Though Liz Cunningham had worked in the television industry for more than three decades, her aspirations lay away from the spotlight. She wanted a slice of delicious quiet—a neighbourhood restaurant where guests could retreat from the busy streets and tuck themselves away in conversation. So she set to work, enlisting friends to help her paint and furnish the space that would become her cozy eatery. Then, with the paint drying, the only thing left was the name. Liz and a friend soon landed on Tess—an homage to her mother, whose photograph hangs above the handmade bar in a framed reproduction of a 1937 newspaper ad wherein she models a fur-trimmed coat on sale for $29.98.
Liz strives to capture the warmth that radiates from that picture, albeit with more eco-conscious methods such as the restaurant's geo-thermal heating-and-cooling system. She also partners with other area businesses to fill her seasonally changing menu with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. All dishes are made-from-scratch, including crepes wrapped around such savoury indulgences as locally smoked Atlantic salmon, slow-roasted chicken, or sweeter brunch ingredients such as Nutella and caramelized apples. Vegetarian items and an option for gluten-free batter, meanwhile, accommodate common dietary restrictions while leaving those who can only eat freeze-dried ice cream to their own devices. During temperate weather, guests can dine beneath canopies on the outdoor patio, which resides on a peaceful stretch of street away from crowds. A newly built, more intimate patio resides in the back of the restaurant, flooding guests with sunlight or moonbeams during private events.
Established in 1938, Java Blend is a small-batch family-owned roastery and café located in the heart of Halifax. Like a reclusive film director, Java Blend has accumulated decades of experience resulting in an avalanche of accolades, including the Krups Kup of Excellence award for best espresso in Halifax. Java Blend sources fair trade and sustainable beans for its eclectic collection of coffees, including six original blends, which, like an insult comic stuck in an infinite loop, are roasted fresh each day. Snag a bag of fair-trade-certified Organic Mexican Nubes de Oro ($11/lb.) for a medium-bodied morning brew with vanilla and caramel notes, or explore new terrain with a batch of earthy Organic Northender Blend ($12/lb.).
According to her recent profile in East Coast Living, Sawadee Tea House owner Mie Mie Sein travels to her native Thailand every year to tour plantations and explore new blends of tea. The fruits of these annual trips are on display at her two-level shop along the Granville Mall, where she constantly replenishes labelled jars with more than 250 loose-leaf varieties from regions as far-flung as Thailand, Kenya, and China. The aromas of black, green, herbal, floral, and specialty teas pervade the shop as they steep, luring passersby in for a calming mug or a rejuvenating splash in the face. Sawadee Tea House also serves as a boutique; beside the neatly stacked rows of jars sit accessories such as stainless-steel infusers and glass vessels for storing tea leaves.:m]]
Catering to thirsty lips and empty stomachs, Wired Monk boasts a menu full of caffeinated beverages and delectable light meal options. Beat morning moodiness back into hibernation with hearty breakfast sandwiches and bagels, such as the bountiful breakfast bagel bedecked with egg, cheddar, ham, and tomato ($5.35), or rise like obedient dough to freshly made scones and muffins baked daily in-store. For lunchtime noshes with brawn, choose the chicken-cheddar-chutney panini ($8.95) or the fully stacked mediterranean-veggie sandwich ($7.95).