A fresh new lunch spot is now on the menu for downtown St. Thomas.

Located on the corner of Hiawatha and Talbot, Harvest Eats opened in late November 2018 and offers takeout lunches that rival fast food places for their convenience and affordability. Unlike fast food, though, the ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible and it’s all made from scratch.

calzones coming out of an oven at harvest eats
Photo: Marty Lewis, Establish Media

That means calzones with a sourdough crust prepared with locally milled organic flour by owner and chef Cindy Bircham. You can get vegetable soup with a homemade stock featuring broccoli and beans that were grown in Cindy’s garden. You might see porchetta on the menu, which has been made from fresh, ethically raised pork from Three Ridges Farm in Aylmer. The menu changes every week based on the ingredients that are currently available, but there will usually be soup and sandwich options.

Easy and Affordable

Cindy Bircham is also the owner of Elgin Harvest, a pop-up restaurant that can be seen serving delicious wood-fired pizzas at various events throughout the summer. Elgin Harvest’s mobile oven will continue to operate seasonally, but Harvest Eats is here to stay year round. It is currently open Wednesday to Friday from 11:30am to 2pm, and offers an online order ahead option through Facebook and harvesteats.ca. The idea is to allow people on their lunch break to come and grab a quick lunch to go, with the option to pre-order making it even more convenient.

harvest eats cindy bircham baking bread
Photo: Marty Lewis, Establish Media

“There’s a definite need for it,” Cindy says. “There’s a big need for a place to get fresh, delicious, convenient food in downtown St. Thomas for lunch.”

Affordability is also a factor, with lunches ranging from $6 to $10. “I think it’s important that everyone has access to safe, nutritious food that should be affordable,” Cindy explains. Though she doesn’t take shortcuts when it comes to quality of ingredients, she’s able to keep costs down by reusing as much as possible, not letting any part of an animal go to waste, and using what’s in season and readily available.

squares and fruit on a counter harvest eats St. Thomas Ontario
Photo: Marty Lewis, Establish Media

“Even though it’s a small menu that I’m producing, I’m carefully looking at what I’m putting on it for when to make use as much as possible and keeping the costs down.” –Cindy Bircham

A Noticeable Freshness

Many of the ingredients are grown in the chef’s own garden on her farm, located on the corner of Fairview Ave and Southdale Line, just outside the St. Thomas city limits. She started growing her own vegetables and herbs ten years ago when she moved back to the area after attending school and travelling. “It’s one step closer to that farm-to-table aspect,” Cindy says. “Coriander seed, fennel seed – just those little bits, when you grow them yourself, it’s just that little bit extra. I think the freshness is noticeable.”

Cindy’s charcuterie spread at the Small Business Enterprise Centre Holiday Open House | Photo: Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media

According to Cindy, one of the advantages of buying local produce is that it wasn’t sitting on a truck for up to two weeks and then spending another two weeks on a shelf in the store. Local produce can also be picked at the precise moment of ripeness, when the shelf life is short but flavour and nutrition are at their peak. When she runs out of produce from her own garden, she will rely more heavily on places like Common Ground Farm and Briwood Farm Market, which offer local produce year round.

Passion for Food and People

When you walk into Harvest Eats, one of the first things you’ll notice (after the aroma of freshly baked bread) is the warm way you are greeted. Cindy strongly believes that hospitality and running a restaurant go hand in hand, and is intentional about taking care of her customers while she shares her passion with them.

Photo: Marty Lewis, Establish Media

Part of that, she says, is providing what’s needed  nourishing food in the middle of the day that’s available when you need it and that you feel good about eating. She is happy to customize orders and may tweak the store hours in the future to suit more people’s needs.

“I love food. It has taken over my life completely.” –Cindy Bircham

The other part of it is “just being welcoming to people and smiling and knowing their name and appreciating them. Saying thank you. Things like that go a huge way,” Cindy explains. “And liking it!”

cindy bircham at SBEC open house St. Thomas
Chef Cindy Bircham at the Small Business Enterprise Centre Holiday Open House | Photo: Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media

Watch Harvest Eats’ Facebook page and website for the weekly menu and prices, or to order online. You can try out Cindy’s farm fresh lunches at 481 Talbot St, behind Liberty Tax on the corner of Hiawatha Street and Talbot Street. Hours will stay the same over the Christmas and New Years holidays this year.

Feature photo: Cindy Bircham and employee Kiernan Murphy. Photo by Marty Lewis.