The Meeting Place serves taste, tradition in Washington
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
WASHINGTON, N.C. — A few short miles from Greenville is the charming waterfront town of Washington, N.C. Strolling down the historic Main Street, just a few blocks from the Pamlico Riverfront, you can find quaint shops and restaurants featuring beautiful and charming decades-old facades. They are gleaming examples of a bygone era. You can almost hear the bell on the front door of the general store as ladies picked up swatches of fabric, washing powder, meat wrapped in paper and twine, and bags of penny candy for their children.
I love peering up and seeing pieces of the past peek through. Many of the historic district businesses have been lovingly restored to their original glory. It has a charming, yet vibrant energy and this same energy can be felt when you walk into The Meeting Place Cafe & Catering for lunch. Located at 225 W. Main Street in Washington, this little gem is one of my favorites.
The stunning interior features high ceilings that retain their decorative white tile as well as the original hardwood floors that squeak in all the right places. The building was built in 1911, a few years after fire destroyed most of downtown Washington 1900. It was once a car dealership, with a showroom on the first floor and offices on the second. Cars were shipped up to the third floor using a freight elevator so they could be worked on. Step back in time at the Stewart Parkway waterfront entrance by the walls of that old elevator shaft.
The Meeting Place is where you can gather with your friends and share the energy of the past with good food at the table, and great staff at the helm.
Owner and operator, Charlotte D. Jarman took over the cafe & catering business in June of 2018. Jarman is a native of Greenville. Her family owns and operates Jarman Auto Sales, Stadium Sports, and J.A.’s Uniform Shop. Her love of cooking and entertaining came from memories made preparing and taking part in her parent’s yearly Christmas party. She and her mother, along with family members, would spend a week prepping, cooking and decorating. For years Jarman catered events for friends, so it seemed natural to take over the restaurant when the original owner, Anne Martin, was ready to sell.
“Mrs. Anne was the foundation of the restaurant and the same patrons and fans frequent the restaurant,” Jarman said. “The restaurant has been in operation since its opening in 1994 and it is the oldest dining establishment in historic downtown Washington.
“We are keeping the history of the past alive, learning in the present, and looking forward into the future taking into account all that The Meeting Place is meant to be,” Jarman said. They pride themselves in providing healthy and light meals as well as traditional southern cuisine in a warm and welcoming environment. They were just named first place for best caterer and first place for best sandwich in the 2019 Washington Daily New’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
Chef Kelly Hammonds is the culinary wonder that makes her home in the kitchens of The Meeting Place as well as grill master Jerome Smallwood. “Chef Kells” has been a chef since 2008. She has racked up Carolina East awards and most recently was named best chef in the international National Black Chef’s Association and is their current chapter president. She enjoys cooking and baking and her favorite food to cook is any kind of seafood. She “loves watching people enjoy the meals she has prepared just as much as cooking them.” Chef Kells is the culinary artist and Charlotte is the tabletop artist, so they make a great team in the food world.
The new lunch menu will be ready in a few weeks and features an eclectic mix of salads, sandwiches, soups, sides and desserts made by a dedicated group of bakers who know the recipes by heart. Just like tea shops and cafes that dot the south, when you come for lunch you are treated to a basket of warm, freshly baked lemon poppy seed muffins. These buttery lemon-colored muffins are soft pillows of sweet confection that melt in your mouth. And their Apricot tea, unique to Meeting Place, is southern perfection in a glass with a crisp, sweet refreshing flavor.
I sampled a variety of items from their new dinner menu and a few from their catering menu. Yes, I said dinner. The Meeting House will be open for dinner before the new year. The shrimp and couscous paired with grilled founder is a fun twist on traditional shrimp and grits. Instead of grits, this dish starts with an aromatic Moroccan inspired superfood that is a mixture of couscous, carrots, onions, red and green bell peppers, and quinoa. It’s packed full of health, flavor and vitality in every nutrient-packed bite. Pile on some grilled shrimp and pair it with a lean and beautifully grilled flounder fillet that has been lightly dusted with spices and a bit of olive oil. This dish was vibrant, healthy and filling.
Next is the stuffed chicken, another dinner option that has autumn written all over it. Start with a chicken breast stuffed with grilled onions, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, red peppers, mozzarella and provolone cheese. It’s placed atop a mound of red roasted creamed potatoes and topped with a homemade pineapple, mango chutney. It’s paired with a side of steamed broccoli and carrots. It had all the warm fall flavors of hearty root vegetables paired with a vibrant and sweet chutney similar to a relish. The sticky glazed chicken was filling and a harvest cornucopia of flavor.
The honey bourbon meatballs, which are part of the catering menu, are miniature all-beef meatballs bathed in a glossy and sticky sweet honey bourbon sauce. All I need to say about these little nuggets of bourbon bliss is it took everything I had not to pack them away in my pocketbook or put them on a string and wear them around my neck like a candy necklace. They have honey and bourbon so you can imagine how yummy these little gems are. No need to say more, the flavor speaks for itself.
The Meeting Place also features a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and offers an expanded menu featuring all of your favorite breakfast items including a variety of omelets, scrumptious salads like the new Mr. Kay chef’s salad, or sandwiches such as the waffle grilled cheese sandwich, a variety of grit dishes including oysters and grits, quiche, soups and many other delectable options including al a carte items and dessert. This would make a perfect place to go after church service.
The Meeting Place catering service can host on-site events up to 140 guests and can accommodate any number of guests off-site. They can provide enough food for your next Christmas party, baby shower or book club meeting, to pig pickings, oyster roasts and fine dining events including rehearsal dinners and weddings. They also provide take-out meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas, too.