Bitter Ends Luncheonette. Photo by Tom O'Connor.

Stepping into the newly-opened Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette feels like going back in time in the best way: It’s a classic lunch counter in a cozy space with just a few seats and a couple tables. Counter service is warm and friendly, and everything feels homey. After all, you’re practically in the kitchen as soon as you walk in the door.

The menu is a simple list of sandwiches, soups and pastries. Farm-fresh produce is featured heavily. Shelves are lined with freshly baked loaves of bread. Settling in for lunch is an option, but the tight space lends itself more to take-out.

A changing daily menu is viewable online. There’s a delicious beet sandwich made with herb aioli and red onion and a sunny side up egg sandwich made with sautéed greens and lamb sausage. Homemade chicken soup, pumpkin pie and buttermilk doughnuts are also good bets.

Becca Hegarty, Jason “Joddo” Oddo and Lou DeVito are the team behind the luncheonette. Hegarty, who runs the kitchen, was nominated for a James Beard Rising Star Chef award earlier this year. She built her reputation with stints at The Café Carnegie, Dinette and Bread & Salt Bakery. Oddo handles the Verona-based farm, Bitter Ends Garden, that supplies the shop. Long-time friend DeVito came on board to help the team put the venture together.

Fresh baked bread at Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
Fresh baked bread at Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette. Photo by Tom O’Connor.
Fresh baked bread at Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Last February, Hegarty and Oddo cleared land in Verona to start a farming project they called “Bitter Ends Garden.” Hegarty left her job as chef de cuisine at The Café Carnegie to focus on the farm and running a stand at the Bloomfield Saturday Market where she did some cooking. Her egg sandwich with greens, a popular item at the market, is on the menu at the luncheonette. (Note from publisher: it is outstanding.)

Initially, there was no intention of opening a brick-and-mortar location, but when the Bloomfield space that once was DJ’s Sandwich Shoppe opened up, the team suddenly saw a new opportunity.

“We’ve always loved the location and thought it would be a perfect spot for a luncheonette,” says DeVito. Hegarty and Oddo live around the corner from the shop.

A short nine miles away, the farm supplies the operation for everything that Hegarty creates.

“The entire focus of this project is to present ingredients that inspire us. Whether it’s Joddo’s puntarelles or Howard Mickley’s eggs, if it’s on the menu we’re excited about it,” she says.

Hegarty also bakes fresh bread from scratch — a true highlight of the sandwiches. She learned skills from celebrated breadmaker Rick Easton when she was working for him at Bread & Salt.

“I bake the bread and pastries for the shop with a sure influence from Bread & Salt, she says adding “He taught me what bread really is and I aspire to be as talented as him.”

In addition to produce from their Verona farm, the luncheonette will feature items from other local farms like Who Cooks For You? in New Bethlehem. Oddo is exploring farming techniques like row covers to extend the growing season well into the colder months.

Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette is located at 4613 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield. It’s open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.