By Elizabeth Butterfield and DeeVa Payne
Published October 2, 2010 Shaferbird.com
The feeling of community thrives at Crossroads, and as a staple to the VCU Monroe Park Campus, Crossroads is a place where people don’t come just for the delicious variety of food and decently priced coffee: they come for each other.
As you walk into Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream you are instantly overwhelmed by the vivid colors and sweet smells. From the vibrant yellow ceiling to the walls covered with cork-boards featuring local events, to the bright, multi-colored chalkboard menu, Crossroads is truly a different place. Unlike other coffee shops that stress the low-key, mellowed out feeling with lounge chairs and natural hues and décor, Crossroads gives a different feeling entirely. It features many small tables and basic wooden chairs, perfect for individuals working on their own in a comfortable setting, with free Wi-Fi of course.
The bright atmosphere isn’t soothing, but energetic. “It’s the home you wanted, but didn’t have. It’s our living room, really,” one customer says. Everything from the indie alternative duo Tegan and Sara to the epically orchestrated Star Wars theme can be heard from the Crossroads radio. “A great thing is that they play something for everybody,” said Sean, a long time regular to Crossroads.
If there is one thing that makes the store, it is the service you get from the staff. Employees Becca and Allen light heartedly joke while taking orders and making drinks. “We all hang out outside of work,” Becca said. It seems the crew is more of a family than a group of colleagues. Allen, like Becca, has worked at Crossroads for two years and admits he met his current roommates from behind the counter.
The atmosphere isn’t the only thing that draws people to Crossroads. The Crossroads menu is known for its plethora of vegetarian options, as well as a broad menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Crossroads also features Bev’s ice cream, an unlikely staple in most coffee shops. The desserts also include traditional baked goodies and pastries, although we weren’t crazy about the Coco-Cappuccino muffin we ordered (it was a tad on the dense side.)
But if you don’t go to Crossroads for their delicious food and treats, at least get a cup of coffee. At prices equal to, if not better than Starbucks, you really can’t ignore Crossroads’ drinks. Crossroads has over 11 different varieties of coffee, with one free refill of coffee, iced coffee or tea. Crossroads also sells Rostov’s coffee, another local maker. As chai tea lovers, we found the chai to be sweeter and creamier than the Starbucks version, but Crossroads one-ups Starbucks in that they have 5 varieties of chai, including some sugar-free varieties. The most interesting coffee drink was the Thai Coffee, a surprising combination of coffee, espresso and sweetened condensed milk. Jumbo packed with bold caffeine and sweet cream, the drink was in one word, powerful. But to most regular customers of Crossroads, it isn’t the menu that gets people to go here. “Even though the coffee’s good, and the food is good, people don’t come here for that,” said long time customer Sean. “They come here for the community.”
Crossroads is a big proponent of local bands and events, and there are cork-boards on every wall that feature non-profit and local events. They also have a “Give a book, take a book” shelf for community readers, and walls lined with local art. As Sean puts it, the customers range anywhere from working students to average locals, just looking for a spot where they can come to be themselves.
“Here you can actually talk to people without worrying about putting up a front. It’s all about making connections, and this place allows people to feel comfortable enough to express yourself the way you really are,” Sean said. First time customer, Hannah said that Crossroad’s atmosphere “reminds [her] of home in Baltimore” where her local coffee shop has a similar vibe. Hannah came to Crossroads with her friend Evana who learned of Crossroads through another friend. Evana frequents Crossroads for one her favorite drinks: Blenhein Ginger Ale. It comes in a bottle, which Evana likes because it’s recyclable, much like most of Crossroads products.
With menu options for every palate and addict, coupled with an unlikely atmosphere of color and connection, Crossroads Ice Cream and Coffee shop really does keep “oral tradition alive through social intercourse.”
Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and located at 26 N. Morris St. and 3600 Forest Hill Ave.