EL Hidden Gem: Newly Revamped Rustic Cafe

Remodeled Rustic Cafe offers ‘Burgers and craft brews in a historic nook’


The Rustic Cafe’s Fried Fish Sandwich.

When entering Rustic Cafe, I was immediately hit with a homey feeling. Although limited in size, the restaurant makes the most of the small space by creating a cozy vibe using warm wood and familiar music. The renovations to Rustic Cafe have allowed for more space and seating in the new greenhouse area, while still keeping it separate, maintaining the warm atmosphere.

The Rustic Cafe has a rich history dating back to the 1940s. It was originally built as the Rustic Inn, which was large and had a restaurant, bar, and dance hall. It burned down in 1967 and was rebuilt as the much smaller current building. It was renamed Rustic Cafe, and is now described as a “cozy bar with an extensive menu.”

“I think we just bring a different vibe. Every restaurant brings you something unique, and we bring that chill vibe
that you can’t find in other places,” owner Stephanie Fesko said.

When we walked in, we were almost immediately greeted by the waiter, Ty. He was laid back and friendly, and his casual demeanor paired perfectly with my first impression

of the restaurant. The customers also contributed to the atmosphere – it seemed like most customers were regulars there, which made it feelmore relaxed. The indoor dining area of Rustic Cafe is largely occupied by the bar, but there are many tables for seating.

During my dining experience at the cafe, I was able to try the mac & cheese bites, fried fish sandwich, and western breakfast burger.

All the items on the menu were moderately priced, and their main menu item is hamburgers – they offer 32 different burgers ranging from $10-$15.

Although they weren’t my personal favorite, the mac & cheese bites ($8) tasted homemade and were a simple appetizer. I was slightly disappointed that they were made with boxed mac instead of baked. I really enjoyed the fried fish sandwich ($14)- it was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside- flavorful, and came with some very creamy tartar sauce along with coleslaw.

But, my favorite dish that I tried was the western breakfast hamburger ($14.50). It was a juicy, 1⁄2 pound black angus burger with bacon, egg, American cheese, and salsa on a toasted kaiser roll. It came with some fries and a dill pickle spear. The textures of the runny egg, juicy hamburger, and the salsa combined together perfectly to make an absolutely mouthwatering and unique hamburger. Trying the western breakfast burger alone urges me to recommend any burger from Rustic Cafe. However, I do not recommend bringing parties of more than four unless you call ahead – the seating is limited, tables are close together (especially in the original seating area), and there aren’t any large tables.

My experience at Rustic Cafe was overall positive and I would definitely return. Rustic Cafe is one of our town’s hidden gems and an East Lyme must-do. Plus, check their website to see when they have live music playing!