If you work, live or just spend all of your time downtown, you've probably noticed there aren't that many places to grab a quick bite to eat, sit down for a cup of coffee, or enjoy a casual dinner and dessert before or after a theater performance. Sure, there are lots of restaurants such as The Grove, Batanga, Artista and Sambuca; and there are lots of bars, such as Flying Saucer, Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Reserve 101. But, there's one thing missing from the downtown dining scene -- a casual place to grab a coffee, cocktail and bite to eat.
Let's face it. If you're searching for a laid-back coffee shop in downtown, or along the rail line, you'll be searching for a while. But, that problem will soon be resolved when The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar opens at 300 Main this spring.
The Honeymoon is a partnership between Matt Toomey and Charlotte Mitchell of Boomtown Coffee and Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse of The Corinthian Bar Group (Goro & Gun, Lei Low Bar, OKRA, Bad News Bar, Big Star Bar and Grand Prize Bar). The foursome believes that this establishment will assist in the revitalization of downtown.
"I really think downtown needs this," Moore says. "It will be a concept that's open from 7 a.m. until midnight. It rounds out the corner [of Main and Congress]. We've got Boomtown doing super high-quality coffee, and Justin [Burrow] from Bad News Bar, he's doing the cocktail program, and we've got a great staff management, and are otherwise ready to execute this. It should be fun and I really think it's what downtown needs."
Toomey describes the partnership of the coffee program from Boomtown and the cocktail program from The Corinthian Bar Group as "a marriage," and the partners believe opening The Honeymoon along the rail line is a prime location for their concept of invoking the spirit of NOLA.
"What it reminds me of most, in terms of just the concept, and it's unintentional, but it's right along the rail line, but it reminds me a lot of the bars and cafes in train stations, like all across Europe and everything," Mitchell says. "So, it's ... open from the morning; you can get your coffee; you can get your pastry; something quick, something sit-down, and then all the way into the evening."
The Honeymoon sits on the corner of Congress and Main along the rail line, just down the street from Goro & Gun, The Pastry War and Bad News Bar. The coffee shop and bar is still in the construction stage, but the historic building has made the process much easier on the partners. The building already had existing hardwood floors, a built-in oak bar and an ample amount of natural light.
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"During the day, we've got lots of windows, lots of natural light coming in," Moore explains. "Then, at night -- we're real picky about lighting -- so it's going to pretty, sultry. But yeah, during the day there's so much good light coming in. We've got to work on paint schemes, wood, because we are doing a lot of dark wood in there. But, also the paint is going to be light. Always, ever-important is lighting and we've been scrutinizing that like crazy."
Burrow is consulting with the cocktail menu, and according to Moore, he is "going to crack the whip" with his training program. He will educate all of the bartenders on how to create the classic drinks, but with an influence from New Orleans.
"So, basically the cocktail menu is going to be divided into two different categories," Mitchell says. "There's the New Orleans classics that are going to be a lot of stirred drinks, and some really great stuff like a classic Hurricane, or a classic daiquiri, and then the original drink portion of the menu will be featuring dessert cocktails, and that's coming from the... I can't think of a creative way to talk about Justin Burrow's brain... Justin is a fantastic resource that we have to tap for creativity."
"In a bearded, surly kind of way," Toomey adds.
Mitchell also notes that The Honeymoon will have a wider selection of wines and bubbles -- another thing downtown currently lacks.
As far as the coffee program is concerned, Mitchell and Toomey explain that the focus is a simplified and classic approach. The menu will include several coffee drinks found at Boomtown, and Boomtown's roasting facility will be relocated to The Honeymoon, giving them more opportunities to use a variety of fresh coffees each day. They also purchased a "bad ass" espresso machine, called The Slayer.
"Our focus, I think, is to not overdo ourselves and to just focus on what's inherently good in all of these ingredients we are using, and to, in a sense, to educate the masses, because, let's face it, we are going to get a lot of volume here, but we want to bring that kind of subculture specialty to downtown," Toomey says. "And across the board, not just with the coffee, but with the cocktails, too. You'll notice that there will be continuity between the simplicity of those drinks as well. And, of course, we'll combine the two and have coffee cocktails that are some in-house originals, [and] some traditional, expected drinks."
In a way, Boomtown Coffee has come full-circle after starting downtown just a block away from 97 Franklin, moving to its current location on West 19th Street in the Heights, and re-establishing its roasting facility downtown at The Honeymoon.
To accompany the coffee and cocktail menus, The Honeymoon will serve breakfast and lunch, and small plates throughout the evening. Amanda McGraw, formerly of Brasserie 19, is consulting on the food menu. The partners want to keep her around for as long as they can, but McGraw won't be the full-time chef.
"We are going to do mainly a breakfast and lunch menu," Mitchell says. "Just focus on high-quality ingredients for sandwiches and salads, and some other type of small plates, and then not really transition into a dinner menu; it's going to be more of a small bites, cheese plates, and we're going to do some plated desserts to try and capture the theater crowd. Say people are going to a 7:00 show, and they have to go somewhere to wolf down dinner really fast and they don't have time for dessert. We want to be the place that people finish their night."
There's no official opening date for The Honeymoon yet, but the partners are shooting for a spring opening. Mitchell says her fiancé and his peers who work downtown can't wait for The Honeymoon to open so they can leave their desks in the afternoon for a cup of coffee.
"We want to be a part of the revitalization of downtown, but also bring in the people who have always worked here and the theater crowd," Moore says.
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