Sitting in a comfortable corner booth at Thyme & Tide Café, I couldn’t help but smile at the giggles coming from the tiny kitchen where Kareen Spruill and her granddaughter, Jackie Vesley, prepared one of their special Café Samplers for me. It’s just what I was craving: a platter of fresh fruit, grilled pita bread, sliced cheeses, pimento cheese, and shrimp salad, although you could also choose tuna or chicken salad if you prefer.
This is the way I always imagine eating in the summer, light and fresh bits of things here and there, best enjoyed at sunset with a glass of wine. The Café Sampler plate and The Sanctuary Sampler plate (overflowing with gourmet cheeses, shaved prosciutto and salami, olives and other savory, grabable things) are made for doing just that – eating seated among the tall pine trees on the grounds of The Cotton Gin and Sanctuary Vineyards, maybe sipping wine and swaying along to live music during their Acoustic Sunset events on Thursday evenings.
Thyme & Tide is open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday, plus Thursday nights for that sunset crowd. Wendy Miles, the third member of this team, who are in their third season of running the kitchen and daily operations at the café, explained their mission at Thyme & Tide is, “to basically… make people happy.” Easy to do with their southern staples and breakfast and lunch favorites of sandwiches, wraps, and salads made to order. Special requests are welcome; Wendy, Kareen, and Jackie are happy to accommodate. Their shrimp and tuna salads are prepared with local catches, picked up along with all the ripe produce they need from Tarheel Farmer’s Market, right across the street. Jackie and Kareen make all their salad dressings from scratch, with fistfuls of fresh herbs grabbed from the garden out behind the kitchen. Wendy bakes for your sweet tooth, too, stocking dark chocolate pecan cookies and banana nut or blueberry muffins up by the register. It’s worth noting, the dark chocolate pecan cookies pair perfectly with a nice glass of red wine. Jackie, Wendy, and Kareen can teach you a lick about wine during your visit as well, if you’re up for a tasting. The wines from Sanctuary Vineyards are all available at Thyme & Tide by the glass, bottle, or case.
Along with the traditional sandwiches that make us happy, stuffed with Boar’s Head meats, and the fresh and seasonal salads, Kareen’s pimento cheese has developed a small following in town. This was affirmed by more than one person voicing their support of this article as they passed by my table. Let’s pause at this pimento cheese for a second. In a not-so-subtle way, I pressed Kareen for the details because who isn’t always in search of the best of the best pimento cheese recipe? I started guessing ingredients: “Mayo, cheddar cheese, salt…” “Nope,” Kareen said. “No mayo.” Pardon me? Utter confusion on my part. Kareen explained, she uses cream cheese, cheddar, a bit of mustard, and a dash of a salty, umami-rich sauce we likely all have in the fridge at home.
After my own internet deep-dive into pimento cheese history, it turns out the recipe originally only included cream cheese and pimentos and Kareen’s is a divine update on a classic with lots of texture from the coarsely shredded cheddar, and bite and zing from the mustard and other pinches and dashes of this and that. Wendy brought me a hot, grilled pimento cheese sandwich to try and I savored every last bite of the warm and creamy cheese and buttery rye bread while I watched her greet other guests, share a smile, and confirm that everyone was having a good time while she casually refilled iced tea. What a sweet, cozy place to sit for a bit and fill your belly with some good food.
As you pass through the pleasant stretch of 158 in Jarvisburg, swing into Thyme & Tide and let these ladies share a little happy with you; they’re serving it up fresh with a smile.