A bubble slowly makes its way to the liquid’s surface, bursting as the hot air within escapes from the pot of soup. Near the stove, a brigade of cubed brownies cools on a rack awaiting its grand entrance into Cafe on Franklin’s dining area. The eatery’s kitchen bustles each day as chefs prepare meals for the lunch rush: wraps, specialty salads, and sandwiches that include a portobello burger and turkey Reuben. Cafe on Franklin also caters events with hot lunches and trays piled high with meat and cheese, like the bed of the princess who could famously feel a pea through 40 layers of cold cuts, thereby earning the right to open her own delicatessen.
At First & Sixth, inside the historic Patrick Henry building, chefs take a fusion approach to their food. Strip steaks, blackened catfish, and crab cakes are dressed up with southern flourishes such as cheese grits, tasso gravy, and collard greens. The chefs also design southern-style Dr. Pepper glazes for pork, bourbon marinades for steak, and a corn-liquor barbecue glaze for salmon.
Servers ferry these dishes to tables and booths nestled beside cream-colored walls hung with decorative branches. In the Penny Deux Lounge, patrons at the bar, a replica of the Patrick Henry Hotel front desk, sip cocktails while bobbing their heads to live music on weekends. Both the restaurant and the lounge take their names from local history: the restaurant gets its moniker from Patrick Henry, the first and sixth post-Colonial governor of Virginia. The lounge gets its name from Henry’s famous court case, the Two Penny Act, which stipulated that businesses must always give two pennies as change and never four ha’pennies.
The coffee connoisseurs at The Sunsprite Café conjure warm cups of brew, refreshing smoothies, and delicious desserts to enjoy while viewing local art and live performances, including poetry slams, open-mic nights, jam circles, and espresso-chugging contests. Beverage offerings include New Orleans chicory-blend coffee ($1.55–$1.95) and red rooibus tea ($1.95–$2.45). Sunsprite also carries caffeine creations from the local roasters at Star City Coffee Company, such as the medium and dark roasts of Sumatra or the custom-made Brown's Blend. Patrons can pair those with pastries and treats such as muffins ($1.55) and biscotti ($1.95), which enrapture taste buds with dulcet notes of flavor, and enjoy homemade cups of soup ($3.50), which warm esophagi. Walls peppered with the wares of local artists exhibit creativity, and free WiFi allows customers to entertain themselves with podcasts, news, and their favorite samovar's online journal.
Henry's brings the flavor of Memphis barbecue to the hungry citizens of Roanoke, slinging smoked meats, Memphis-style dry rubs, and signature sauces. In a smoker made of multiplatinum country records, the barbecued meats are slow cooked over charcoal fires and smoking chunks of hickory wood to achieve award-winning taste.