Walking into a new coffee shop and luncheonette at the corner of 12th and Washington Streets, one is struck by the beachy vibe, the colorful display of fresh fruits and pastries, and the subtle aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Harvest House, which recently opened in the previous location of “Presto,” now inhabits the snug, sunlight-filled venue offering fresh, healthy food options including cold-pressed juices from Wilmington GreenBox, single origin, organic coffee and fermented teas from Valerio Coffee Roasters of Audubon, PA, and a variety of bowls, salads, sandwiches and breakfast items.
Under the ownership of the Big Fish Grill restaurant group, Harvest House is the first coffee shop for the business, which also owns the Washington Street Ale House next door. The restaurant is a welcome addition to the food service lineup for a neighborhood that includes the Wilmington Hospital and the Central YMCA.
Andrea Valentine works nearby in The Mill and says she enjoys lunch two to three times a week at the eatery, “My go-to for lunch is the chicken salad, and the Very Berry Smoothie is a perfect afternoon snack. I love it here because everything is fresh and healthy, and the staff is incredibly friendly!”
On our recent visit to Harvest House, the food was very good overall, with only one notable exception. Our group loved “The Pitaya” smoothie bowl, a fruit-packed combination of red dragon fruit, banana, strawberries, coconut milk, honey and granola for $9.50.
The chicken-apple sausage melt was delicious, served with caramelized sweet onion, arugula and goat cheese on multi-grain toast. The house coffee was a tasty brew – hot and well balanced. We also took note that the hint of ginger didn’t overwhelm our banana-mango Sunshine Glow smoothie.
We were less impressed with the “Torbert Street” breakfast sandwich. The egg and turkey bacon sandwich seemed weighed down with a bit too much cheese. And it was served on a brioche bread that could have been lighter.
General Manager Brittany Downes, who used to manage the Trolley Square Brew Ha Ha!, worked with and another creative director to design and opened the restaurant. The pair was encouraged to follow the lead of Big Fish co-founder Eric Sugrue, who was inspired to open a small coffee shop similar to one of his favorite cafes that he visits frequently in Miami.
“He wanted us to bring in southern Florida and west coast influences. He wanted it to be bright, airy, fresh and organic,” said Downes.
The two-story dining area has a handsome blue bench seating, bistro chairs, and vintage-style antique lighting. Live green plants dangle from the ceiling. All of the weathered barn wood paneling used throughout the restaurant was made using repurposed wood by students at Wilmington’s Challenge Program.
Their vision was to bring healthy eating establishment to Wilmington’s downtown area that wasn’t intimidating. And they wanted plenty of options for people of varied tastes. “People with dietary restrictions, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian will find plenty of options. We wanted to make our menu fun but still cater to those kinds of diets,” said Downes.
Made with fresh organic fruit and vegetables, their smoothies have no added sugar (though some have honey). And you’ll find healthy items like spicy tuna, grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, tofu and free-range grilled chicken on the menu. Quinoa and brown rice are also among the salad offerings.
Wilmington Green Box juices their drinks twice weekly right inside the kitchen at Harvest House. Unfortunately, the word is out about the popularity of the cold-pressed drinks, so availability is limited. Pastries are made daily by De La Coeur Café.
Harvest House is open 6:30 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday and 8 am to 1 pm on Sunday. They are currently closed on Saturdays, which you might think would be an important business day for a café. But staff said that weekend foot traffic can be quiet. They are considering expanding hours in the future.