Generally speaking, it isn’t very useful to dwell on the name of a bar or restaurant: We know why Hutch’s is called Hutch’s (its owner is Mark Hutchinson) and why Pearl Street Grill and Brewery has its name.
But Bean Bastard Coffee, well, that calls for an exception. Using a name that would make your grandma blush and having a logo that is essentially a hipster pirate skeleton sends a strong message: Things are a little bit different, maybe a little bit dangerous here.
Unlike roasting a chicken or side of beef, roasting coffee beans is all about the journey. By manipulating the times and temperatures of various roasting phases, a skilled roaster can coax out certain qualities of the beans while suppressing undesirable off-tastes.
In this sense, the evolution of Bean Bastard and its mercurial owner is a lot like a great coffee roast. According to Buffalo Rising, owner Nicholas Mirusso started roasting coffee as a “heathy hobby” – part of his substance abuse recovery process. His hobby became an official roastery in 2017, and after a few years on the pop-up circuit, Bean Bastard Coffee has just flung open the doors to an Elmwood Avenue café.
Mirusso used to be a denizen of the local music scene, and it shows. On our visit, the vibe was decidedly old-skool Allentown/Elmwood Village. The ghosts of Drool Records, Solid Grounds and Urban skate shop percolated in the air as we strolled in to pick up our takeout order. The café had only been open for a few weeks when we popped in, and despite any possible COVID effects, it held a healthy-sized crowd – mostly of people looking like they knew every nook and cranny of the Old Pink.
Not that that should persuade or dissuade you from checking out the new café. The focus is coffee, food and friendly service. Our house brew coffee ($2.50/3.25/3.50 for a small, medium or large) had all the flavor harmonics that you would expect in an artisanal roast, with rolling vanilla and berry notes atop a classic roasted coffee foundation. We also snagged a bag of Bean Bastard’s ROBOCUP beans that brewed extremely fruit forward. Being from Ethiopia, fruit is to be expected – but the fruit hat on ROBOCUP was straight off Carmen Miranda.
While coffee is the headliner at Bean Bastard, the full soft opening menu was rounded out with smoothies, flatbreads, ice cream sandwiches and food items from local Texas-via-India barbecue joint Southern Junction. The Chandler Street takeout spot had contributed flatbread ingredients, tacos and kolaches – a Czech pastry that happens to be taking over the Lone Star State. (And they say Don’t Mess with Texas…)
You should know that the Bean Bastard-Southern Junction menu collab just so happens to be brilliant: Coffee goes perfectly with Southwest spice, citrus, smoke and umami.
We opted for the Mouth of the South BBQ flatbread ($14). Not drenched in sauce like your typical local barbecue slice, the pizza-shaped flatbread had a strong smokiness of barbecued chicken that was cut by apples, green tomatoes and crispy fried onions.
Based mostly on orange juice and kale, the Green Bastard smoothie ($6.75) was clean and refreshing –a pleasant change from the gut bomb smoothie that tend to be the default offering at many places.
Allentowners and Elmwood Villains are blessed with a range of café options, and each one tends to be hyper-local, almost like a corner bar. With a gaping hole in this corner café scene stretching from Allen Street to West Ferry, the new café is a welcomed addition. And, it just might pull one or two people away from their usual spot – drawn by good coffee and the alluring, slightly dangerous siren song of the Bean Bastard skeleton.
Bean Bastard Coffee
448 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo 14222
Soft Opening Hours: Daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.