So what’s good here?
Tea – sweet and unsweetened; flavored and plain; hot or cold.
Most menu items in Laura’s Cafe are named for characters in the popular British drama “Downton Abbey:” Mr. Carson’s Cuban, with ham, provolone, dill pickle, brown mustard, and mayonnaise grilled on a hoagie roll; Lord Grantham’s Monte Cristo with ham and Swiss served on brown sugar swirled bead, heated, and then dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam; and, Tom Branson’s Turkey with Cranberry, featuring turkey, provolone, cranberry mustard, lettuce, and tomato served on a choice of bread.
There is chicken salad and pimento cheese, homemade soups, salads, and a daily quiche special. Sides are substantial, and traditionally Southern: cole slaw, pistachio salad (Jello, whipped cream, crushed pineapple, and marshmallows), broccoli and cauliflower salad with bacon, cheese, and craisins, and grape salad with pecans, a cream sauce, and brown sugar.
For high tea in Laura’s Tea Room, there are three courses, including soup (like warm apple bisque), salad, and a scone (like pumpkin spice) with cream, along with a variety of sandwiches (including cucumber) and desserts, cheeses, and fruit.
How did Laura’s Cafe and Laura’s Tea Room get its start?
Owner Carol Allen and her mother, Eleanor Kneen, opened Laura’s Tea Room in 2008. They named it, and then the cafe, after Laura Thomas, who was the last person to run the mercantile store.
The mother and daughter team already had been collecting tea cups for many years because they liked them. They based the Tea Room on traditional European high tea tradition; in fact, Allen said a few British customers who visit annually have commented that the high tea here is more traditional than the teas they have attended back in Britain.
Allen is on site daily working alongside her “amazing staff,” while Kneen is there early baking scones and other delectables. Many of the recipes, in fact, are Kneen’s.
What does the place look like?
Located in a restored 1911 former mercantile store on the historic main street of Ridgeway – about 25 miles from Columbia – the Cafe and Tea Room have an ambiance that makes it easy to “step back in time” and enjoy relaxing, Southern lunches and/or high tea.
The downstairs is for casual cafe dining. It has colorful mix-and-match chairs, items for sale, painted table tops, and a long cashier counter with desserts on display and items such as greeting cards available for purchase.
On the staircase landing is an assortment of hats; those “taking tea” can dress up in an elaborate hat and then proceed up another flight of stairs to choose from a myriad of tea cups and saucers.
Tables in the Tea Room are formally dressed with linen cloths and flowers.
Who eats here?
Laura’s Cafe is frequented by locals, especially those in the Ridgeway, Winnsboro, and Blythewood areas. However, the Cafe and the Tea Room have established such a favorable reputation that customers from Columbia are regulars as well.
The Tea Room has become a destination place for special events: birthdays, bridal showers, engagement showers, book clubs and more. Allen said she is amazed that even people traveling to the South Carolina coast from all over the United States will learn about the Tea Room and make it a stop.
And those who eat at the Cafe often take the detour off Interstate 77 again and again to enjoy the food.
Laura’s Cafe and Laura’s Tea Room
WHERE: 105 S. Palmer St., Ridgeway
WHEN: Laura’s Cafe, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; Tea Room, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday by reservation only.
COST: Sandwiches and salads are under $9. The quiche, served with a salad, is $9.95. The Tea Room experience is priced separately.
INFO: www.laurastearoom.com; Facebook; (803) 337-8595