Many modern coffee shops feel like sacred temples to the coffee bean: where we the faithful queue up for meditations on things like bean selection, roasting technique and which one tastes most like glass.
As seen in the hit TV show Friends – which I believe is a documentary – cafés weren’t always so serious. They used to be quirky little places where people did quirky little things. You might walk into Spot Coffee during the 90s and see people reading poetry at an open mic or playing chess at a table in the corner as hints of patchouli waft through the air.
The new Gypsy Kitchen Espresso Bar in Lockport is a bit of a throwback to those idiosyncratic old cafes. As she talks about her café, owner Madison Greenwald gradually describes it like a mixtape of personal preferences that somehow all make sense together.
“I was catering out of a commercial kitchen, and I didn’t have a brick-and-mortar spot for the catering business,” she says. “It’s also been a lifelong dream of mine, to own a coffee shop. I had just been putting it on hold for a bit. Especially during the pandemic, I was thinking a brick-and-mortar isn’t going to happen any time soon.”
It turns out, opening at the tail end of the pandemic (fingers crossed on that) was the right decision.
“The focus has shifted a little bit to the coffee shop because that’s where I’ve been spending most of my time,” Greenwald says.
One look at the cafés Instagram, and the catering background becomes pretty evident. Magazine-ready pictures of pastries and scones pop off the screen. But those are just the bait to lure you in, a gateway into the café’s true personality.
The café also has a full espresso bar and one of the more interesting options are ‘coffee oils’. Made with essential oils, coffee oils are like coffee syrups, but without the sugar. By letting customers use the oils for flavor, and then letting them add their own level of sugar, Greenwald is giving her customers more control over their coffee.
“I don’t like sugar in my coffee at all,” she explains. “So if you want a flavor shot but without the sugar, you can use the coffee oils. You can’t really find that anywhere else.”
In another unique twist, Gypsy Kitchen offers one of the more eye-catching meal prep options. A weekly rotating menu includes salads with rainbows of vegetables and rice bowls that pop with classic Asian toppings.
“It seems like a lot of these meal prep businesses are started by people coming from the fitness world,” Greenwald says. “I guess I was just struck by the fact that the presentation just is not very nice with these meal preps. I look at pictures online and think, “I would not eat that!’
“I come from the food world, and it’s all about presentation. I was thinking if I can keep the healthy aspect and also make it look nice, that’s the ticket to standing out in the space. Because some of the places that are really successful are serving food that does not look good to me. Maybe it is, but I wouldn’t know!”
Located in a converted house on East Avenue, the café itself also has a lot more personality than some of the more modern coffee shops out there. Like the food and drink options, the whimsical décor at the café mostly comes from Greenwald’s personal tastes, especially her love of European cafes.
“A lot of times, it might look like random stuff thrown together, but it all really works,” she says.
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Tuesday to Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Sunday and Monday CLOSED
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