another new kid on the block. This adorable little eatery takes shabby chic to new heights. Nestled inside a building on Easton’s Dover Street, Krave is adjacent to the South Wing of the Talbot County Courthouse.

There are a few tables inside and a casual bar with just three or four tools. As the name suggests, there’s a deep courtyard with an iron gate, tables with umbrellas, and lush plantings along the brick walls. Most of the time, there’s a breeze and indirect sun here, making this the perfect spot for dining alfresco.

Gourmet sandwiches and salads, of course, dominate the menu, but be sure to order your sandwich on the yeast bread baked in-house. These thick slabs are the perfect platform for the walnut chicken salad, Old Bay tuna salad, or the thick-sliced bacon and tomato. The Wishbone, which features slices of real turkey, fresh tomatoes, and parmesan-basil aoili, is terrific, and vegetarians will love the Pesto Punch Sandwich.

Piazza Italian Market, located in the Talbottown Shopping Center, is so much more than a lunch spot that we are reluctant to include it in our list. This store is a dreamy oasis of Italian flavors, with shelves stocked with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh and frozen sausage, and both black and white truffles.

For those eating in, tables are available both upstairs and down, and when the weather is nice, you can sit outdoors. The specialty here is panni, both grilled and cold. They also sell soups and salads, as well as other carry out items. A favorite is the Milano, a grilled sandwich stuffed with salami, hot Italian sausage, ham, and provolone with a sweet hot pepper spread. Other selections include Italian tuna salad, pesto chicken salad, and the PLT, with crispy prosciutto, tomato, and roasted garlic mayo.

While you’re at Piazza, check out the take-out specials too. This dinner menu features seasonal specialties, which range from spaghetti and meatballs to chicken scallopini. Mama Mia!

The Lunchables
• Hill’s Café and Juice Bar: 32 East Dover Street, Easton; 410-822-9751.
• Krave Courtyard: 12 West Dover Street; 410-980-5588.
• Piazza Italian Market: 218 North Washington Street, #54; 410-820-8281.
• Sunflower and Greens: 11 Federal Street; 410-822-7972.

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Jennifer Latham
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