This pandemic winter calls for a new twist on BYOB: Bring your own blanket — or so offers The Radiator, a new coffee shop and bar in the Sunnyside neighborhood. “We’ve always had that neighborhood comforting vibe,” says Sarah Green, co-owner of the cafe. “We’re encouraging people to make themselves at home.”
The Radiator, named after the radiator business that long ago occupied the building, opened in late August, taking over the old home of Common Grounds Coffeehouse at 2139 West 44th Avenue. In doing so, Green has hoped to maintain a space where neighborhood regulars feel welcome while adding her own flavor. She describes the process of opening during a pandemic as a “rolling thing,” a creation in process, made from their own ideas and input from the community.
“The original goal was to keep [the menu] fairly bagel-focused,” Green says, but "we found that the bagels were such a hit that we were selling out and didn’t have enough for our p.m. menu.”
Green also owns Leroy’s Bagels at 4432 West 29th Avenue, and that’s where she met Ciaran O’Brien, the Radiator's second owner. He was a regular at Leroy's, and the two developed a business relationship as Green brainstormed how to expand her operation. When Common Grounds announced its closing earlier this year, O’Brien, a real estate agent in the Sunnyside neighborhood, immediately saw the potential for a new concept highlighting Green’s bagels.
The Radiator now serves several styles of fresh-made bagels: plain, everything, jalapeño cheddar, blueberry, sesame seed, rosemary and gluten-free. Spreads include cream cheese flavors as well as avocado, hummus and peanut butter, and there are also breakfast and lunch bagel sandwiches such as egg and cheese, Caprese and lox — all fairly priced, with even the lox sandwich topping out at $6.95. The bagel menu lasts until they sell out each day.
But it’s not just about the bagels. The cafe/bar aims to create a space where customers can spend the whole day; they can start with coffee and continue with a beer. While the indoor space can’t be utilized for dining at the moment, the Radiator has a large outdoor green space dotted with tables to be enjoyed during a sunny afternoon, and there’s a large tent with opened flaps that maintains a degree of heat while staying ventilated.
Because the Radiator took over the old Common Grounds location, Green says the neighborhood was “excited for something to move back into that space...it was a local hot spot.” And she credits them with sustaining and supporting the new business venture these past few months. “A lot of people looked us up and down when we said we’re going to open a cafe/bar during a pandemic. And honestly, have we had those days where we ask, 'Did we make a bad decision?' But overall, they’re few and far between,” she says.
“We have such a fun crowd,” Green adds, recalling the soft opening on a midsummer night during a neighborhood art walk. “It was a time for us to sit back for once and enjoy the fruits of our labor, what we’ve done and what we might still do,” she continues. “We were completely taken over by everyone asking questions, and they probably gave him and I more direction than we would have ever landed on.”
Customers gave them ideas for the kinds of beers and wines they’d like to see. The Radiator currently boasts six beers on tap and a rotating selection of cans and bottles. There’s also mead, cider and hard seltzer — and even a mulled wine to warm up a cool evening. All cans and bottles can be taken to go in six-packs, which Green says allows customers a chance to come by for one drink and then take the rest to go.
“The winter is going to be a little difficult,” she admits, but “[customers] can still come and hang,” even if it’s only for one drink, and even if it’s bundled up in a blanket. “Everyone making that conscious decision to spread that love really is making a huge difference,” she continues.
The Radiator is located at 2144 West 44th Avenue in Sunnyside and is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Call 303-632-8685 or visit the cafe's website for menus and other details.