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The Royal Tea Room

110 Charles St., La Plata

Hours: 11 a.m-4 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Teas $3.25; appetizers $4.99-$11.99; salads $10.99-$14.99, sandwiches $9.99-$14.99; entrees $11.99-$21.99

Call 301-392-1111 or go to http://royaltearoommd.com

Reservations recommended for Friday-Sunday.

MC, D, V

There’s no denying The Royal Team Room is a great place to go for a hot beverage. And in terms of lunch or dinner? The La Plata restaurant has that covered, as well.

“It’s more than just a tea room,” owner and head chef Betty Knade said.

The Royal Tea Room opened in 2005, and six years later, Knade took the reins after original owner Bee Jameson decided to retire. Though she had always wanted to own a restaurant, the idea had never taken hold.

Knade worked in hospital billing for 13 years and with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and a residential treatment program in Colorado. But she always oved cooking and wanted to own a restaurant so, on the advice of her sister, Knade decided to follow her dreams.

“She encouraged me and gave me the support, and I quit my jobs and went to culinary school,” Knade said of her sister, Rhoda Campbell, who died in 2004. “She kept saying, ‘You can do this. You can do this,’ and I basically took a hobby and made it into a career. It was a big risk, the biggest risk when you are a late career-changer and you’re so used to the income and having a [regular] paycheck to just quit and say, ‘OK, I’m going to pursue a dream.’ But if it’s a dream, you’re willing to do anything.”

Knade majored in culinary arts at Stratford University in Virginia. She also spent a year cooking at Blair House, the president’s guest house.

“I always say it was the most underground, high-profile job I ever had,” said Knade, who cooked during George H.W. Bush’s administration and was in the kitchen during George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

Knade enjoys telling a story with home-cooked foods and said her favorites are a “killer” fried chicken, meatloaf, chicken-fried steak and soups.

“I like to take regional favorites that people are comfortable with and then give them that fresh twist but still keep that familiar feel,” Knade said of her cooking style. “If I can make you think, ‘Man, this is what Mom would make’ and remind you of home, I’ve done my job. I always say that food is an extension of oneself, so it should also tell you what kind of person I am. I believe food tells a story.”

The Royal Tea Room is a former residence and small — it seats 49 inside and up to 15 outside on the wraparound porch — but it is cozy.

“I liked the community. I liked the atmosphere. I love the people, and [the fact] it’s small and unique to the town,” Knade said. “I also love the fact it’s in an old home that was a residence. It’s small enough for me to continue being creative without having such a huge place without getting bogged down on.”

A recent weekday visit had to start with a cup of tea from the more than 40 varieties the tea room carries. Server Kayla Cooksey suggested the Paris tea ($3.25), a black brew with hints of black currant, vanilla, caramel and a touch of lemony Bergamot.

Diners select a teacup from a display, and soon a pot of steaming tea, honey and lemon slices is brought to the table.

“That was the original owner’s idea,” Knade said of the customer’s cup selection. “She wanted customers to embrace the tea room.”

Some brews are changed to go with the seasons and teas, and warmer weather sees lighter blends along with flash-brewed iced tea.

Kayla also suggested a Monte Cristo ($11.99), which was stuffed between two slices of French bread that had been dipped in a light egg mixture with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese and served with warm maple syrup. The sandwich also came with a choice of side, which was a homemade dish of creamy coleslaw.

Other lunch options include a grilled Reuben ($10.99), roast beef sandwich ($11.99), a chicken bruschetta ($10.99) or cream of crab soup ($5.99 in a teacup, $7.99 in a crock; $1.99 extra for a bread bowl), which Knade said the restaurant is known for.

“Oh, I don’t tell my secrets,” she said, though she acknowledged that she uses true blue crab.

Knade said she’s currently working on a lighter spring-summer menu, in large part to take advantage of local produce.

Knade goes in early every day to make the scones ($2.50) — which are served with clotted cream and lemon curd and fresh preserves — cream of crab soup, desserts, chicken and tuna salad, and side dishes.

“Everything is done pretty much from scratch, [and] we’re preparing it fresh,” Knade said. “That’s why we have on our menu to allow us some time because we’re back there preparing it.”

The restaurant received its beer and wine license in November and began its dinner service in January.

Choices include shepherd’s pie ($11.99), a crab cake platter (21.99), pot pie (11.99) or an entree Princess Kate salad ($11.99), which consists of greens, pears, seasonal berries, candied pecans, grilled chicken and feta cheese with a cranberry citrus dressing.

The restaurant also offers several tea services ($14.99-$25.99) and even has a princess tea service ($14.99), which includes tea sandwiches, fruit, petite sweets, a beverage and a tiara.

The Royal Tea Room is a small, quaint place to enjoy a hot beverage, even more so when that beverage is during or following a great meal.

mreid@somdnews.com