I never knew Val. The more the guy at the counter talked about her though, the more I wished I had. The Val who formerly owned Val’s Cafe in Lemoyne was apparently a pretty awesome person. A pillar of the community, a philanthropist, a beacon of kindness; the young man standing there singing her praises couldn’t seem to find the bottom of that sea. Being an east-shore denizen, I hadn’t heard of her or her cafe; such is the physical and metaphorical span of the Susquehanna River. She passed not too many seasons ago, and a group of her friends are now carrying on her vision for a cafe that could be a refuge of community and care.
The cafe sits squarely on the Market Street ‘main drag’ of Lemoyne, PA. Lemoyne, Camp Hill, New Cumberland, and Mechanicsburg are all discrete communities, but they shade into one another until outsiders only see an endless series of neighborhoods connected by a few main roads. Market Street is hub for trendy startups and small businesses. The main roads of the communities of the east shore of the Susquehanna contain a similar sprawl, but ours are an organic jumble; a timeworn meander of old buildings punctuated by hundred-year-old oaks. Here on the west shore (I really should be capitalizing the names of these shores) there’s an air of ‘newness’ to the facades of many places here; a sense of ‘hipness’ that speaks to the ambitious Millennials seeking to make their mark on the world.
Val’s is clearly a hip place to be in this community, and the young folks running it seem keen to make a positive mark on the world. The interior is painted a calming bluish-grayish pastel and adorned with artwork as well as inspirational messages. In fact, it was made clear to me that this is a cafe with a mission of inspiration and bringing people together. There seems to be a focus on featuring exotic coffees as well, and that’s something I appreciate, especially in an area that all too often focuses on cheap caffeine boosts for businesspeople on the go.
The coffee I had here today is an African dark roast from Uganda. It did have a nutty and chocolate flavor as the package suggested; I couldn’t pick up the pear hints but perhaps that’s what my admittedly unrefined palette was experiencing when some strong floral and possibly umami flavors emerged. Whatever the formal nomenclature, the coffee was truly unique; a flavor that I haven’t encountered before. This experience, like St. Thomas on the East Shore, is another standout where the bar is clearly being raised.
So if you’re one of the many commuters who wind your way through the horizon-to-horizon suburb that stretches from Mechanicsburg to approximately Skyline View (we’ll visit there another time, don’t worry), you really should brave the famously frantic traffic of Lemoyne and have a little calm-down at Val’s. Until next time, stay caffeinated.