Café offers retreat for airport workers

Though Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport offers diverse concessions, some airport employees have found unique appeal in Joffrey's Café and Lounge, located at 1155 Virginia Ave., Suite J, Atlanta.

The café is near the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Norman Berry Road.

It is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Owner Amita Patel said her café welcomes airport employees throughout the week.

Eric Gibson said he has been working for Delta Air Lines for 32 years, and is a customer service agent at Hartsfield-Jackson.

"It is extremely convenient for me, as an airport employee," Gibson said of Joffrey's. "It's only two minutes from [my] job."

Gibson added that the café is also about 10 minutes from his home in East Point.

"So with me living 10 minutes away, I'll frequent the place more than the regular [person]," he said.

"He [Gibson] was my first customer here," added Patel.

Patel, who has owned the café for three years, said her restaurant has a diverse menu, offering a variety of food items, including soups, salads, pastries, cakes, ice cream and sandwiches.

She said she offers her customers a breakfast menu as well.

Beyond food, Patel said she offers an array of beverages, including coffees, teas, smoothies and sodas. The café also has a full bar.

"We try to do everything," Patel said.

Gibson said that items like the cafe's salmon salad keep him coming back.

"Everybody is into good, healthy eating and for the most part, all the restaurants in the area are fried, greasy foods ... You won't find a spot for healthy food like that particular location," said Gibson.

The café also offers hookahs -- single or multi-stemmed smoking instruments -- which are available to customers throughout the day for those who would like to smoke, said Patel.

She said the café also has a karaoke night on Wednesdays, from 7:30 to 10 p.m., and hosts salsa dance lessons once a week.

"We have a lot of diversity here because of the airport," said Patel, who was born in London, England. "People from all different types of walk of life."

"We really try to do a lot of different things ... that would cater to everyone," she added.

Patel said the salsa lessons are taught Dance Instructor Mario Diaz.

According to Diaz, he has been teaching salsa lessons at Joffrey's Café and Lounge for almost two years.

After a hiatus, the dance instructor said he is planning to conduct lessons on Saturdays at 8 p.m., beginning Oct. 23.

The lessons are $5 per person, Diaz said.

Diaz said he is from the Bronx borough of New York City, and that it is common for dance lessons to be conducted in restaurants there.

"We do things like that in New York all the time," he said.

Patel said she never thought about hosting salsa lessons at her café, until Edward Lewis, a close friend, gave her the idea.

"What I wanted to do is give people an opportunity to do dancing at a price they can afford," said Patel. "It really has been quite a success."

"Dancing is something that is free ... It keeps you feeling young and it releases a lot of stress," Diaz added. "It's a nice way to teach a lesson because it is very informal, because you get to focus on fun."

Lewis said that after the lessons are over, students often stay at the café and continue to dance throughout the evening, while other patrons lounge on couches sipping coffee.

Lonnie Sanders, a performance leader for the customer service department at Delta Air Lines, said he has been a regular customer at the café since December 2008.

He said what draws him most to the café is the European ambiance, and the diversity in food and entertainment that it offers.

"I get food, Internet, I can get ice cream, or if I want a cocktail, I can get a cocktail," said Sanders.

"There isn't a time that I go in and I don't see a colleague ... from the airport," he added.

Sanders, an Atlanta resident who has been with Delta Air Lines for 10 years, said he has been present for the café's salsa lessons, and karaoke nights.

"I think it is something different, and a unique piece for the Southside," he said.


On the net:

Joffrey's Café and Lounge: www.joffreysatl.com