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The Charles Cafe in Millis, Mass., Goes Well Beyond Cheap Eats Fare (CLOSED)

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The Charles Cafe in Millis, Mass., looks like just another roadside breakfast and lunch place, but upon further inspection goes way beyond bacon, eggs, pancakes and burgers.

Walk in the dining room/bar section and you’ll find true coziness with a small attractive bar, fireplace, charming Cuckoo clock above, sturdy wood dining tables and chairs, dimly lit surroundings, nicely muted color patterns, as well as an occasional piano bar that creates additional relaxing ambiance. Dining patrons here all seemed to know each other; it seemed like a small town homecoming, of sorts.

You might wonder how this casually classy atmosphere could be compatible with, say, French toast or a BLT.

Well, the Charles Cafe recently launched a dinner menu that includes, but is certainly not limited to steak tips, chicken parmesan, roast turkey dinner, manicotti, pasta and meatballs, baked haddock and haddock parmesan. No, nothing truly upscale but our first dinner here was quite impressive. The roast turkey was freshly carved and delicious, accompanied by a really good homemade stuffing, gravy homemade, mashed potatoes and fresh tasting green beans. The flatbread pizza was also very good, with a crispy taste, just-made sauce and good mix of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. The Charles Cafe also offers lighter dinner fare with burgers and omelets, and a limited dessert list homemade cheesecake, ice cream cake and a mini eclair. Dinner range from $8 to $13.95, therefore, falling into our “cheap eats” category.

The piano bar, by the way, is no surprise, given the history here. Many, many years ago, this spot was quite well

The outdoor dining deck at the Charles Cafe (photo by Eric)
The outdoor dining deck at the Charles Cafe (photo by Eric)

known as a dining, entertainment and dance hall destination, much like the famous Mosely’s on the Charles in nearby Dedham, Mass. There was a pavilion in the back — the perfect setting for its scenic Charles River location. While the pavilion and dance hall are things of the past, the Charles Cafe does offer other current day amenities that make for a pleasant experience: an outdoor dining deck with rural views near the Charles, and the chance to rent a canoe or kayak and navigate the Charles. The Charles Cafe also offers live entertainment — local favorite James Montgomery has played here several times with his legendary mix of rock and blues.

We have also dined at the original, adjacent more informal dining room for breakfast and lunch. It’s fine, in more of a diner sense. We’ve had some excellent breakfast, burgers, salads and soups. The service is also top-notch with a quick, efficient style and friendly personalities. Prices are definitely “cheap eats,” with pretty much everything well under $10.

Launch your kayak at The Charles Cafe and this is what you'll see around the corner! (photo by Eric)
Launch your kayak at The Charles Cafe and this is what you’ll see around the corner! (photo by Eric)

Think about it:  a place where you can have a nice dinner in a cozy dining room, be entertained at the piano bar or by live bands and singers, grab a breakfast or lunch in a more roadside restaurant atmosphere, dine on an outdoor deck at the Charles River, or rent a canoe or kayak to enjoy the Charles. That is certainly not the blueprint for a typical breakfast and lunch spot. We like the options at the Charles Cafe, the warm feeling there, and the cheap eats prices. We’ll be back, definitely!

The Charles Cafe
35 Main St. (Route 109)
Millis MA
Tel. (508) 376-2020

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