Photography by Diana Matthews
In downtown Carthage, just before you hit the traffic circle and directly across from the courthouse (for anyone who’s defended a speeding ticket….) sits the Aroma Cafe and Bakery. Shaded by a faded green awning, it’s the sort of cafe you might pass, all in a hurry to tie up that speeding ticket, and nearly miss.
That would be a mistake.
Aroma Cafe and Bakery serves up some seriously homemade, from-scratch, old-school pastries that leave locals leaning over the bakery counter unable to even find a seat before tearing into an apple fritter. Kim Freigo, Aroma’s owner and one of the chief bakers, offers black coffee without even asking. The patron, apple fritter torn between two hands, gratefully takes a sip before closing her eyes and declaring, “They really are the best.”
Kim and her head baker Falon Mendola, who attended culinary school together at Sandhills Community College, whip up an assortment of baked goods daily including cookies (the ginger are my favorite), donuts, brownies, rice crispy treats, scones and more. I first heard about the lemon muffins from the woman who delivers my mail, who said she waited each week for Tuesday morning to eat one.
Kim says the cafe’s bestsellers include the chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip cheesecake bars and her mother’s banana bread, a recipe she readily gave us when I asked if she could pass one along. That’s the kind of bakery owner Kim is: open, friendly and so in-tune with her customers she knows what they’ll order before they make their way to the counter. Greeting customers by name, asking about families and jobs, Kim reaches for a tray of cinnamon bread as she chats about band concerts, upcoming vacations and birthday gifts.
Aroma Cafe and Bakery isn’t only about sweets, however. The cafe serves lunch daily, offers full meal catering and routinely delivers lunch orders throughout the area, all of it made-from-scratch and infused with the love of food that comes when people who love to eat and cook collaborate to build the kind of place that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into your grandmother’s kitchen and found a plate of cookies baked special, just for you.
Aroma Cafe and Bakery is located at 108 Monroe Street in Carthage, NC and is open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.