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Coffee for the Counties | Short Orders Blog

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Sep 26, 2022

If you hear someone had a fantastic cup of coffee in the surrounding counties, it might not be Chesterfield or Henrico. Their specialty latte or cold brew may actually come from the Surrounding Counties Specialty Coffee Explorers Club, a cafe near Regency run by Zack Archibald, one of the founders and still co-owner of Lamplighter Coffee Roasters.

Archibald opened the cafe two years ago after moving to the suburbs so his teenage daughter could play field hockey with her favorite coach. With 13 years of experience running Lamplighter’s kitchen, he couldn’t bear the thought of stepping away from the café scene altogether and instead decided to take the best of Richmond’s café culture with him. in the suburbs.

“I grew up in a suburb with a repeated hegemony of chain restaurants, and you don’t get any of those unique culinary adventures that are a big part of city life,” says Archibald. “So what I wanted to do was take my background as one of the creators of Richmond-style specialty food and coffee and make it an outpost here in the suburbs.”

When surrounding counties first opened on Halloween in 2020, Archibald expected to have to create its own customers from commuters more accustomed to Starbucks and Dunkin. What he discovered was that many of his early Lamplighter customers had long since been pushed out of the city to the suburbs, where they were more than eager to sample their old urban lifestyles. Now he hopes his store can lure Richmond residents into the sprawl to see that the suburbs of today are very different (and more interesting) than those of the 1950s or even the 1990s.

“The idea is to get people from Richmond to come and explore the counties,” says Archibald. “We have exciting trails and businesses that people who live in the city may never encounter. We are all much more alike than most people realize, no matter what the borders say. We must break down the borders between us.

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  • Scott Elmquist
  • Ultimate Grits: Cholua honey milk broth grits and glazed turkey bacon, goat cheese, cheddar and fried egg with Subrosa toast point.

To entice city dwellers to make the commute (or an hour plus bus ride) to surrounding counties, Archibald stuck to the specialty coffee ethos that fueled the rise of Lamplighter in Richmond.

“Specialty coffee is the idea that you can impact the supply chain at all ends by paying importers, growers, roasters a fair price and therefore a fair wage,” he explains. . “You don’t need to fuck other people to survive. You can really help everyone thrive by being intentional with your business.

His keen sense of right and wrong also led him to introduce a “pay what you can” policy at the store. Customers who want to help those less fortunate can add value to a card that Archibald uses when one of its customers is having trouble paying.

“In front of us there is a high school, so I didn’t want to open a place that was inviting but which was not financially within the reach of the people opposite,” he says, adding that he still wanted cover all costs. “associated with quality products and fair wages and also remove barriers for potential customers.”

Whether serving beans from Proud Mary Coffee Roasters in Portland or local coffee co-operative Afterglow (a separate company from Lamplighter), quality is always a priority for Archibald. The signature of the surrounding counties is a sea salt and rosemary brown sugar latte flavored with a house-made syrup. Archibald also recommends the Sweety Petey, a play on Thai coffee that donates one nickel per order to local rap legend and shop friend Nickelus F.

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Bagel Chewys with rosemary sea salt, smoked salmon, cherry tomato salad, capers and cream cheese.  - SCOTT ELMQUIST

  • Scott Elmquist
  • Bagel Chewys with rosemary sea salt, smoked salmon, cherry tomato salad, capers and cream cheese.

Where the surrounding counties clearly shine is in its food offerings. From baked cast iron skillet sandwiches to lox bagels topped with a salad of marinated tomatoes, Archibald’s mastery of fresh flavors and years of fine-tuning the Lamplighter kitchen menu are on full display.

Beyond gravel bowls, avocado toast, and cookies of the day, perhaps the most famous food in surrounding counties is their Texas-style kolaches. Every morning around 5 a.m., Archibald starts baking a range of buns ranging from maple sriracha sauce and marinara and vegan herbs to andouille sausage with pimiento cheese and cookies and gravy. His 6:45 a.m. post still reveals what flavors inspired him.

No matter what the surrounding counties brew or prepare, Archibald stands out for the impeccable quality of what it serves: “We introduce many of our customers here in the suburbs to some of the best food in town.

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