In addition to local sourcing, Towler says he plans on stressing the healthfulness of making things fresh from scratch. For example, he offers the homemade pitas he cranked out along with from-scratch falafel as part of Shakedown Café’s pan-ethnic menu that rotated in garden heavy SoCal sandwiches with chicken marsala and Indian dosas. Milling the flour each week and baking the pitas to order not only brought flavor benefits but also allowed the grains’ antioxidant rich oils to stand out. While ultra-fresh pitas may pop up from time to time, they’re reflective of an outlook made all the more resolute by a recent year of study at The Strengthening Health Institute in Northern Liberties, which among other things, provides cooking instruction while teaching the benefits of macrobiotics and plant based diets.
As for the menu at Win Win Coffee Bar, it’s going to start simple. Really simple. Besides bar snacks that will eventually include kale chips, root chips (sweet potato, beets, etc), veg plates, and house made charcuterie, they’re going to launch with a 1-2 plate breakfast and dinner menu that will rotate roughly week to week and according to the season. Breakfast will run from 7-11a.m., with extended hours on the weekends for brunch. Between breakfast and dinner service starting at 5p.m., they will feature a light cafe menu with sandwiches by Lanie Belmont that will match the farm fresh ethos she formerly promoted via her Yumtown food truck. Belmont, whom Montagnaro met through her truck while he was studying at Temple in the fall, will also oversee their bread and pastry offerings. The sandwiches, along with pastries, breads, and juices, will be available for eat-in or takeout from the morning into the evening as supplies last.
The kitchen is tentatively set to run to 11pm during the week, and possibly as late as 1a.m. on Friday and Saturday, though Montagnaro, for now, sees it as going until they run out. “That’s our whole thing,” he says. “We want to keep food costs down, but we also don’t want to waste anything,” he says (as for not wasting anything, they’d like to donate any leftover coffee at day’s end to a nearby soup kitchen). As for the limited menu, Kochinke says, “While we’re still working on the recipe book, we’d rather expand than contract.” Kochinke brings to the kitchen an outsiders sense of experimentation.
“It all comes from a love of food and wanting to cook for myself and not knowing how,” he says. He captured his early trial and error days—vital for any serious chef—in a food column he wrote while at North Carolina’s Guilford College entitled Cooking…Kind of. After school, he bounced around, moving on from a job at a house ware store in NYC, to his first job in a kitchen in D.C., where his obvious love for food got him in the door despite a lack of professional experience. His job assembling displays and doing general maintenance for American Apparel locations throughout the Northeast is of course helpful with turning around a restaurant space. As with any restaurant, a limited menu has glaring benefits (i.e. it’s why Pho 75 is the best at what they do). “You’re able to put a lot more energy into each plate,” Towler says.
While it could be just one plate at a time for anywhere from a few days to a week at first, the plate or plates on the menu will have much to offer in terms of diversity, texture, and flavor, they say. And, by limiting themselves, they’ll be able to up the quality of the ingredients on every plate without having to worry about wasting product. One idea Towler offers for breakfast: French toast with barbeque pork shoulder (or barbeque tempeh), with a sweet potato leek hash, a vegan or egg frittata with chipotle pepper and fresh corn, and a microgreen salad. For dinner, another option would be subbed in for the French toast, with a focus on keeping the palate intrigued rather than merely overloading a plate. And to give an idea of how they’re still developing the menu, Kochinke says he’d like to do miniature soufflés in ramekins instead of frittatas (a week dedicated only to ramen is another idea they’re kicking around).
In regard to overlap, Towler says he expects the fresh juices on hand to match up with the pastries, and vice versa. For example, fresh carrot muffins could be complemented by a carrot apple ginger blend, with the crossover offerings dependent upon what’s fresh each week. Kochinke states how he’s inspired to perfect a coffee laced mole based on his love for Southern, coffee informed red eye sauces. And that’s in addition to the butter coffee or coconut coffee milk foams he wants to apply to sweet and possibly even savory dishes.
As for the bar program, Darwall says they’ll be utilizing the kitchen for all their syrups and tinctures. With an emphasis on sourcing local farms for an array of herbs, he says he’s excited about broadening his appreciation for infused syrups, an area of expertise he says that Belmont also brings to the equation. While the cocktail program will benefit from two more of Montagnaro’s friends—Dave Frazee and Mike Dunican (Montagnaro’s friend since high school, he’s the head server at Blue Monkey Tavern in NJ)—who will also put together a rotating craft beer menu, Darwall perhaps provides some insights on what to expect by saying that he’s a big fan of bitter, herbal apertifs. “I like the depth of flavor and character, for instance, that Amaro brings. It can darken a cocktail, while also giving it some beefiness.” Rye based cocktails are something he’ll also champion on a menu that he says will reflect Frazee’s love of tequila and whiskey.
But, then again, they’re working off a consensus model, and much needs to be fleshed out in the weeks to come. The coffee program will highlight single origin coffees from local roasters—“definitely Elixir and Reanimator at the start,” Darwall says. In addition to drip coffee, they’ll do a single method brew bar along with espresso. As for their espresso machine, it factors into one of the more major transitions for the space. Besides cutting away part of the bar near the entrance so they can drop in the espresso machine, they’ll redo the back bar to make room for coffee equipment and to provide more of the look they’re going for, says Frazee, as he peers over layout plans on his laptop. As a freelance architect—Montagnaro got him a delivery job at Pizza Brain—he’s helping finalize all the permit requests they have to submit.
Coming into the space, an L-shaped bar with wooden paneling runs to the right. They plan on adding two couches by the giant windows. A rail will be added opposite the edge of the bar by the espresso machine for people who like a little Roman leaning with their single or double shot espresso. The hardwood floors will carry past the 5-7 seats at the bar to the roughly 20 seat space in the back of the room. As for the grassy lot next door, which they’d like to turn into a beer garden, that’s another lease to obtain, since that property is not held by their landlord, with whom they’re going through a two-week trial period while waiting for all the conditions of their lease to be met. Montagnaro says they aren’t considering utilizing the sidewalk due to space constraints. “Spring Garden has a lot of room to grow,” Montagnaro says. While they hope to create a transformative destination that adds to what’s already in the area (Union Transfer, Llama Tooth, Sazon Restaurant & Cafe), Darwall also hopes that their cooperative business “becomes a model for other people to follow”.
After they’ve caught steam, Montagnaro says they plan on welcoming in suitable parties for pop-ups that can either be one-offs or stay on for as long as a week’s duration. Given their model, becoming another business incubator in Philly’s growing pop-up scene would only make sense.
[UPDATE: The people at Win Win Coffee Bar tell me they’re shooting for an opening on the weekend of 11/21.]