Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chattanooga Tea Tour 2012 - Part 2, Court Side Tea Room

With the taste of Miss Audrey's dessert still resonating on the taste buds, we hopped back on the interstate - using the direct route - and continued our journey toward a 1:30 appointment at the next stop, the Court Side Tea Room.

Now, before I get into this, I first have to say the owner is a very nice woman.  She has the right personality for running a tea room.  Her intentions are sincere, and I'm sure she put a lot of thought into everything.  It's the execution that falls a little flat.  What follows is by no means meant to be reflective of her as a person, it's a critique of how she runs her business.

We drove around the block the first time we pulled up.  We weren't sure where to park.  There was a business next door with all the parking spaces next to the building labeled "For Customers Only."  (Great.  While we're having a relaxing tea, the store owner will tow the van of "them outsiders".)  We parked next to the road, hoping those were fair game.

We walked up the brick sidewalk to the porch, tugged on the door....  and it was locked.  Locked?  We knew it was the right place - the sign out front said so.  There was another sign in the window that indicated it was Open.  Tried the door again.  Still locked.  She knew we were coming - we made reservations.  Well, we were early, by 12 minutes.  As we stood there wondering what to do, the owner came and opened the door for us.  Okay, good.  She even called us by name.  Right place, right time.

The dining room was, well, the dining room for the house.  It was a quaint house, nicely decorated - not exactly with a theme per se, but it was comfortable and pleasing.
Our table
We were seated at the table in the center of the room. (Obviously, since the door was locked prior to our arrival, we were the only ones there.)  She shared what she had planned for our meal, complete with dessert. 

She said she had "a selection of teas" that we could have either hot or iced.  We asked what the selections were.  She disappeared for a few seconds and came back with a saucer with six different tea bags on it.  O...K...  Seeing how I haven't been to that many tea rooms - in case you're not keeping count, this is number three for me - I cut her some slack, chastising myself for making an assumption that tea rooms only use loose leaf tea.  I chose the green tea.  Sweetie chose iced tea and was given iced green tea.

Complete with Valentine's decorations
Our tea.  See the pitcher on the left?  Yeah.  That's what my tea was served in.  The only thing I could think was maybe she thought that was a more manly selection.  There were "real" tea pots sitting around that would have worked just fine.

One more thing before I tell you about the food.  Most of the pictures are of half-eaten items.  I'd like to say this is by design, giving you a chance to see the inside of the dish, but, really, I just stink at remembering to take pictures when the food first arrives.
The salad was a generous serving of spinach leaves, with strawberries, kiwi, sunflower seeds, and croutons, with a little serving of balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  I'm not a dressing person.  I usually stick with Thousand Island, and sometimes if I want to go crazy, I'll do Catalina.  But nothing that sounds like it has balsa wood in it.

It looked really tasty.  We gazed longingly at our salads after she served them -- no silverware.

After she came back and discovered us with handfuls of spinach held up to our mouths, she realized what we were missing.  OK, that's what I thought about doing.  Actually, we sat there politely waiting for her to return.

Once we had silverware in hand, we dug in.  I'm not a spinach lover, but I have to admit that was a great salad.  I had my doubts about the vinaigrette, but it was good, too.

The sandwiches were Black Forest Ham with Swiss, and Chicken Salad.  We each got half a sandwich of each, along with a generous helping of ... potato chips.  (Really??  Yeah, really.)  The bread looked like it was Arnold's bread from Kroger.  Definitely not homemade.  The chips would've been redeemed if they'd been made from scratch, but, alas, they came from a bag.
Fuzzy, partially consumed sandwiches
After the sandwiches, she told us about the dessert and then went and got it for us.  It was a two-layer chocolately confection, with the bottom being a sort of mint ice cream Klondike bar.  That part wasn't bad, it reminded me of an Andes Mint.  Laid on top the ice cream bar was what resembled a Little Debbie Swiss Roll.  They were drizzled with a chocolate syrupy pudding piped onto it.  There was also a strawberry with the chocolate syrupy pudding piped on it as well.  ("Chocolate syrupy pudding piped on" is the closest my limited culinary experience comes to describing it.)

All through the meal I drank my tea, resisting the urge to swing wide my pinky finger from the dainty little cup.  It was a smooth tea, very pleasant to drink, and a nice compliment to the meal.  However, with each cup, the tea would get a little more stringent.  I had a strong suspicion I knew what the reason was, but still, it tasted good, so I kept drinking.  Maybe I'm interjecting false memories after the fact, but I think it tasted a little pulpy, too.

When I got to the bottom, as I suspected, the tea bags were still in the pitcher.  There were four of them resting on the bottom - with the tags still attached(!).  Tags?!?  In my tea?  Might as well tested the water temperature by dipping a finger into it.

At some point in the visit, I needed to visit the "Powder Room" - that was the sign on the door.  It was a large room with an antique claw tub, and a dressing/sitting room past it, curiously, with a handwritten note on the door saying "Please do not close."  I found out why.  The window in the dressing room provided the light for the powder room.  There were no bulbs in the fixture above the vanity.  And the sink only had cold water.

Well, it was finally time to leave.  You'd think this nice little meal might have taken a total of 45 minutes to an hour.  After all, we were still half an hour away from our final destination, plus we were going to be losing an hour crossing into a new time zone, and we had a concert to go to.  No, it's almost two hours later.  (Note to self - light conversation with customers is good - going on and on about pets is not.)

She brought the check.  I thought all the surprises were out of the way.  Au contraire!  The dessert, which she brought out without asking us, was a separate charge.  If anyone knows me well, you know I never pay to get a dessert if it's chocolate.  Well, that raised my blood pressure some.  The total bill was over $32.  For lunch!  And a small one, at that!  (OK, breathe.  It'll be all right.)  We anticipated that these smaller tea rooms might not be equipped to take plastic or checks.  We thought we'd make it simpler by bringing good ol' American currency.  I laid down two $20 bills. 

She picked them up and said, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I don't have any change."  I think I stared in disbelief.  Let's see - there was a sign on the front lawn - we were served a meal, even if it was an assemblage of store-bought food - we were presented a bill - yup, this is supposed to be a business.  So, I dug deeper in my pocket, and Sweetie looked in her purse, and we were able to come up with the exact amount, plus a little extra for a tip.
With money in hand, we settled up the bill, said some pleasantries, and beat a path for the van.  Fortunately, the van was still there.

That experience gave us plenty to talk about as we continued on to Chattanooga.

Thank you for sticking with this to the end.  This is longer than I normally write, but there was SO much to include.


  1. Wow! I'm thinking that any person can get on this tea tour list. Of course she had to charge you an arm and a leg because she has no other business. It must have taken some restraing on your part to not mention the CHRISTMAS table cloth.

  2. You know that phrase "some of the worst decisions make the best stories?" Well, while this wasn't your decision it sure makes a great story! What a disappointment!

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