Wheatberry Cafe, Amherst, MA: All you do is lose!

Oof, this is going to be pretty bad. For our 500th post, here’s a terrible restaurant!

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That being said, on with the review. Keepitcoming and I love independent bakeries. We love delicious pastries, inventive sandwiches, artisanal ingredients, and good drinks, and have found a cadre of fantastic little nooks at our beck and call whenever we heed the call for a filling lunch or dinner.

So how could we be anything but excited when we found another one for the collection? Driving by during some errands, I was surprised that after living in the area for a relatively long span, neither of us had encountered Wheatberry Cafe. It looked innocuous and wholesome, like a sustainable grandmother’s project, and we hyped it up for a week prior to the review, excited to wake up early and try some food.

The atmosphere was a little unsure of itself and seemed distracted and out of focus. The sole stoned employee stood listlessly taking our order and was completely unaware not only of what vegetables they had available, but whether or not she could find them at all. With a ten seat maximum and a kitchen the size of a Manhattan studio apartment, that shouldn’t be too hard. And don’t give me the “we grow our own veggies” excuse. Any sustainable restaurant worth its salt grows enough for its patrons. How were they possibly out of sprouts at eleven in the morning?

The inside of the restaurant was charming, if you find pretentious jam jars, reusable bags, and creepy, talkative old women charming. It drove us outside to contemplate our order and wait for its arrival. The waitress was still fumbling with our sandwiches for another five, six minutes, and we had no choice but to entertain ourselves with the menu. (Fumbling is apt- the known photo we could find of the restaurant online features the same waitress staring vacantly into the abyss.) Unfortunately, that, too, came up short. I understand the appeal and variety in a daily menu, but there were only two sandwiches with asinine names (The Oinker!? I’m not ten and I’m not saying oinker) and prices that would put a museum cafeteria to shame. These “entrees” were saddled with a few prosaic desserts, and a hastily applied breakfast platter. And they’d run out of bagels, too.We got our sandwiches and tried to put the worst behind us, like a bad date with a small penis and halitosis, and tried to focus on the good aspects. And tried. And tried. And tried. Problem was, there was nothing good about the atmosphere, and the food sucked even worse. Our sandwiches were pressed paninis, usually a good sign, but were so riddled with grease and old burnt butter that Keepitcoming went inside to grab some napkins. She came out with an utterly horrified look on her face, leaned over to me, and whispered, “I think the napkins are used. They’re cloth napkins and they don’t feel clean.” Yes, that’s right. Even our napkins had that not so fresh feeling. It appears that the management didn’t even provide the proper receptacles for clean and dirty napkins, leaving patrons to play a horrible guessing game while they eat. But after a few bites, it was utterly essential to use them, so we grabbed some of the greasy, filmy napkins and ate some more.

The sandwiches, if unoriginal, sounded solid and successful. Wrong. The Oinker couldn’t have been prouder of listing the farms where all the ingredients were from, but tasted as good as the potential of its namesake taking wing. With cheddar cheese, apples, shredded pork, and dijon mustard, I opened the sandwich excitedly and found myself intoning the immortal words of Clara Peller herself- “Keepitcoming, where’s the beef?” Or meat, rather. For a $9 sandwich, they were skimpy on the pork. Really fucking skimpy. I tried to put that aside and enjoy the sandwich, but it was still so greasy and practically vegetarian.I assumed this was a fluke until we encountered the same thing with Keepitcoming’s sandwich. (The Happy Hen, if you must know.) Again, there was a mediocre amount of vegetables, including those Heirloom tomatoes that have practically surpassed Uggs in popularity, but a sparse smear of chevre and a few spotty pieces of chicken breast made this completely unpalatable. An alternative name for this sandwich could have also been, “Girl with a mixed breed,” because to add insult to injury, Keepitcoming found a long, straight dog hair in her sandwich. DNA tests to follow.

When all was said and done, it just wasn’t worth the extra calories to suffer through another sandwich half or the included wilted salad, especially with all the potential hazards and disappointments, so we moved onto our coffee and dessert, hoping that the success of Wheatberry rested on the laurels of their pastries.Wrong again. Our raspberry bar had a disproportionate amount of wrinkly baked jam to crumbly bland tart, with a buttery flavor and a relatively boring texture. It was so mediocre that we didn’t even care to finish it, and we are girls who love desserts. With our average at best iced Chai, we left Wheatberry with heavy hearts and sad, empty stomachs. There are far better area restaurants that have better selection, prices, and portions and won’t try to impress us with organic and sustainable ingredients to make up for poor quality.

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