Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Woodgrove Antique Mall's Tea Room is a Secret Delight.

You can find great pie at bakeries, restaurants, and even truck stops in Arkansas. One of the most complex pies in the state is found in the back of an antique mall in Heber Springs. Let's check out the tea room at the back of the Woodgrove Antique Mall.

One of the most complex, extraordinary heritage pies I have encountered in my search for Arkansas’s best pies came at the back of an antique mall that doubles as a rock shop. That’s where one Friday afternoon I encountered the Stromans and a creation called the Tea Room pie.

The Stromans reopened the tea room at the back of the Woodgrove Antique Mall in July 2015. Nick runs the store up front while Sheila manages the tearoom, and their son Matthew creates the delectable entrees, sandwiches and desserts that are pulling people through the doors.

The space is beautifully crowded in the most amazing of ways – with mismatched antique tables and chairs. Each setting is based around a particular type of rock, from rose quartz to smoky quartz, lapis lazuli to malachite, obsidian to amethyst. There are rocks on the table, trees made
with each particular stone and color coordinated accessories. Each diner chooses their own tea cup from a cupboard on the wall opposite the kitchen, and the tea of their choosing is prepared and delivered in one of dozens of classic tea pots by Faith Lawrence, who dresses appropriately and creatively for the marvelous space.

I was welcomed by all four of these generous and sweet people on that afternoon, introduced all around and given an opportunity to try some pie. Sheila shared with me some details.

“I was told there was a tea room here years before,” she shared with me, “and that tea room had a particular pie. When we reopened, people came asking for the original Tea Room pie. We started digging through the hundreds of cookbooks the previous owners had left behind, and finally located it in an ancient cookbook.”

The pie is worth every bit of effort – and that’s saying something, since this isn’t a quick to whip up pie. The crust, consisting of crisped rice, flaked coconut and melted chocolate chips, is set first. Then the filling of whipped cream and cream cheese with bits of toasted coconut, toasted pecan and caramel are brought together. The whole affair is topped with more coconut, then drizzled with more caramel and chocolate. It is rather divine.  This Tea Room pie is lovely, delectable, and quietly complicated, just like you would expect from the sort of person who you would meet in such a place.

Sheila went on to tell me about the varied clientele, older ladies to be sure but also men who come in with their newspapers or books who sit on the pew towards the back and read while taking their tea. While I was there, two young ladies in their early 20s came in to enjoy their own pots of tea with scones.

That's part of the charm of the place, too. The mismatched details are
perfect. When you enter, you choose your tea and your teacup. The two young women each had a tea and a nibble, suited for each of them.

I love the little cups and teapots, and the details of the shop, such as the decades of apothecary items displayed in cabinets along one wall. And the niche at the back, near the window, is gorgeous.

There's much more than tea and pie available during the lunch hour, with specials changing daily.
Chef Matthew also creates other pies like buttermilk and lemon icebox, and his chicken salad is considered the best in the area. The menu changes daily but the focus is always on light, delectable tea room foods meant to comfort and calm. Take a couple of hours to enjoy the pot and a slice of pie.

Woodgrove Antique Mall and Tea Room
314 West Main Street
Heber Springs, Arkansas 72543
(501) 269-2284

Read about the Tea Room pie and more than 400 different locations for great pies in Arkansas in the new book Another Slice of Arkansas Pie: A Guide to the Best Restaurants, Bakeries, Truck Stops and Food Trucks for Delectable Bites in The Natural State, coming out later this month.

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