Fort Mill Times

Restaurants in Fort Mill Township brew warmth and community with a cup of Joe

Diana Dreher, a woman on a mission, marched into Flipside Café in Regent Park on a recent Monday morning. She headed straight for the order counter and waited for server Courtney Alvarado to appear.

When the two women made eye contact, Dreher’s body language relaxed and her one word said it all: “Coffee.”

“I need coffee,” Dreher added, just in case the message was unclear.

Dreher had been busy planning for the Oct. 29 opening of her nearby fitness studio, Anka Wellness.

“I don’t normally even drink coffee!” Dreher said. “But with the grand opening of my new business, I’m here a lot.”

She said she likes the coffee at Flipside because it’s not as bitter as other places. She said she drinks the brew “usually just black with a little cream and a little sugar.”

Coffee seemed to be a common denominator among most customers at Flipside that morning. Chris and Andrea Opperman were passing through town on a trip from Texas to Fayetteville, N.C. They had spent the last two nights camping at Carowinds’ Camp Wilderness with their three children, and, in their search for a local breakfast spot, they discovered Flipside.

Alvarado offered to bring waters to start everyone off.

“Coffee,” Andrea said. “Just bring coffee. I don’t even need water!”

As they enjoyed the first few sips of their hot beverages, Andrea stirred in creamer and Chris, who said he drinks about two or three cups of coffee a day, said this brew was a good one. Andrea said her caffeine quantity was more based on necessity for the particular day.

Flipside is just one locally owned spot that goes the extra mile when it comes to its coffee beans. The coffee scene in Indian Land, Fort Mill and Tega Cay is almost an underground one: While the coffee giants doling out PSLs (Pumpkin Spice Lattes, for non-millenials) have their rightful place, local cafés are also doing their part to offer the tasty morning beverage we all crave.

Known for its diner/café feel and Southern breakfasts, Flipside is unassuming from the outside and cozy and decorated with kitchen-themed items inside, including a pair of large metal signs in the shape of coffee drinks and boasting the words “cappuccino” and “espresso.” Manager Allison Lavoie said the brew here has a lot of caffeine and is stronger than most coffee.

About 30 minutes after talking to us, Chris Opperman called out across the restaurant.

“Maybe I should change my answer,” he said. “Did you want to know how much coffee do I drink, or how much coffee should I drink?”

No judgment here, buddy.

The restaurant recently changed brands for its caffeinated brewed coffee, switching from North Carolina-based Counter Culture to U.S. Foods brand. Most customers haven’t noticed the difference, Alvarado said. “U.S. Foods coffee is actually really good!”

Flipside’s decaf coffee and espresso drinks are still made with Counter Culture, and the restaurant continues to sell the local brand’s whole beans to customers. “It’s hard to keep beans in stock – they sell so quickly,” Alvarado said.

In addition to brewed regular and decaffeinated coffee, Flipside offers cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, teas and hot chocolates. The drinks can be served hot or cold, and as for all things pumpkin this time of year: Lavoie said the restaurant is looking forward to its upcoming arrival of pumpkin pie flavoring.

Tega Cay Deli

At Tega Cay Deli, several patrons lined up at the self-serve coffee station, filling cups with their favorite blends and topping off with half-and-half or a sweetener of choice. Some socialized, killing time with their hot beverages before the soda-and-tea drinking lunch crowd appeared.

Cashier Mary Beth Reynolds said the owners of Tega Cay Deli are from Long Island in New York, and they have their coffee shipped from the Big Apple. The blends are constantly rotating, but in addition to Colombian and decaffeinated coffee, Reynolds said the most popular flavors include hazelnut, French vanilla, and coffeecake. The Colombian and decaf coffees are ground fresh before each pot is brewed.

Customers seem to love the flavors, Reynolds said, and she also knew what was on the mind of coffee drinkers this time of year:

“We are getting pumpkin spice blend next week, and I’m sure that will be a hit for the season,” she said.

“When we first opened, people would come in and say ‘I am very picky about coffee. I don’t know if I’m going to like it.’ And then they tried it and loved it!”

Chris and Lynn Cullison moved from Pittsburgh to Fort Mill six years ago, and they drink coffee either at home or at Tega Cay Deli.

“I’m drinking hazelnut and Chris is drinking plain,” Lynn said.

“Plain?!” Chris scoffed, then corrected her. “I’m drinking Colombian, not plain.”

Then he added, “Flavored coffee is for the birds.”

“We come here for the bagels even more than the coffee,” Lynn said. “We don’t get out of bed without a couple of cups of coffee – we had coffee before we got here.”

Southern Olive

Just south of the triangle where Indian Land becomes Fort Mill becomes the Ballantyne section of south Charlotte, Nate and Amber Green are serving up oil and vinegar, coffee and gluten-free pastries at their new café, Southern Olive.

If it sounds like an interesting combination, that’s because it is, they said. But it’s one that works. Many shoppers don’t initially realize the store serves coffee; Amber said a lot of patrons initially assume Southern Olive is a martini bar. The oil-and-vinegar-tasting section is the biggest portion of their business, but the coffee and pastries seem a perfect accoutrement: for example, the day we visited, the shop offered organic cinnamon scones made with cinnamon-pear dark-balsamic vinegar.

The Greens, Fort Mill residents, opened the doors to Southern Olive in August; it’s located beside Publix on Charlotte Highway (U.S. 521) in Indian Land. No martinis here, but they have applied for permit that will allow them to serve organic wines with no added sulfites and, perhaps in the future, gluten-free beer. The atmosphere inside the shop is cozy and natural; hugging the walls are wooden bar tops, handmade by Nate and the right size for a laptop, a cup of coffee and a gluten-free macaroon or three.

All of the coffee is roasted in Arkansas and is rain-forest certified, which Amber said is like “organic coffee on steroids.” Rain-forest certified means a focus not just on no pesticides, but also on how to treat farmers fairly doing a direct-trade relationship, Amber said. The coffee shop offers pour-over coffee, espresso, Americanos, lattes and flavored lattes.

Yes, Southern Olive serves PSLs, but we want to tell you about another item on their menu. If it sounds too good to be true, rest assured it’s not: It’s a drink brewed like coffee but made from cacao beans, and Amber said it has twice the amount of antioxidants as blueberries.

“If someone says they don’t eat a lot of fruits or vegetables, we tell them to at least drink this,” Amber said.

If that’s not a reason to drink hot chocolate, we don’t know what is.

Allen Tate real estate agent Cathy Miller popped over for an almond Americana during the middle of her workday.

“If I have a flavor shot,” she said, “I don’t usually even need to add sugar. I like tasting the flavor of the coffee.”

Like many of the coffee shop regulars we met, Miller favors her favorite hot beverage at a café over at home. “I’m more of a social coffee drinker,” she said.

“I prefer someone else to make it for me,” Miller continued. “Mainly because I don’t know how to make it as well myself!”

Coming soon:

Part III explains: From seed to cup, and the art of roasting.

Melissa Oyler: melissa@melissaoyler.com @melissaoyler

Where to go for a good coffee fix

Dunkin’ Donuts

Serves: Dunkin’ Donuts drip caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, espresso drinks

Address: 5009 Lake Vista Blvd, Fort Mill, S.C. 29708

Phone: 803-802-7322

Hours: 5a.m. – 9p.m. daily

Famous Toastery Indian Land

Serves: Illy drip caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, espresso drinks

Address: 1028 Edgewater Corporate Parkway Indian Land, S.C. 29707

Phone: 803-547-8007

Hours: 7a.m. – 3p.m. daily

Famous Toastery Tega Cay

Serves: Illy drip caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, espresso drinks

Address: 2435 SC-160, Tega Cay, S.C. 29708

Phone: 803-548-1440

Hours: 7a.m. – 3p.m. daily

Flipside Cafe

Serves: U.S. Foods drip caffeinated coffee; Counter Culture decaffeinated coffee and espresso drinks

Address: 3150 Highway 21 North, Fort Mill, S.C. 29715

Phone: 803-802-1711

Hours: Monday-Thursday 7a.m.-9p.m.

Friday 7a.m.-10p.m.

Saturday 9a.m.-10p.m.

Sunday 9a.m.-2p.m.

Forte Legato Coffee Truck

Serves: Locally roasted espresso drinks, cold brew, pour-over coffee when weather permits

Address: Forte Legato Coffee, 2180 Carolina Place Drive, Fort Mill, S.C. 29708

Coffee truck locations are rotating; will be at Crossings at Main on Nov. 5 and Nation Ford High School Holiday Bazaar on Nov. 12.

Phone: 803-389-7839

Hours for coffee truck: Saturdays about twice a month, 7a.m.-11 a.m.

Southern Olive

Serves: Mountain Bird Coffee Company drip caffeinated and coffee, espresso drinks, pour-over coffee and pour-over decaffeinated coffee

Address: 8356 Charlotte Hwy, Suite 102, Indian Land, S.C. 29707

Phone: 803-547-6606

Hours: Sunday-Monday 10a.m.-5p.m.

Tuesday-Friday 7a.m.-7p.m.

Saturday 8a.m.-8p.m.

Starbucks

Serves: Starbucks drip caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, espresso drinks, cold brew

Address: 926 Market Street, Fort Mill, S.C. 29708

Phone: 803-548-2806

Hours: Monday-Thursday 5a.m.-9:30p.m.

Friday-Saturday 5a.m.-10:30p.m.

Sunday 5:30a.m.-9:30p.m.

Tega Cay Deli

Serves: Long Island, N.Y. Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee; rotating flavors

Address: 1143 Stonecrest Blvd, Fort Mill, S.C. 29708 USA

Phone: 803-396-1500

Hours: Monday-Saturday 7a.m.-3p.m.

Sunday 7a.m.-1p.m.

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