When the team behind LoHi's Black Eye Coffee set out to open a second location in Capitol Hill, its members went well beyond the standard coffeehouse formula. We stopped by for photos when the new Black Eye opened but went back to talk to owners Ali Elman, Dustin Audet, Gregory Ferrari and Steven Waters to fill in a few of the details.
Ferrari says the new space allowed them to build with the kind of attention to detail they are passionate about. They wanted to augment their beverage program with an excellent array of scratch-made menu offerings, and knew from the very beginning they wanted a full kitchen in the new space.
When Black Eye opens every day at 6 a.m., there's an array of pastries and grab-and-go breakfast options, with house-baked breads and pastries as well as hand pies with creative fillings. "They're what a hot pocket wishes it was," says Ferrari, self-described coffee nerd. Each day there is one meat, one veggie and one fruit hand pie. "These have been a big hit so far," says Ferrari.
Starting at 9 a.m., the full-service kitchen begins cooking up breakfast and lunch orders. Chef Alex Figura, whose own eatery, Lower48 Kitchen, will close on Saturday, was the consulting chef for Black Eye's menu.
"There are a lot of staples there," says Ferrari, "but they're all done in a slightly different way." The focus is on quality, but also playfulness. A $12 skillet of steak and eggs features beef from Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe and is served as a play on eggs Benedict over a hash brown patty with Hollandaise sauce.
Breakfast sandwiches like the Jack Broughton — not cheap at $10 — also feature housemade and locally sourced ingredients. It's served on buttery brioche made on site and includes green-chile breakfast sausage from Western Daughters, bacon, a poached egg and a hash brown. "It's a monster of a sandwich," said Ferrari. Broughton, an eighteenth-century English bare-knuckle boxer, was the inspiration for Black Eye's logo on the original coffee shop. "That's going to be our Instagram hero sandwich for sure," said Ferrari.
No matter the time of day, coffee is still a focus. "Coffee is the core of what we do," says Ferrari. Black Eye is roasting the majority of its own beans, but those house roasts will be augmented by local and national guest roasters. There's even a nod to coffee on the evening menu, in the form of "deconstructed" coffees. These consist of a spirit and two accompaniments to mimic the flavor notes of certain coffees.
Ferrari and his partners also turned their attention toward balancing the coffee shop and the bar atmospheres. "You don't want to come into a bar at six in the morning for a cup of coffee," he explains (though you can get a coffee at 1:30 a.m. or a cocktail at 6:00 a.m. if you're in need).
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At 5 p.m., the space transitions subtly. Tall mirrors behind the bar revolve to reveal shelves of spirits. As the light coming through the large south-facing windows fades, the atmosphere becomes darker and cozier.
In the evening, the menu is highlighted by small plates that can be shared among friends. Many of these items, such as the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, are served straight from a skillet. The late-night menu runs from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Some of the breakfast offerings appear for an encore, like the chicken and biscuits from breakfast. "We're hoping to up the game in late-night options," says Ferrari.
The new Cap Hill location is also helping neighboring businesses. Customers at Proper Barbershop's new location next door can order both caffeinated and alcoholic drinks from Black Eye's bar. The beverages are passed through a safe in the wall between the coffeehouse and the barber shop. This speakeasy touch blends well with the 1920s, Poets' Row-inspired decor.
"People are walking in, and the place is a lot more than they imagined," says Ferrari. "They're still going to get amazing coffee and the same level of service."