Now Enrolling Members: NYC's Fair Folks Cafe


[Photos: Liz Clayton]

New York City was definitely due for another high-concept cafe: we're so over the Nespresso store and the Blue Bottle Special Siphon Bar With Fancy Toast (okay, lying, we're totally not over that, many of us just haven't found it yet). Lucky enough, Fair Folks & A Goat opened just in time.

Fair Folks is the third unique retail space from owners Aurora and Anthony Mazzei, who seek to combine a variety of concepts under the cafe rubric: humanitarian efforts, community, high-design furniture, and of course, coffee.

To this end, the couple have launched an unusual sort of semi-public, semi-private space which functions both as a cafe (with large pieces of purchasable furniture and other objets) as a gallery and event space, and as a more personalized space. Wayward, wandering urbanites don't have to simply pass through the doors for the occasional coffee, like a plebian: one can actually join the cafe.

The experiment is an interesting one which seeks to formalize the concept of the "regular" cafe patron, within an unusual setting. For $25 a month, members of the cafe are entitled to free coffee daily—that's brewed coffee, cappuccino, espresso, you name it (and name it as many times a day as you like)—from their full-service coffeebar. Membership contributions are, according to the cafe's website, partially directed towards humanitarian funds such as those which foster farming initiatives, or contribute to the rebuilding of New Orleans. The coffee itself is roasted by Brooklyn's Crop to Cup, a sustainability-focused importer and broker who build direct relationships with farms, specializing in East African origins.

Though the coffee isn't quite boutique-special despite the boutique environs, (though the very-large cappuccino we tried was milky enough to soothe the sweetness of the darker roast, thus tasted just fine), it's part of a new twist on a growing idea: offering co-working spaces with great coffee. (Though usually you join the co-working space first, and then get the great coffee, not the other way around.) For those who might enjoy an artisanal bow-tie or settee with their macchiatos, Fair Folks is a sunny, laptop-friendly space on an undercaffeinated stretch of Houston to call their own—and it offers a few other things that are rare in Manhattan cafes nowadays, by the way: ice cream sandwiches and wifi. But they'll have to sell a lot of throw pillows to pay for all that bottomless coffee.

Fair Folks and a Goat

96 West Houston Street, New York NY 10012 (map) 646-885-2876;