› Where: Cottage Treasures Tea Room & Gift Shop, 170 Cleveland St., Ringgold, Ga.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, tea room; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, gift shop
› Prices: $4-$11.95
› Alcohol: No
› Phone: 706-935-2548
For 17 years, Peggy Williams ran a gift shop and tea room out of a cute yellow cottage one block off Nashville Street in Ringgold, Ga. It was a popular spot for ladies to lunch as well as happy occasions such as bridal and baby showers.
It was sad news when Williams decided to close Cottage Treasures Tea Room & Gift Shop in December 2017.
But six weeks later, in mid-February, the tea room reopened under the management of new owners, sisters Lisa Fink and Cari Shepherd. The menu's the same, the gift shop is still there and, on the day we visited, the customers were there. It appears the sisters have made a seamless transition in reopening the cottage.
The house in which Cottage Treasures is located was originally the parsonage for First Baptist Church of Ringgold, Ga. Williams leased the house in May 2000 and opened a gift shop there one month later.
Six years later, she added the tea room, turning five rooms of the house into dining spaces. Tea room guests enter and exit through the gift shop in the front of the house, where they also pay as they depart.
The dining rooms are small and, in total, probably seat 50 guests. However, the close proximity of the rooms is a benefit for large groups that require two rooms but can still feel like one party.
The true measure of any Southern tea room is its chicken salad, and Cottage Treasures is justifiably proud of its offering. In fact, of the nine entrees on the menu, five feature chicken salad (each $10.95). Every entree includes a mini fruit tart and two scones with honey butter.
There's a chicken salad plate, chicken salad on croissant, chicken salad on cinnamon raisin bread, Cottage Sampler with quiche Lorraine and chicken salad croissant; and Cottage Combo, a soup paired with one of four choices.
Other options include a turkey wrap, turkey breast sandwich, quiche of the day, salad, tea sandwiches and scones. Desserts ($6.95) vary daily.
Cottage Treasures' chicken salad recipe combines shredded pieces of chicken breast with chopped pecans, golden raisins and celery. The raisins are a nice touch, adding a hint of sweetness to a bite's finish. It is a delicious mix, but for my taste, a tad dry. Chicken salad should be moist enough that it doesn't require a sip of sweet tea with each bite to wash it down.
There are seven hot teas from which to choose, all served in cute cozies, but I opted for iced peach tea that was sweet and refreshing on that warm day.
The quiche of the day was a choice of broccoli-cheese or Southwestern. I chose the broccoli with side scoop of chicken salad. It came with a mini fruit tart and two scones.
The sisters know how to serve a beautiful plate. It was an appetizing display of dainty, ladylike servings.
The flavorful quiche was dense, but still moist. A slim slice of quiche was flanked with a small scoop of chicken salad on one side and a nice serving of mixed greens on the other that added color to the plate with cut strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, walnuts and feta cheese.
The fruit tart was a golf-ball-size sphere of frozen fruit salad that ended the meal on a sweet note.
But the true surprise was the scones. Served with honey butter as soon as I was seated, they were not the sandy, triangular pastries I expected. These were round, silver-dollar-size drops — one cinnamon-flavored, the other made with lavender. They were moist, chewy and simply delicious. So enjoyable that I left with a scones to-go order.
As it happened, one of the new owners was the waitress in our dining room. She was friendly, efficient and happy to answer questions about the menu. She checked on each table periodically, leaving the impression that customer satisfaction was of value to her.
The sisters have accomplished a seamless transition in a short period of time. The food's good; the service stellar. They already have mastered the tea room's menu and have plans to add to it in coming months.
But there is still room for improvement — for example, swap out the white plastic tablecloths for the real deal and increase those dainty portion sizes by even 25 percent. These are small cosmetic fixes that will make an already good experience a great one.
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.