by Kezia Bacon

Picnic Lunchbreak is a weekly column co-sponsored by Edible South Shore & South Coast and the North and South Rivers Watershed Association. Its purpose: pairing restaurant takeout options with beautiful outdoor places, to encourage al fresco dining, even in winter!

Many area nature preserves offer picnic tables with gorgeous views. Need a break from your routine this week? Bundle up, place an order, grab your food, and meet a friend for a refreshing dining experience. Not only will it bring some light to the grey days of the pandemic, it will demonstrate your support of local restaurants during this challenging time!

From the Norris Reservation, to Black Pond Bog, to Stetson Meadows, to Jacobs Pond…  the town of Norwell is known for its impressive nature preserves. Chances are, you’ve heard of at least one of them. These gorgeous properties each offer well-maintained trails across varied and scenic terrain. But Norwell also has some well-kept secrets! Among these is Miller Woods, an oft-overlooked conservation parcel just outside the town center. After hearing rave reviews of Cheever Tavern, a new restaurant in Norwell’s downtown, I knew where I was going to find my food for this week’s Picnic Lunchbreak. Located just around the corner, Miller Woods was the perfect match.

Driving by on Forest Street, it’s easy to miss Miller’s 4-car parking lot. But once you find it, you’re in for a treat. A short trail leads from the entrance to the main path, from which you can access the hemlock-shaded picnic area, as well as three different trail loops. Several boardwalks serve the dual purpose of protecting the flora and fauna while also keeping your feet dry. You’ll also see glacial erratic boulders, old stone walls, a historic cart path, and a babbling stream that drains to Second Herring Brook, a tributary to the North River. Altogether, the trails within this 47-acre forested property total about a mile.

For lunch, try Cheever Tavern. The restaurant is named for renowned author John Cheever, who was born in Quincy and buried in Norwell. (You’ll find his grave in the cemetery next door.) The menu features “flavorful, handmade food and drink prepared with the freshest, locally sourced ingredients.” Among the innovative lunch offerings are five sandwiches, three salads, two large plates (fish & chips and a tune poke bowl), and some appetizer-style “snacks,” including chowder, wings, short rib tacos and avocado toast. Does a Korean Reuben sound yummy to you? Or a Green Guru Salad? You’re in the right place. Cheever specializes in refreshing interpretations of the classics.

I chose the Red Beet & Garbanzo Bean Burger, a tasty blend of black beans, red peppers, corn, sweet potatoes and pureed beets, topped with a layer of hummus, plus thinly sliced red onions and shredded lettuce, all served on a brioche bun. On the side: Cheever’s clever take on the French fry — flat slabs of savory potato, crisp on the edges and delightfully salty. So good! Food bloggers mustn’t just sample a single menu item, so I also “had to” order the Crispy Brussels Sprouts. Sliced in half and fried to blackened perfection, they were accompanied by a piquant Harissa aioli, and I was very glad I didn’t have to share!

In addition to lunch, Cheever serves dinner and Sunday brunch, each with its own menu.

There are plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. They offer both dine-in and takeout every day except Monday.

Cheever Tavern
33 West Street, Norwell
https://www.cheevertavern.com/
(781) 657-2700
Hours: Tue & Wed: 11:30am – 9pm • Thur–Sat: 11:30am – 9:30pm • Sunday: 10am – 2pm; 4-8pm

Miller Woods
38 Forest Street, Norwell
https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/miller-woods/
Hours: dawn to dusk

North and South Rivers Watershed Association
https://www.nsrwa.org/

Edible South Shore & South Coast
https://ediblesouthshore.com