By Jay Farris (@DadJay)
You look around, see soft, warm lights, wooden everything, local art, smiling faces, and hear gentle folk music, while you order a locally crafted beer. You must be in Asheville, Portland, or Seattle, right? Wrong. You’re at the Treehouse, in Hazard, Kentucky.
The Treehouse Café & Bakery boasts more than just a sweet name (who doesn’t love treehouses?); the Main Street restaurant is an absolute gem nestled in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. In very few places south of Lexington or Louisville are you going to experience such an atmosphere as you do here. Coffee house sights and sounds, a beautifully decorated interior, and a fantastic selection of music all come together to make you feel cozier than ever.
If there is one word to describe the Treehouse, it’s local. Local art, food, people, everything. The owner, Jenn Noble, strives to revitalize Hazard. After school, she was given a choice to either go to New York to practice art, or bring her creativity back to the mountains. I’ve never seen a business so enthusiastic to bring life into its surrounding area. Noble, along with her two part owners, Meritt Conley and Jill Robertson are heavily involved in an initiative known as InVision Hazard. InVision Hazard is a project to revitalize the downtown area, and make it a fun place to work and play.
Okay, you get it. The atmosphere is amazing and so are the people. The thing that keeps the Treehouse on top of its game is the food. I had the great privilege of experiencing two sandwiches on the menu: The Coo Coo Cucumber sandwich and the Vegetarian sandwich. We’ll start with the Coo Coo Cucumber.
This was hands-down the most invigorating meal I’ve had between two slices of bread. Toasted artisan bread encasing a stack of ham, turkey, and Swiss alone makes for a good sandwich. Throw in crunchy cucumbers and a spicy, dark ale mustard and this sandwich will undoubtedly have you coming back for another visit. The freshness of the cucumber with the savoriness of the ham and turkey will have you thinking about picnics in the summer and tall glasses of sweet tea.
The next meal I tried was the Vegetarian sandwich. If you know me, you know I love my assortments of meat. But this sandwich left me craving nothing. The thick, naan flatbread was the perfect texture to compliment the medley of deliciousness inside. The stars of this sandwich were the red and green peppers, which were bright and crisp, and paired well with warm and soft caramelized onions. This sandwich was perfect for the chilly day I visited. It reminded me of a warm bowl of vegetable soup, just in between two thick slices of naan.
After my meal, I had to test out what the Treehouse is known for, the cupcakes. Honestly, I don’t even like cupcakes. They’re too rich for my taste, and the cake is usually too dry. Then I tasted the Treehouse’s cupcakes.
Everything I disliked about most cupcakes was completely absent with the two that I tried. The cake was thick and full of flavor, and the icing was perfectly sweet, with a creamy and buttery taste. You’ll think that you’re too full for dessert, and you’ll think wrong. No matter how much you eat, you can fit in one of these cupcakes, and you won’t regret it.
After the meal, we painted on the collaborative piece of artwork that was sitting in the corner. The station was fueled with dozens of brushes and bottles of paint, ready for the next customer-artist to add to the masterpiece. The finished community pieces are placed on the walls for everyone to see.
If you’re in Hazard (or not, it’s worth the drive) you’ll want to stop by the Treehouse and grab a meal and a cupcake, chat with the workers, and express your inner Picasso. You’ll leave happier than you arrived, and you’ll be sure to be back for another round soon.