At the center of a big, round table sits a lazy susan bearing tiny, elegant white dishes. Each holds a mound of intriguing dried leaves that look as though they’ve been emptied from an alchemist’s vial. Over the course of the evening, everyone around the table will watch, smell, and taste as the power of those leaves is awakened through hot water and the deep knowledge shared by Roberta, Experience Tea’s owner. A certified tea specialist, she leads classes on a vast range of tea topics, exploring everything from health benefits to proper steeping techniques to the etiquette of Chinese tea ceremonies or British-tea hot tubs. Within a warmly lit storefront lined by painted brick walls and a veritable library of tea varieties, students can also learn how to create their own signature brew in blending workshops. Even customers who stop in for a pouch of loose-leaf are likely to end up indulging in a rich sensory experience as Roberta offers them a sample and shares tasting notes.
Cafe Bella’s powder-blue and hot-pink storefront and walk-up window seem to disagree with the ultra-classy decor of some other cafés, announcing the establishment, instead, as a café with fewer rules. This laid-back approach manifests itself in the form of both light and dark coffees that steam alongside a menu of scones, muffins, and cookies. Patrons can customize their americanos, lattes, and mochas with their choice of milk, including dairy, hemp, almond, or soy.
The sunset-orange hues of a neon sign reflect off mirrored walls, the cursive letters spelling out “Crossroads Cafe.” Husband and wife Dana and Cindy Nielson stand beneath, presiding over the restaurant they opened more than two decades ago.
In the rippling-hot air rising from a griddle, cooks grill bacon to top hot dogs and flip quarter-pound beef patties before coating them with housemade thousand-island dressing. Blenders full of malt milk shakes and smoothies purr. Expanses of black-and-white-checkered counters and glittering red chairs give one the pleasant feeling of stepping back into the ‘50s without ever having to see John Wayne cry.