After five years in the Taxi complex at 3459 Ringsby Court, Black Black Coffee closed on October 11. But the coffee service didn't dry up for long: Lost City opened in the same space on Monday, October 14.
Michael Graham and partners Landon and Keara Mascarenaz were drawn to the location by Comal, the food incubator at Taxi where immigrant women can create their own food businesses. With his background in international relations and an entrepreneurial spirit, Graham says he wanted to create a concept cafe and felt that he and his team could best do this by supporting Comal's already existing mission.
"Comal is just so inspiring," says Graham. "Why try to re-create a business goal to empower a mission that's already working? We want to be a good neighbor and a great partner."
Graham spent the last fifteen years traveling and working abroad in places like Afghanistan and Central Africa. "That was wonderful, but there comes a time that you want to focus on community," he says. "I want to connect with the people I care about — refugees, in particular. Having been to twenty or more refugee camps, I understand the journey people go through to get to a place like Denver. They need all the support that we can create for them."
To help provide that, Graham and the Mascarenazes have reached out to their social networks, looking for volunteers to mentor the Comal participants. They hope to host English and French conversation groups in Lost City's space, launch a summer music series that will benefit Comal, and also hire from the local immigrant and refugee communities.
Those won't be the first social changes inspired by this space. When Black Black owner Joshua McNeilly posted his goodbye on social media last month, he wrote: "I started Black Black as a social experiment, as a push-back on a culture that doesn’t know coffee but mostly only knows sugar and milk and coffee. Coffee always seemed to be given about the same credit as a janitor: you couldn’t live without them, but you sure don’t care to know them up close."
To replace the black-coffee-only mantra of Black Black, barista Olivia Broughton brought expertise developed at Corvus Coffee to Lost City's coffee program. Unique brewing methods like the Kyoto-style cold brew and V60 pour-over remain from the Black Black days, but Lost City has added batch-brewed drip coffee. And where Black Black served just six-ounce pours, Lost City is offering eight- and twelve-ounce cups.
Broughton also used fresh ingredients to create several homemade syrups: rosemary caramel, lavender honey and maple syrup infused with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. "I wanted flavors that enhanced the coffee, but not too sweet, so you can still taste it," she says. "A lot of people aren't experienced coffee drinkers, so they appreciate the option of flavored coffees and bigger sizes. The fact that we're offering more and trying to be a little more accommodating has more people wanting to try us out."
Josh Ford, a former mixologist at Stranahan's with twenty years of experience in the culinary world, is heading up the food side of things at Lost City. "Our goal is to have a nice myriad of international flavors representing a love of cultures while utilizing small, local purveyors," he says. The fall menu comprises breakfast options, salads and sandwiches, including a classic Cubano with housemade mustard and grilled cheese served with a trio of condiments. The goal, he notes, is to serve simple food that's done really well.
There will be more changes in the months to come. Although Lost City made some immediate moves in the physical space, others will be rolled out over the next few months. The addition of a living wall — covered top to bottom with plants — is next on the list. The owners' plans also include construction of a bar with a cocktail menu created to match, a refresh of the patio area, and an expansion of hours once the bar is open.
The goal is to have all of those steps completed by spring, when Lost City will host a grand-opening bash.
Lost City is currently serving coffee, breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 720-595-1708 or go to lostcitydenver.com.
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