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Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream

South Side, 3600 Forest Hill Avenue

"You've got Woodland Heights folks with their progressive way of thinking and people from Westover Hills who are maybe a little older and family-oriented," says Charlie Kouns, a devotee of the place who lives nearby, as he sets aside his Sunday New York Times and sips his coffee. "And it draws from the area immediately south of here, which has Hispanics and a number of longtime African-American residents. They all converge in this one spot, which makes it cool. Everyone is welcome."

Kouns, a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University Adcenter, is seated at a table outdoors in the shadow of Crossroads, a former gas station, as he scans the flow of customers: motorcyclists in leather jackets, families returning from church, joggers finishing their run and locals taking a stroll in the brilliant autumn sunshine.

He reaches over and pets his 5-year-old greyhound, Pete, who is as affectionate as he is sleek, and not a soul passes by without acknowledging him. "And they love animals here," says Kouns of Crossroads' owners Olivia Patrick and Will Herring.

At the next table, regulars Debbie Fleshman and Stuart Zeno introduce their dogs, Sasha (a collie mix) and Kub (an American bulldog), respectively.

"I've lived in the neighborhood since 1994, and we've never had a place where people could come together," explains Theresa Melnyczyn, who pulls into the parking lot on a Ninja motor scooter. She acknowledges another regular, Daniel Giddings, who works at the main post office on Brook Road, as he prepares to leave on his Suzuki. Although Giddings works in North Side and lives in suburban Chesterfield County, he says he frequents Crossroads to unwind after work.

"There's such an exchange of ideas here," says Kouns. "People meet to discuss their business. Others might be talking about dog nutrition. You can meet somebody who runs with a different crowd here. Your networks broaden. But it's all fairly loose.

"The name is perfect." — Edwin Slipek Jr.

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