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Sweet, cozy and charming tea room worth the drive for memorable lunch

Food is always enhanced by ambiance and atmosphere. Setting is a critical ingredient to a meal that fires on all cylinders.

Obviously menu, value, cleanliness, consistency and especially food and service quality are key components, but ambiance is something that many restaurants don’t come close to executing on.

It’s important that decor, lighting and setting all fit with the vibe and feel that the menu is looking to strike.

When it comes to tea houses, the more charming the better and the Twin Creek Tea Room and Ivy Parlor Gift Shop in West Alexandria has charm from the minute you set eyes on it.

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The 1875 Victorian home is a sweet, unassuming lunch and shopping destination situated halfway between Dayton and Richmond, Ind. The house has a long history that has lovingly been documented by its current owners, Dr. Mark and Carolyn Ulrich, who acquired it in 1992 and eventually converted it into the tea room and gift shop under their management in 2000.

On a recent trip, many things caught my eye including a flier that read: “For Sale, Twin Creek Tea Room and Ivy Parlor Gift Shop” which reach that, “Mrs. Ulrich has decided to slow down and enjoy her family after 26 successful years in business. She is not closing the doors and wants to turn the keys over to the new owners.”

So now is definitely the right time to soak up the very special place and setting that is the Twin Creek Tea Room.

With a potential ownership change, there’s no time like the present to admire the beautiful 11-foot ceilings and the hand-milled Victorian woodwork while sipping a cup of tea and savoring this special home that is more than 140 years old.

THE FOOD

The food is simple and satisfying. Not a menu that you would see at a traditional tea room, but a selection of very nice salads, sandwiches and sweets.

A salad sampler ($8.99) is a good option to exercise if you want to sample the variety that’s available, featuring a scoop of pecan chicken salad or crab and shrimp seafood salad with your choice of two other sides salads or soup.

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The “Anniversary Salad” is a light and summery crunchy slaw-cut salad made with cabbage, green onions, toasted sunflower seeds, almonds, and dry noodles flavored with our light, slightly sweet and sour dressing.

The broccoli cauliflower salad mixes the two top-billed veggies with hard-boiled eggs, bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese, while the Tea Room Layered Salad has greens layered with shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, sliced egg, topped with a creamy mayonnaise dressing.

“Tea for Lunch” ($12.99) is the closest you will get to a more traditional tea room service featuring hot tea, tea bread, fruit and cheese, petite sandwiches, mini savory quiche and a sweet treat to finish it off.

The bacon-mozzarella panini ($8.99) and quiche ($7.99) are both priced with good value in mind. A grilled tuna melt ($7.99) was satisfying with chunks of tuna and slices of perfect tomato kissing a layer of melty cheese.

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Summer specials put the spotlight on strawberries with a grilled chicken strawberry salad ($8.99), cold strawberry soup (cup $2.99 or bowl $3.99) and strawberry shortcake ($4.79).

There are plenty of other sweets if that’s of interest including a triple chocolate chip cake ($4.79), homemade white chocolate cheesecake ($4.99), stacked lemon bars ($4.59), a brownie sundae ($4.59) and a warm apple dumpling ($4.79).

It’s not food that is going to set the world on fire, but it’s a good value for what you get in a scrumptious setting.

No meal at the Twin Creek Tea Room is complete without a hot cup of tea ($2.89). They have a robust selection of teas including green, white, black, mate, herbal, rooibos, chakra and oolong teas. The pots they serve guests in are very cute and hold two cups. If you would like to steep a second tea of the same or different variety it is $1.50. A green mango peach tea and a white ginger pear tea were a delightful way to celebrate a recent summer day and drive out to West Alexandria, which is about 19 miles from downtown Dayton.

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Before or after your meal, be sure to explore the many cozy rooms filled with home decor, jewelry, accessories, clothing, cooking gadgets and various gifts. It’s a nice way to kick off the digestion process and get a few steps in while getting some shopping done. Be sure to admire the architecture of the floating staircase in the front hall while you’re there.

Let’s hope this very special spot finds the right buyer — it’s clear the Ulrichs have loved it well, as have many of their customers who have been lucky enough to happen on it.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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