It has been so fun to find hole-in-the-wall places that serve phenomenal coffee, hire a great staff, and have the coolest interior design. I've also found several places that serve burnt coffee, nothing vegan, and are overpriced. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some.
I have also been searching for friends' Christmas presents at farmer shops, thrift stores, etsy stores, and independent shops. The gifts are so much cooler, and often, so much cheaper! They are also one-of-a-kind!
Here are some of the best local, independent places that I have found in the past three months of my One Year Local challenge.
One of my favorite small franchises is Rock 'n' Joe's Coffee. I have been to three different franchises all over NJ and they are all SO different. Some have macarons, some have their own special brand of soda. They all have their own complete style and feel, and I love that about them. They also have the BEST iced coffee I've ever had, hands down, no competition.
There were so many vegan, gluten free options, including fresh pressed juices. This was some of the best Mexican food I've ever had, and my "Orangeade" was made fresh with oranges, lemon, and agave. I cannot rave enough about how good this place was, and I can't wait to go back.
For a friend's pre-wedding breakfast, she introduced us to Tomato Pie Cafe. I had their gluten-free quinoa pancakes, and they were SO good. The artsy, woodsy feel of the restaurant was perfect. I wish I lived closer so that I could go back!
For a coffee date, Tori (she gets photo credit) and I tried Burlap and Bean for the first time. They had gluten-free, vegan cookies for me, and plenty of other pastries for Tori to try! I ordered their dark roast and just put some cream and sugar in it. It was probably the best cup of coffee I've ever had at a cafe. Tori's latte was way too sweet and she wasn't a fan of the doughnut (although it looks incredible!), but I'm definitely up for trying it again! It's also only just a short drive from my town.
Every weekend when the weather is good, my town hosts a farmer's market. It is so nice to see local farmers and get to support the community. I also love getting the chance to eat organically for not crazy-expensive. Just remember to bring a bag, because the first time, I didn't and I ended up carrying my mushrooms and cucumbers around in just my hands, and it was a little embarrassing.
This has been one of my favorite cafes for years. I always get their vegan, gluten-free honey mixed berry muffins. It is such a great place to meet up with friends, and they have a bunch of games and books to entertain yourself with. They also sell fantastic paintings and pottery made by local artists.
I need to promote this etsy shop. One of the most inspiring women I've ever met started this etsy shop while living in Nepal. I bought that bear print in the the left top corner, and I am obsessed with it. There are so many great prints, and I am always amazed by her talent. These make fantastic presents.