¦ Where: Cozy English Tea Room, 8023 Hixson Pike.
¦ Phone: 423-870-1633.
¦ Website: www.cozyenglishtearoom.com (also on Facebook).
¦ Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
¦ Price range: $6.95-$9.95.
Last Saturday, the daughter and I were making the rounds of garage sales and resale shops - practicing for the World's Longest Yard Sale - when we happened by Alot of Treasure Thrift Store on Hixson Pike. The rest of the sign hinted at the bonus of stopping here: the adjacent Cozy English Tea Room.
In our family, the question "Are you hungry?" is always answered, "I could eat," so before we rummaged through the collectibles room, we sat down for a bite.
The daughter is nearly six months pregnant, so she can go from "hungry" t0 "hangry" in a matter of seconds. I could tell she had misgivings about what she supposed would be a tea room's dainty portions. When she muttered something about cucumber sandwiches, I promised to get her "real food" if she wasn't full when we left.
We needn't have worried. The menu at the Cozy English Tea Room has more heft than you might expect. I wouldn't say it's lumberjack sustenance, but it's not all fruit cups and salad greens either.
Not surprisingly, the star of the menu is chicken salad, served at least five ways. If you're looking for "girlie" food, perhaps the egg salad, yogurt parfait or quiche would qualify. There wasn't a cucumber sandwich to be found.
Among the hot options are chicken potpie and home-style meatloaf. Both are priced at $9.95, along with four other main courses. The cheapest choice is the grilled ham and cheese sandwich for $6.95. Other sandwiches and a soup-and-salad combo run $8.95.
We didn't opt for the pot of tea with tea cakes ($2.95 with an entree, $5.95 without). A hot day in the humid South called for two glasses of iced tea, one with peach flavoring.
I rarely pass up a chance to eat meatloaf, which I paired with sides of green beans and macaroni and cheese (mashed potatoes were the only other hot side). My daughter ordered the chicken salad croissant with a side salad.
Her fear that the croissant would be mini-size was unfounded. This one was fresh, flaky and large enough that she needed to cut it in half to eat it. It held a generous portion of chicken salad, containing grapes and celery.
I like tomato sauce on my meatloaf, but this was served with a brown gravy, which I requested on the side in case I didn't care for it. But the meatloaf didn't seem to have a lot of add-ins, so the gravy added flavor. I sopped up the last smear. The macaroni and cheese was especially good and looked homemade, with a bright coating of cheddar cheese. If the green beans were canned, I suspect they were Allens or a similar well-seasoned, thick-cut brand.
We both cleaned our plates and enjoyed our meals.
Any frills left off the menu are made up for in the decor. Pink walls. White wood tables. White tablecloths trimmed in Brandenburg lace. Sunlight streaming through lace-curtained windows. Pink flowers in Candlewick vases. A pink rose pattern on the china. Spotless blond wood floors.
It's a light, bright and airy room. Another diner's description of it as a "Victorian dollhouse" was apt.
Still, it didn't feel overly frou-frou. The chair seats were upholstered in a pink, floral pattern, but the chairs themselves were wooden and sturdy. The chairs were even mismatched, though the white paint tied the look together. A gleaming glass top on each table meant we didn't have to worry about staining the tablecloth.
Just as pink and white make up the room's color scheme, china and crystal are the theme at the table. Our tea was served in goblets. Our meals came on china plates, and my side veggies were spooned into clear glass bowls.
The Cozy English Tea Room seems to be the very definition of "casual elegance." The presentation is easily as appealing as the meal.
We were the first ones inside the tea room when it opened at 11:30 a.m., but we were soon followed by a couple more tables. Our service slowed somewhat then, with only two employees taking care of 11 customers. Our hostess was also our server. The woman who brought our food to the table also appeared to have cook and cashier duties. I'll grant a lot of slack on slow service if the workers are obviously working, which these two ladies were.
Plus, I'll award our order taker bonus points for bringing us a small sample of sugar-crusted mini muffins while we waited on our food. They were tiny but tasty.
The only glitch - and I should have said something - was that we intended to share a dessert and even negotiated a compromise in front of our server. But then we were brought two plates of the same dessert. And Lemon Crunch Cake was just a fancy name for Bundt cake. Even with three slices of cake (enough to share) and a dab of whipped cream on each plate, the extra $11.90 for two portions (rather than $5.95 for one) seemed excessive. And it brought the tab up to almost $40 with tax.
We would definitely go back. We liked the look of the place and the taste of the food. It was satisfying on many levels. And I want another look around the thrift store next door.