A sunny 20-seat cafe opens on Monday, June 5 in a former hair salon space in North Cambridge: NOCA Provisions (156 Rindge Ave.) is ready to fill the neighborhood with caffeine, pastries, eggs, and more. (Yes, there will be avocado toast.) The sibling to Season to Taste catering company and The Table at Season to Taste will be serving up breakfast, lunch, and take-home dinners daily, and the cozy space will provide a welcoming new place to snag some wifi, play some games, and grab a snack.
Like its siblings, which are also located in North Cambridge, NOCA Provisions carries on owner Robert Harris’ focus on locally sourced, seasonal foods. Everything’s made from scratch over at Season to Taste down the street, including a range of pastries, from popovers and muffins to cookies and galettes. But Harris, a competitive fencer who tries to avoid carbs, also wants to make sure there are plenty of options for those who want to eat something other than pastries at a coffee shop. He’s particularly excited about the NOCA eggs — an order of two sunny side up eggs with a variety of topping choices.
Also on the menu: yogurt with granola, fruit, and other toppings; a quiche of the day; and toast (country sourdough, whole grain bread, or a popover) with savory toppings. “Of course, it’s required by law to have avocado toast,” jokes Harris. Here, smashed avocado is topped with jack cheese, chorizo, and pepper jelly.
Lunch options kick in from 11 a.m. up until 8 p.m. with bowls (such as the SAF Bowl — garbanzo beans, pickled cauliflower, tomato, pistachio, and feta), toasts, soups, and Sicilian-style pizza slices.
Harris is a busy father of two high schoolers, so he understands how hard it can be to get a healthy meal on the table quickly; that’s why NOCA also serves up a variety of grab-and-go meals and sides that can be reheated at home. The menu will change frequently thanks to that commitment to seasonality, but diners might find dishes such as Moroccan-style braised chicken legs; spiced grilled zucchini with marinated feta; and fresh pastas made with local grains.
NOCA’s local sourcing continues on the beverage side, featuring products from Dedham-based Fazenda Coffee Roasters and Watertown-based MEM Tea Imports. There’s cold brew and nitro coffee on tap, as well as kombucha, and juices are pressed fresh in-house. The team is especially excited about a drink they’re calling the espresso fizz — espresso, sparkling water, and a lemon twist, a light afternoon pick-me-up for those days when a giant iced coffee full of milk and sugar isn’t the right choice.
This is Harris’ first cafe, but he has brought longtime cafe veteran David “Woody” Wood onboard as general manager. Wood spent more than four years as a Flour Bakery + Cafe manager and 13 years as a Darwin’s Ltd. manager. Also on the NOCA team: head baker Amanda Glover, an alum of Tatte Bakery & Cafe. She also worked at No. 9 Park alongside Mary Edinger, who is now pastry chef at The Table at Season to Taste. Rounding out the team is Stephanie Cornell, a driving force behind the design and branding of the shop.
When Harris found that the location was for rent (while biking to Monday softball games that some employees of The Table take part in), he didn’t immediately know what he wanted to do with it, but he had always thought it was a cool building with good bones. Since the thought of expanding The Table had been in his mind, his first inclination was to move the Season to Taste office from its Massachusetts Avenue space by The Table to the new space on Rindge Avenue, allowing The Table to bust into the office space, but even the initial regulatory tasks involved in that expansion could last six months or more, so it was back to the drawing board.
Harris says that he and the team worked backward, looking at what would make the most sense in that location — and what wouldn’t require too much of a buildout. The North Cambridge stretch of Massachusetts Avenue has a couple coffee options, but once you get over to Rindge, there’s nothing. And with Season to Taste just a few blocks away, it came to the team that they could make everything there and avoid building a kitchen in the new space. A cafe was born. And maybe not the last: “Our goal down the road, assuming this is successful — we hope to look to build a couple more of these,” says Harris.
Due to the residential nature of the neighborhood, Harris is expecting mornings to be the busiest time — not to mention a dinnertime rush for take-home meals — but for those who want to linger, NOCA is set up to be a comfortable midday spot as well, with some books and games, comfy low-rise tables and repurposed church pews, and counter seating with plenty of outlets. There’s also a standing counter for those looking for something in between lingering and running out the door.
With the exception of the take-home meals, everything on NOCA’s menu is under $10. Starting June 5, the cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. And here’s a rarity: There’s a parking lot (enter from Middlesex Street.)
• NOCA Provisions [Official Site]