Our short day trip (sans trailer) was to go down Digby Neck on highway 217, that narrow strip of land between the Bay of Fundy and St. Mary’s Bay west of Digby. I expected the strip of land to be filled with vacation homes on the water with seasonal villages full of gift shops and coffee shops. We didn’t pack a lunch, expecting to stop at a little cafe for some seafood and internet. What a surprise to find a just a few homes, maybe seasonal or maybe full time residents, an occasional small cove with anchored fishing boats, and a lot of woodlands and hills overlooking the water on one side or the other.
We didn’t see any services like gasoline, groceries, or little cafes with internet. Just a two-lane road that went up and down and around the countryside. Then we saw the little, hand-made sign on the side of the road and caught the word “cafe.” A little ways down the road we pulled in – almost missing it because it wasn’t what we expected.
We parked at the end of the school, close to the big yellow school bus. I had a mix of curiosity and maybe a little apprehension – but we like to find the unusual and it wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve eaten a sandwich that was mediocre sustenance, at best. We climbed the stairs to the ranch-house type school built in the 50’s and we followed the voices that came from the room to the right – where the cafe sign was pointed to.
It was a room I wanted to enter. There was a small counter for ordering, with pastries on covered cake plates and cookies in a glass cookie jar. People were talking and laughing. There was a family that stopped to eat, and say high to Grandma who was working in the back kitchen. A couple was chatting with the cashier about the joy of sleeping under a down comforter now that the nights have been cold. People knew each other, they belonged here but were also warm and friendly to those who were passing through, like us and a few bikers (from the motorcycle rally in Digby). We wanted to stay a bit.
The food menu for the day was limited to a fish chowder, a salad, a breakfast burrito and two sandwiches. One was a wrap and the other was a meatloaf panini. Right, a meatloaf panini. We both chuckled silently – and then both of us ordered it. I’m going to show it to you again so you don’t have to scroll up – it was one of top three sandwiches I have ever eaten – in my whole life – the whole 73 years of it. We are still talking and laughing about it three days later.
The panini had a slice of homemade meatloaf, some barbecue sauce and a spoon of the cabbage slaw on it so there was a bit of zippy-ness without overpowering the meat loaf, that was excellent in it’s own right. JB and I both cleaned our plates – so we could split an oatmeal cookie dipped in dark chocolate, and get a cinnamon roll to take home to have with our evening sleepy time tea. My tea is a Fundy Fog made to perfection; one third steamed milk, two thirds tea, and a little vanilla – yum! The man who made it said mine was the first he had made and I replied that he shouldn’t change a thing for his next ones.
The Schoolhouse Cafe is a non-profit and all the people working (I think I saw about six including those who worked in the back kitchen doing prep and washing dishes) were volunteers. They opened in July and their goal is to be someplace local people can go to have coffee and a bite to eat together and to share whats happening around the area. They are also offering some educational sessions on topics of local interest. Having a delicious sandwich followed by a pastry and tea in a warm and friendly place – now that is priceless.