Blue Lion Coffee keeps brain waves buzzing with its hand-selected raw coffee beans, roasted on demand in small batches to accentuate the beans inherent and vibrant flavor. A trained brew crew assists java seekers in selecting the bean or blend, some organic or shade-grown, that best represents their favorite Federalist, then roasts it in-house for a take-home treasure that captivates tongue buds for up to 14 days. Percolate through a half-pound bag of King Louis organic french roast, a rich, dark blend ($6.75), or wake up to the bold drips and window-shaking rolls of Morning Thunder ($12/pound).
The Wagon Wheel Theatre is situated in the round, with 10 rows of seats surrounding a center stage like ripples on the pond of life. Because of this seating arrangement, the last row in the theatre is only 10 rows away from the action, and actors play to all 360 degrees of onlookers. Celebrating its 55th year, the theatre has come a long way from its tent structure in the 1950s, which is still the favored arena for Elvis impersonators, snake charmers, and rogue circus elephants performing experimental one-man plays.
Samuel Mancino's Italianate empire extends throughout the Midwest, each outpost stocked with a menu of fresh-baked grinders and pizzas loaded with hearty ingredients. A troika of ham, hard salami, and spicy italian sausage powers the signature italian grinder ($6.49 for an 8"), spurred on to its task of filling bellies by green pepper, onion, and melted mozzarella. Mancino's chefs toss dough by hand to give it a fluffy texture and one bittersweet taste of freedom before it meets its fate as a foundation for pizzas laden with fresh, gourmet toppings such as chicken and garlic, or ham, bacon, and pineapple ($15.99+ for a large). For dessert, piping-hot breadsticks return in sugary eveningwear as sweet Cinna-Stix ($5.99).
Venturi's master chefs forge wood-fired neapolitan pizzas dotted with fresh ingredients and house-made mozzarella. The menu, like people's receptiveness to caroling, changes with the seasons; recent options have included the Pesto e Ricotta with its house-made sauce of pine nuts and garlic. Artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and prosciutto di parma mingle atop the Capricciosa, and the Cherry Bomb's mozzarella, basil, and cherry tomatoes join forces to create a simple but flavorful feast.