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From Robyn's Nest to The Villa Caffe and Imbibery

Good people, good food and good times

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Located on Market Street in downtown Tacoma, nestled quietly beneath the colorful Villaggio Apartments lays a gateway to an alternative to Tacoma's commercial nightlife. The Villa Caffe & Imbibery is a discreet little coffee house and bar that opened last week across the street from the Bicentennial Pavilion. The Villa offers a quiet alternative to the chi-chi restaurants and gritty bar scene. The booze selection is small, like its bar space, but well thought out. Among other common high-end labels, they serve spirits from Rogue Ales out of Portland. Their goal is to offer housemade mixers and organic spirits from local distilleries.

In addition to the quiet ambiance and booze, The Villa fields a fine, more than reasonably priced menu covering all three meal times. English muffin sammies and breakfast croissants will have you out the door quickly, or enjoy the paper and a waffle inside. Paninis and wraps anchor lunch. Comfort food such as lasagna, manicotti and spinach soufflé dot the small dinner menu. The full gamut of espresso drinks are represented.

Kate and I stopped in Saturday night for a drink, catch the game on their lone TV screen, and chat with owners Robyn Murphy and Jason Alexander. You may recognize Murphy's name from her days running Robyn's Nest in Steilacoom.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: What lead to the closure of Robyn's Nest and the opening of Villa Caffe and Imbibery?

ROBYN MURPHY: I went to floral design school in 1993 and opened a little flower shop in Sumner. I was 21 and already in love with having my own business. When I opened my first little shop in Steilacoom, I had saved a few years tax returns and had $3,200. I bought a flower cooler, flowers, and a smattering of gift items and opened right before Easter. Each holiday after that, my business grew and grew. I opened a second location in Dupont, and then moved both shops into a larger building in Steilacoom. We had espresso, pastries, lunch, ice cream, organic groceries, and a gift shop. I started to have a hard time balancing family, work, and just about everything else. I was really burned out and it showed in every aspect of my business and personal life. I closed in August 2005 - a very sad day for everyone.

VOLCANO: Indeed. Did you miss it?

MURPHY: Very much so. It only took a year or two and I felt like something big was missing from my life. I would constantly write up business plans just for fun and plan them out down to the last tiny little detail.

VOLCANO: Is it in your blood?

MURPHY: Oh, yes. Out of all the things I have done, coffee was the one thing that stuck with me. I had been making espresso since I was 15. I had grown up in a restaurant-owning family. My mom had several little bistros; an aunt and uncle own The Sunbreak Cafe in Auburn. Another aunt and uncle had the Dairy Freeze in Sumner. My cousins moved to Colorado and opened Coda Coffee Roasting. I remember being 9 years old and serving customers in my granddaddy's place when I visited him in Pittsburg. It's in my blood.

VOLCANO: So here you are, back in the business - with a full menu.

MURPHY: And happy, too.

VOLCANO: Did you bring anything with you from the Robyn's Nest days?

MURPHY: I wanted a fresh menu from the one I had before. Although ... there were a few things from the old menu I just couldn't give up. The Chicken Artichoke Panini just made it back onto the menu. It was everyone's favorite. Friends would send me messages saying they wish they could have one. They never turn out quite right when you try to make them at home. I am sure that a few more will make it on as specials of the day.

I learned from my past shops that I couldn't do it all. And that is why I have chosen some really great companies to buy my breads and pastries from. I love that I can serve my customers food that is healthy and comes from

Environmentally-responsible companies. I buy Boar's Head natural meats and dairy from Sunshine Dairy.

VOLCANO: And in house?

MURPHY: We are making our soups and sauces from scratch. My Uncle has been helping me run the kitchen. He made the best lasagna I'd ever had.

VOLCANO: What do you recommend folks try?

MURPHY: The Artisan Platter is a must try. I love pairing wine with food and the Artisan Platter has a great variety of flavors to sample with cocktails and wine. It is what I have been sitting down to eat when the day is over.

VOLCANO: Why add the bar?

MURPHY: I wanted to mix espresso with the spirits. Rogue makes fabulous hazelnut rum that is delicious in a latte. Coffee has always been a very social thing to me. We think it was a smart idea to take the cafe atmosphere into the evening. Which is also an added bonus to anyone living in the Villaggio Apartments. They'll never have to leave the building. Jason is creating our specialty cocktail list right now and ordering some very unique spirits to add to our collection.

VOLCANO: And the future?

MURPHY: I can't wait for the summer farmers markets so I can buy all of my produce from local farms. Tacoma just keeps getting better and better. What an adventure!

[The Villa Caffe and Imbibery, open Tuersday-Saturday, dinner 1-8 p.m., 1328 Market St., TAcoma, 253.222.4184]

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Comments for "From Robyn's Nest to The Villa Caffe and Imbibery " (7)

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tom barnum said on Jan. 20, 2010 at 11:10pm

I miss the chicken panini's also I'll be in to get one. Tom in Steilacoom.

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Robyn Murphy said on Jan. 24, 2010 at 1:39pm

Come listen to Dave Calhoun...Tropical Island Music on Saturday, Jan. 30th.
7 PM - 10 PM...and dress appropriately! ;)

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Stacey Summit said on Jan. 24, 2010 at 8:18pm

Very nice job Robyn, you have a great place there and I will be back!

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DALE RUSH-Bell Capt: said on Jan. 25, 2010 at 8:08am

First visit last week will not be my last-good vibe there in the space ! Loved the soup!!

Have the menu's here now to hand out-what about hours OPEN ??

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Robyn Murphy said on Jan. 28, 2010 at 10:15am

We've been open Tuesday through Saturday...and willing to do more very soon. 8am - 11pm Tuesday through Thursday and 8am - 1am Friday and Saturday!

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robyn eldridge said on Jan. 31, 2010 at 4:46pm

what is the address of this restaurant,
and what state is it in can someone please give me directions of how to find it

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David Inglis said on Mar. 05, 2010 at 10:28am

I've got cool trio - ukulele, guitar, and violin. We'd love to do a show!

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