Housie Market Cafe Is Another Gem In The Heart Of Housatonic
By Nichole Dupont
Shea is a rough and tumble 11-year-old with the kind of tan that belies an entire summer spent outside. He glides in on his bicycle which is beat up and laden with fishing gear. He is a man on a mission when he walks into the Housie Market Cafe on a Saturday afternoon.
“Peanut butter and bacon sandwich on sourdough, that’s what I always get,” he says. “And a Snapple.”
I ask him if he comes in here a lot and he grins and looks at owner Amy Hagerty, who opened the market—formerly the Corner Market—in late June.
“Yeah, when I have the cash. Even when I don’t have the cash.” He gets his sandwich and rides off to find more friends and presumably, throw in a few more lines before the school year whisks him away forever.
Shea is just one of the rapidly growing crowd of regulars infiltrating the Housie Market Cafe, located at the corner of Pleasant and Highland.
“We get a lot of kids in here,” says Hagerty [in photo, right], who was one of the original masterminds of the Baba Louie’s empire. “They come in and they each have their ‘usual’. We have moms and dads in getting coffee and breakfast—actually this place is like a baby festival every morning. People on their way to work. Tree guys on their lunch break.”
The Housie Market feeds them all. People have been waiting anxiously for a neighborhood take out/sit down/coffee spot since the former Corner Market closed its doors last year. Patrons were practically banging down the door to get at the new café’s homey menu of breakfast goodies, thick deli-style sandwiches, baked goods and on-the-go shelf stock (chips, snacks, bottled drinks and other market fare). Hagerty says that when she was envisioning the menu in the 11th hour, something was still missing from the chalkboard of specials that includes the standard eats but also more unique creations like the peanut butter kimchi sandwich ($5.50), the polenta egg bowl ($8) and the roast ‘beast’ sandwich (with braised kale and horseradish mayo, $8) to name a few.
“It was the week we were going to open and I was driving with my friend Tess Diamond and telling her we need that one thing, that signature thing that no one else has,” Hagerty recalls. “She told me she once had a muffin when she was traveling in Brazil that had a soft-boiled egg inside. I told her we needed to find that muffin. We looked up recipes, one was three pages long! I kept modifying the recipe, changing it up, simplifying. We finally got it.”
The Diamond in the Rough muffin ($6.25, presumably named after Amy’s right hand gal) made its debut on opening day, and has been a hit at the café ever since. How could it not, there is an entire hard-boiled egg in the middle of the thing? Made with buttermilk, it eats more like a meal than a snack, laden with asiago, cheddar and parmesan as well as chives and salty bits of bacon, served with a side of smooth house-made salsa for dipping. While we were chatting one patron approached Hagerty about her signature “dish.”
“So, I think I’ve figured out how you cook egg, or the muffin around the egg,” the patron says, sipping his coffee brushing the sawdust off his shirt. “You parbroil it, right? I mean, that the only way you can cook it around the egg…”
Hagerty just smiles and shakes her head. “Nope.”
The muffin is a savory symbol of what Hagerty and her staff prepare every day for their hungry patrons: home cooking with a twist. Instead of lettuce, there is arugula, instead of bologna there is olive tapenade, instead of blueberry muffins there is the diamond.
“I’m not a chef,” Hagerty insists. “I’ve been cooking all my life, but I’m not a chef. This is the stuff I make at home. You can’t get this stuff at a restaurant. Not that I’ve seen.”
If not a chef, then a damn creative cook and a never-sit-still community organizer. The Housie Market Café is part of a petit renaissance happening in the little hamlet along the river, which arguably began with the Brick House Pub, followed by Pleasant & Main, not to mention the treasure trove of hidden art galleries and other creative spaces that have popped up in the last decade. Hagerty is thrilled to watch it happen keeping her fingers crossed that all this good food will attract more full-time residents and inspire a renovation of the old school building that sits vacant just down the street.
“That would be a great space for a commercial kitchen. And those old classrooms would make great apartments. It’d be a fantastic community hub,” she says, eying the space from the café window.
Housie Market Cafe
226 Pleasant Street, Housatonic, MA
Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m - 6 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.