What if a cafe could be more than a cafe, and a restaurant that isn't somehow less than a restaurant at the same time? Philadelphia's Odd Fellows is working at just that, a super-relaxed mix of high end coffee and comforting Latin food in a shared space in which neither detracts from the other.
The second project of Spruce Street Espresso founders Betty and Faith Ortiz (and conveniently located down the street from their first cafe), Odd Fellows comes nipping at the heels of a Philadelphia coffee revolution—which Spruce Street was at the forefront of, not so incidentally—and does one better by adding service, spaciousness...and a plate of fish tacos. In a city where they're neither the truly old guard (iconoclastic yet traditional roasters La Colombe reserve that seat at the bar) or the flavor of the month, the Ortizes hope to keep their hold on local coffee cups by focusing most on quality—something combined cafes and restaurants seem to rarely excel at.
But with nearly four years of experience running one of the city's finest cafes, what's in the cup is unlikely to suffer. Enter the clean-lined space and a host will guide you either to table service or allow you to proceed on your own to the coffee bar, where pro baristas (not just waiters and busboys and barbacks) man the state-of-the-art La Marzocco Strada espresso machine—which, I might add, offers baristas a lot more room to work than the original Spruce Street boîte.
Offerings include blended and single origin espressos from Durham's Counter Culture Coffee, and rotating filter coffee choices from the brew bar are poured-to-order on Clever Drippers, like a malty and smooth cup from Papua New Guinea's Baroida Estate. Espresso drinks can come with fancy artisanal milk—joyously rich and butterfatty—from nearby Trickling Springs dairy. And a selection of finer teas from Milwaukee's Rishi also joins the cafe menu.
The coffees—Counter Culture's often vaguely herbacous flavor profile seems particularly well suited here—are meant to be as good on their own as alongside, or after, the cafe's full service kitchen menu (an ambitious goal when trying not to drown out those lingering memories of citrus-marinated roast pork with plantain mash, and the pleasures of Philadelphia's relaxed BYO laws). Whether customers end up using the cafe as more of a coffee shop or a restaurant remains to be seen—but for now, Philly coffee lovers have a lot more choices.
Odd Fellows Café
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.