Best surrogate aunt (2008)

Elspeth Treadwell

Homesick for the little village where you grew up and relatives who can help you feel better no matter what crisis looms? Elspeth Treadwell runs Podunk, a tearoom flooded with light on one of the prettiest streets in the East Village. This native of Minnesota listens, clucks sympathetically, fixes you tea and calorific snacks, and tends a space soothing in its rural charm. Pass the outside table, push open the door, and discover a cross between a Victorian nursery and a farm kitchen, with mismatched seating (a bench here, a vintage Adirondack chair there, a couple of office swivelers) and crockery. Bookshelves stuffed with kids' classics beckon to the stroller set, and about four dozen functional teapots (and a few doll-size ones) adorn the room. Order tea for two (iced or hot) and along with it you'll get savory tarts, cucumber sandwiches, or a slice of cardamom cake, accompanied by miniature silverware, a tea strainer, and every essential condiment. (The only thing missing is a bathroom, but the friendly folks up the street at Fish Bar will let you use theirs.) Over the cash register a sign reads, "No Sniveling." Treadwell's prices are not low, but you don't have to tip (she won't let you) because she owns the place. Cash or checks only, and you have to sit down with your tea; she won't sell it to go. Closed Mondays.


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