Tea Cakes, Finger Sandwiches, Antiquity Galore: Cauley Square Tea Room
|By BevPictures, Flickr|
|Very Tim Burton-esque.|
Originally a pioneer village camp, fueled solely by the railway workers building tracks toward Key West in 1903, Cauley Square appears as it did more than 100 years ago, It is frozen in a time when journeying folks gathered to gander at its many unique stores, one of them a lone pink Southern home turned eatery, the famous Tea Room.
Built in the 1940s, the Tea Room was originally a large Southern house owned by the Odums family. The room dividers remain, and each room has its own theme (from the wicker room where we ate, to the pipe and butterfly room).
The idea of a tea room is foreign to many Miamians. A place to drink high tea, with finger sandwiches? Where they've cut off the crusts, and laid doilies everywhere the eye can see. The walls are heavy with collected antiques and old artwork. There is light classical music playing as the sole waiter walks us to our dainty table. We feel we've forgotten our petticoat and lace umbrella. Ismar presents us with their fabulous spiced tea ($2), the ingredients of which are a secret, but we taste orange peel and the normal array of tea spices (ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg). The spiced tea is served cold and hot, and both are sweetened heavily, which is just the way we like it.
All dishes are made with local produce, so we expect some wholesome freshness. Ismar tells us their two most popular dishes are the baked french onion soup ($6) and the Hot crab au gratin ($15). The soup is made from caramelized onions glistening in their rich stock and topped with a crunchy slice of french bread flooded with Gruyere cheese and placed under the broiler to bubble and brown. It's served it with a side of finger sandwiches, which of course had their crusts cut off and were delicate in taste.
The other popular dish is a Hot Crabmeat au Gratin dish, which they say is made from their finest crab meat, with signature sauce and covered in swiss and cheddar, but the fishy pungent aroma was very strong and unappetizing. Regardless of whether crab is fresh or imitation, it should never smell that strongly of fish. It was quite a disappointment after the french onion soup.
We washed away the fish/crab taste with a thirsty gulp from the spiced iced tea, which cured our taste buds. We followed that with the banana bread slice, which came with the french onion soup. This was sweet salvation, and it made us want to try their other desserts, which we heard are all handmade by a local baker.
The carrot cake and cherry cheesecake (both $5) were fair. The carrot cake had a nice density, minus the saccharine. This one gave us the sense it was baked from a family recipe passed down the generations to satisfy a pioneers hungry sweet tooth after a long hot days work. With one last sip of that satisfying spiced tea, we ended our meal on a happy note.
The Tea Room in Cauley Square is dripping in antiquity and dishes out old European traditional fare. While it's true that the Team Room is antiquated and resembles the dining room of a rich great aunt, it also comes off as a darling and dainty place to enjoy a quiet afternoon. While sitting down in the thin wicker high-backed chair, lifting the delicate glass cup full of steaming spiced tea to our lips, we sensed that many have echoed that same movement many times before.
Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.