It’s mind boggling to see high ratings for this hole of a place. When I first moved back home, a friend who knew I enjoyed tea suggested we try this place. She drove, since I don’t and parking around here is complete insanity. We finally found a spot and had a long, cold walk to the place. When we arrived, I thought it was a derelict store front in a condemned building and we’d somehow missed the tea room. Nope-this was the place.
The drinking/dining area was not much bigger than a tiny dining area in a private home. It was dim, dark and not at all inviting. Part of the low light stemmed from the unclean front window, the rest from the poor output of low wattage bulbs and heavy, dirty window covering. There were 3 tables vacant (3 tables PERIOD) but was no one at the counter to help us. There was an old dresser covered in dirty, tatty linens which served as an open display case for some wretched looking pastries on mismatched crockery. We did not know if we should seat ourselves or stand at the counter until someone came out to instruct us. I just wanted to get out of there but my friend was cold and said she wanted to try the house chai to warm up.
After about 5 minutes, a sullen and unhealthy looking woman with a runny nose and an oversized wool cap came out, seated herself behind the counter and ignored us pointedly. I poked my friend to signal ’let’s go,’ but she greeted the woman and asked if the shop was open. The young woman said nothing but handed us a menu.
We took a seat at a table with a dirty glass top. My friend said we should order a pot of the house chai and get some cookies or pastry. I pointed to the limp looking stuff we’d seen earlier and raised my eyebrows to indicate “really?!” The counter person, now really bored, must have been watching us and said, ’everything’s vegan.’ That would not begin to account for why the baked goods looked so shop worn.
Since we clearly were not going to be waited on, my friend went back to the counter, ordered a pot of chai, a slice of banana bread and peanut butter cookies. She was told where to find cups, plates, napkins, utensils and saucers for the table. I asked for a glass of water and had a carafe pointed out. I grabbed it along with a napkin and used the wetted napkin to clean and then dry the glass table top. The white napkin came away deep grey.
As we sat and waited, wondering if we would have to make our own chai as well, another person came in and was greeted happily by the counter woman. Apparently, in addition to being a tea room, there was also a massage therapist doing business in this space. The customer was waiting for her massage appointment and chatted animatedly with the suddenly pleasant counter person.
At least 15 minutes went by before we were told our chai was up. The woman made no motion to bring it to our table. My friend got it and then inquired about our pastry and cookies. A grimy hand pointed to the dresser, which held neither banana bread or cookies on display. I said there was nothing there that we had ordered and was told, “Gee, that’s too bad. It’s all vegan.”
The tea pot had seen better days, but the chai was hot. There was no milk in it or any sweetner and neither of us saw anything like that out for use. By then, the newest customer had disappeared somewhere for her massage and the counter person seemed absent as well. I asked my friend how much she wanted this tea. She looked at me and agreed that we should leave. I put the price of the tea on the counter, did not leave a tip and we left. Our hands were dirty from everything we’d touched. The board of health should close this place down. We walked over to another little restaurant, Honey’s Sit N’ Eat, not too far from Random, washed our hands thoroughly, had a big, satisfying breakfast and a large pot of perfectly ordinary but very warming black tea with milk and sugar.