Perhaps it’s the dining room’s glittering chandeliers that make diners feel as though they’ve stepped back in time, or maybe it’s the silver tea sets displayed atop baroque-style tables that bring to mind a bygone era. Though it’s difficult to single out the one element of First Ladies Tea Parlor that transports diners to the past, it’s evident that owner KJ Jordan has realized her vision. KJ’s passion for all things old-timey manifests itself in the parlor’s varied schedule of events, from historic fashion shows and presentations by authors and historical interpreters to speakeasy dinners that keep the spirit of the 1920s alive via live jazz and free admission for ghosts. Away from the sun-dappled dining room, chef Gabby Bauman and her culinary crew bustle about the kitchen whipping up light lunches featuring entrees named after first ladies, including the Lady Dolley sandwich filled with roasted turkey and avocado and the Lady Betty salad dappled with salmon fillet and apricot-ginger dressing.
Behind a distinctive pink-and-purple-painted storefront, Blend of Buckroe's baristas brew individual cups of coffee and espresso drinks. The fledgling cafe enchanted the palate of an Examiner.com reporter, who heralded the shop's selection of light and dark roasts as "delightfully smooth" and "satisfying". Mugs of macchiato and mocha partner with plates of pastries and quiche on the simple café menu, augmented by sumptuous spoonfuls of ice cream. Artwork dangles from the purple walls of the WiFi-saturated seating area, and colorful couch cushions, old-fashioned benches, and an antique barbershop chair nestle patrons as they flip through magazines or compose lengthy sonnets to their favorite Supreme Court justice.
"Fisherman can place their orders, no matter what time during the morning. It's not abnormal for me to go up at 6 a.m. and deliver sandwiches," says general manager Kathy. With Kathy's boat right there on the marina, it seems that she has never known anything different—crafting homemade mac, coleslaw, and potato salad only steps from Chesapeake Bay. But it started only a few years ago. Vinings Landing Marina caught wind of the popularity of Kathy's deli in town and decided to pay her a visit. "They had a space available and asked me if I'd set up shop," Kathy says. "And, well—I love boating." Her start dovetailed nicely with a full renovation that bestowed the place with new tile floors, new walls, and hardwood tables, but a big selling point for Kathy was the outdoor patio to the Marina. "Here people can pop in by car, by boat, or by foot. It's very accessible." During winter months, regular fisherman and new guests alike stop in for her lunch offerings of made-to-order deli and breakfast sandwiches. As the calendar turns to April, warmer weather unleashes acoustic Fridays, as well as a few other pleasant surprises not dissimilar to hearing James Taylor sing at a Metallica concert. "The menu becomes more expansive," she says. "Burgers for dinner—also tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad. I know the winter menu says just chips. But in summer, we'll roll out the fries.”
The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans lures passersby into Bean There Coffeehouse's two locations, where baristas reenergize sluggish bodies with a menu cascading with traditional brews and seasonal espresso beverages. The coffee shops' thoroughly vetted beans are plucked from the top 20% rated throughout the world, with special attention paid to the country of origin, the altitude, and the astrological sign of each bean. Serving up flavorful coffee is their top priority, and the staff also cultivates a homey, neighborhood feel at each establishment, welcoming guests to events such as coffee tastings, dessert pairings, and poetry slams.
For Kombuchick Inc. owner Leslie Crews, the communal spirit that comes with brewing and sharing kombucha—a probiotic fermented tea—is integral to why she makes it a part of her lifestyle and business. And it's why she sells starter cultures for brewing it online at no profit. When Leslie started transitioning to a raw-food lifestyle, she became determined to brew her own kombucha. Soon enough, she found a starter culture from a woman on the Internet who brought Leslie into her home for a brewing demo—which was the first time Leslie realized the tea’s ability to create a communal spirit among its drinkers. Today, she hopes the healthful blends and brews that come from the recipes sold at her store continue to inspire the same sense of gratitude and generosity they spring from. At Leslie's Kombuchick Bar, fizzy tea brews flow from taps or sit tight in bottles in regular and seasonal flavors. Each is blended from organic and fair-trade herbs wherever possible by Leslie, who likens her skill with blending herbs to “someone who knows how to play the piano by ear.” A dry green tea-based Bangkok Blazin’ melds lemongrass, ginger, and galangal, and a popular winter brew mixes allspice, cloves, and snowman hearts for sips of warm comfort. Depending on the season, the bar also stocks fresh fruit juices to mix with the kombucha on draft. Even the loose-leaf teas sold in her shop are the same she uses at the bar, which she hopes further encourage kombucha brewing in the community alongside her regular three-session brewing classes.