Look deeply into the new concrete countertops at Ellwood's Coffee and you'll see the future: bits of broken glass, construction detritus and the occasional Miller bottle cap, all fossilized into green.
Everything about the coffee house, opening this week across the parking lot from the natural-foods grocer, relates to environmentally aware building techniques, from the dual-flush toilets to compostable to-go cups, salvaged street signs made into outdoor tables, Lucky Strike factory panels hanging as wood soffits and walls covered in tinted American clay instead of paint.
This is the long-planned “corner of consciousness,” as nearly delirious ET staffers are calling their expansion, and there's more to come. An outdoor mural by Richmond artist Ed Trask will cover the exterior walls of both grocery store and cafAc, presenting a united faAade at the mouth of Carytown.
The enlarged grocery store, planned for a spring unveiling, will give more square footage to dining tables and merchandise. First up, though, the coffeehouse — called the Community Place — will be open daily, serving sandwiches such as the ton of funghi and the tempeh Reuben, along with a sampling of chef Jannequin Bennett's seasonal repertoire.
Local wines and beers will be poured, but the centerpiece of the operation is the $11,000 Clover coffee brewer, which makes “a clean and personal cup each time,” say the baristas, who've been training since July and who rate their Counter Culture Coffee organic, direct-trade beans the best available.
Inside the building, which once housed the High's Ice Cream and sandwich shop and more recently the Blue Fox CafAc, furnishings are comfortably noncorporate. A big table by the bookshelves can house meet ups and community groups. Live music and open mic nights are in the works, and there's “free-range Internet,” as they call it. There are teas by Herban Avenues and Rishi, even reference books and classics in a take-one, leave-one arrangement helped along by donations from Chop Suey Books. Kids can play with all-natural toys in the corner.
“This fulfills our mission,” store CEO Ryan Youngman says, “which is sustainability in a business that has a soul — it completes us.” For now, at least. Ellwood's continues its expansion into Northern Virginia, and the future here could also hold a housewares division. Looks like caffeine will be a necessity.
Ellwood's Coffee is open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. 10 S. Thompson St. 612-1827. www.ellwoodthompsons.com.
Tastebuds American Bistro: Now serving a prix fixe pasta dinner Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Choose from two salads, three pastas and a glass of red or white wine for $16 plus tax. These dishes and the bistro's weekly house specials and regular menu are prepared by chef Ryan Baldwin. 4019 MacArthur Ave. 261-6544. www.tastebudsamericanbistro.com.
Acacia Mid-town: Half-price wine nights Tuesdays with dinner; three-course prix fixe dinner for $23 per person, menu varies nightly. Served Mondays through Thursdays, 5:30-9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (don't expect this on Valentine's). Also, diners can purchase wine to take home at 40 percent off the restaurant's list price. 2601 W. Cary St. 562-0138. www.acaciarestaurant.com.
Comfort: A select menu of whiskeys has been building for the past few months at this downtown favorite, and now it's filling two “pretty bad-ass” pages, as chef-owner Jason Alley puts it. He and Chris Chandler, the restaurant's general manager, both confess an adoration for whiskey, particularly the made-in-the-U.S. kinds, but they've extended their menu to include some Irish and Scottish labels as well. “It fits in with our uniquely American thing,” Alley says, and has drawn an appreciative following ever since. 200 W. Broad St. 780-0004. www.comfortrestaurant.com.
Can Can Brasserie: Monday wine tastings continue to pack 'em in; now the restaurant will have free, seasonal beer tastings on Tuesdays and classic cocktail tastings on Wednesdays, both 6-7 p.m. Bob Talcott continues the brasserie's popular wine dinners on the third Thursday of each month; David McGregor hosts beer dinners on first Thursdays. 3120 W. Cary St. 358-7274. www.cancanbrasserie.com.
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