At The Coffee Brake Company, the wafting aromas of fresh coffee do not deceive: the staff freshly roasts beans onsite. They select local and artisan beans to blend into java drinks that can be served hot, cold, or by a dance crew from a nearby movie set.
Where the air was once filled with the pounding of hammers and the smell of hot iron, the sizzle of burgers and the scent of maple syrup now reign. Cafe Audrey resides in a historic former blacksmith’s shop whose interior delivers just about what the quaint brick building promises: white-painted wooden chairs and tables, lamps that resemble old kerosene lanterns, and walls lined with vintage photographs. There, families start the day or take a lunch break with soul-food staples such as shrimp po' boys and plates of broaster chicken—named with a portmanteau of “broken” and “toaster”—dipped in crisp, fluffy batter. On the all-day breakfast menu, huevos rancheros and chicken quesadillas add a touch of spice to the morning.
The Post-Tribune highlighted Cafe Audrey as part of the resurgence of the Fort Ben area. Owner Tammy Cunningham didn’t land there by accident: “I wanted a local feel. I wanted to be a part of the community,” she told the paper, adding that the café has built a fan base of “a lot of great word-of-mouth customers” since its 2011 opening.
Squeeze is focused on hunting down the freshest ingredients from the untamed ingredient jungle and squishing them together, resulting in a menu that roars with nutritious and friendly life. Smoothies are made with 100% juice and fruit and have no sugar added. Choose from a variety of favorite flavor combinations in three sizes: the Rookie ($3.65 for 16 ounces), the Original ($4.45 for 24 ounces), and the Big Squeeze ($5.35 for 32 ounces). Slurp classily on classics such as a strawberry-banana-frozen-yogurt blend or a summery bouquet of watermelon juice, strawberries, bananas, and orange sherbet. "Exotic" smoothie combos cost about a dollar extra, giving customers super-vivifying body-electric choices including açai berry and Matcha green-tea blends.
A Taste of Paradise scoops, slices, and specially designs a smorgasbord of ice cream, cakes, and cookies for palates of all ages and personalities. Glacé journeys begin daintily with a single dollop of ice cream ($1.89/scoop) or glacially with a heaping 12-scoop Luscious Luau, scientifically designed to support simultaneous spooning ($15). Brain-frozen jaws regain composure with tepid treats, including red velvet cupcakes topped with cream-cheese icing ($2) and house-made pies of the sugar cream, apple, or pecan varieties ($8+). Peanut-butter balls, sugar-free turtles, coconut mountains, and an eclectic cookie selection round out the menu, enabling folks of all ages to shake hands with the wee-treat that suits their mood, style, or allegiance to circle shapes ($0.39–$3.50).
The scent of fresh-baked sweets draws people into the boutique-style bakery, but it's the fluffy buttercream made fresh daily and piled high on each cupcake that keeps them sticking around for more. "People eat first with their eyes," says owner and baker Corrie Case, who uses the creativity she learned from her mother to construct aesthetically pleasing desserts. Baking since she was just 10 years old, Corrie always thought she would open her own candy shop, as everyone who tasted her cupcakes encouraged her to do so. Today, her bakery’s kitchen shines in robin’s-egg blue, her kitchen's creations neatly lined up inside glass cases as they tempt customers with their chic designs and fluffy textures. Coveted flavors include the Snickers cupcake, which melds the flavors of the favored candy bar and the Dreamy White, a french vanilla cupcake topped with clouds of vanilla frosting. Corrie’s coconut cream pie tempts with peaks of whipped cream, and her house-made caramel corn transports her back to the candy shops of her childhood with every batch she makes. Her baked goods pair well with gelato from Gelato Da Vinci, a local purveyor who whips up the cold treats from a generations-old recipe, or with coffee from local roaster Harvest Cafe. It seems Corrie has really found her calling. Says the baker, "I love that I get to wake up every day and make sweets that people love."
Hearthstone Coffee House & Pub aims to enrich its community with its café drinks, food, and craft beers and by giving 10 cents of each beverage sold to a different local charity every month. The day begins with baristas pulling precise shots of espresso and steaming pitchers of milk, which accentuate breakfast sandwiches and fresh-baked morsels of coffeecake or scones. Later on, lunch-goers tear into caprese-salad sandwiches and after-work visitors pair draft beers with flatbread pizzas, soups and salads, or artisan sandwiches. Live music serenades the café Thursday–Saturday, with tunes from celtic musicians, singer-songwriters, and open-mic artists.
Hearthstone makes good on its name with a working stone fireplace topped by a dark wooden mantel that draws attention from diners throughout the interior. Low leather armchairs form a cozy circle around its comforting presence, and its firelight is augmented by a chandelier hanging overhead. Framed art punctuates the tranquil tan walls, which surround scattered clusters of tables and standalone chairs that feel at home in their solitude. At the bar, painted flames crown the menu boards and a rustic chandelier resembling twisted antlers stretches over patrons' heads.