When you open a restaurant, your goals are usually:
1) Keep the lights on.
1a) Make money for yourself.
But at the new Wonder Coffeehouse, located on Ganson Street in Buffalo next to Riverworks, one of the primary goals is spreading wonder through joy and a foundation of philanthropy.
It’s been reported that Wonder Coffeehouse is an extension of Wonder Church, but church leader and cafe co-owner Kate Vacanti told us they are separate entities, with the coffeehouse being a for-profit business.
“Here’s the thing: We’re not trying to be undercover or anything, but the truth is that ‘church’ has a bad name and rightfully so,” she said. “Not everybody and every church, but there has been a lot of hurt done. When we went back and forth on the name for the coffeehouse, we finally landed on (‘Wonder’) because we’re trying to get back to the basics of what that word means.”
Vacanti told us smart, friendly service is a major point of emphasis at the cafe, adding: “Our hope is then, if people are looking to give church a try again, when they see Wonder Coffeehouse and Wonder Church is nearby, they’ll say, ‘Wonder Coffeehouse… there’s this Wonder church nearby, if the people at that church are the same as the people at the coffeehouse, then I’m gonna give it a try.
“At the end of the day,” Vacanti bottom-lined, “we’re just trying to serve really great coffee, provide a great experience and be a positive part of what’s happening in Buffalo.”
Vacanti said she wants the new cafe to be a welcoming, user-friendly and judgement-free experience, where the food and drinks are tasty — but approachable and affordably priced. Don’t expect snooty baristas and coffee drinks you can’t pronounce. Prices for espressos ($1.50 for a single shot), lattes ($3.50) and regular old cups of coffee ($2 for a small) are very competitive with both Starbucks and your typical Third Wave coffee shop.
While the good vibes and value are reasons enough to visit the new cafe, there’s also the little Belgain-style ‘liege’ waffles ($2). Made with dough, not batter, the waffles have that necessary crunchy exterior, but have an inside that is more like a donut. Vacanti explained how offering the waffles is in keeping with Wonder’s sense of providing comfort.
“When you walk in, because of these waffles, it literally smells like sugar cookies,” she said. “So it gives you that sense of home.”
Inspired by the neighboring General Mills factory, the cafe is also slowly rolling out a cereal bar, where you can pick your cereal, toppings and type of milk — which includes skim, almond or oat milk. We’re also seeing future plans for breakfast bagel sandwiches and açai bowls.
With a current seating capacity of 49 people and slated to feature a drive-thru by spring, the building that houses Wonder Coffeehouse was supposed to be demolished. But the Vacantis said part of their mission would turn out to be breathing new life into the old bones of brick and mortar.
“That was a huge step of faith, to take on the renovation of this building, which was probably a year from demolition,” Kate Vacanti said. “We just want to be a place where anybody can feel comfortable. We’ve already had people from all different backgrounds and types of life, and that’s important. Diversity is what makes life rich and beautiful.”
323 Ganson St., Buffalo, NY 14203
Hours: 8am-4pm everyday