Here is a timely report from Black Coffee and Waffle Bar, visited about 2 weeks after its soft opening, and an extremely early look at Grand Central, observed mere hours after its debut.
In June I wrote about five openings avidly awaited by our Mac-Groveland neighbors. One of them, the A Line transit route, began operating the day after that piece went live. Now two more of the five have opened and preliminary reports are in order.
Black Coffee & Waffle Bar
This long-awaited opening happened around July 15; the establishment was still in a “soft launch” phase when we visited some two weeks later, and seemed to be operating smoothly and well.
The narrow space is bright from windows on the north and east sides. Hard surfaces predominate, including the increasingly common white tile. There is a black menu wall with white type and black-on-black logo. It’s all very up-to-the-minute and hipster, and the staff and clientele fit that description as well, though perhaps on the more conventional end of the spectrum. My guess is that most were St. Thomas students.
The space, while not filled near capacity, was quite noisy during our visit.
We were there strictly in search of coffee and baked goods and didn’t sample the imaginative waffle menu.
Vibe — Katharyn: modern; Keith loud.
Crowd — Pretty exclusively 20-something.
Wi-Fi — Speedof.me registered 26.8 Mbps downstream and 17.8 Mbps up. Provisioning by Comcast residential. Latency was 24 msec. Only one other person that I saw was using a laptop, though a number of smartphones were presumably sharing the Wi-Fi.
Staff — Welcoming, friendly, & smiling. They happened all to be women during our visit.
Beans — Dogwood Coffee Roasters supply the beans to Black.
Cup — I had a tasty Miel (espresso, steamed milk, honey & cinnamon) and Katharyn enjoyed an iced chai.
Food — The baked goods were ordinary. Katharyn enjoyed her scone, but I found mine dry — it had no whole raspberries, just flavoring and color in the batter.
Music & noise — Music was at a level low enough to be unrecognizable above the considerable noise & clatter.
1672 Grand Ave. (Mac-Groveland), St Paul (no website; Facebook page)
This opening was as eagerly awaited as Black’s, and not just by us, judging by the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Grand Central’s new incarnation will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m not sure at what hour the doors opened last Thursday, but I believe it was some time after noon. We arrived about 5:00 pm and sat at the beautiful curvaceous wooden bar.
It’s not altogether fair to pass judgement on a restaurant operation that is so manifestly still finding its sea legs, so I will try to confine my remarks to the concept and what can be gleaned about the nature of the food and drink. I suggest you try it yourself in a week or so if you are curious.
GC serves 7 red wines by the glass, from a nitrogen-atmosphere Cruvinet dispenser, and 8 whites from a refrigerated case. They don’t offer a menu yet showing prices, just a list with descriptions — an indication that the wine selection may not be final. There are a few expectable choices but also some unusual ones. A dozen or so beers are on tap, as well as a cold-brew coffee, but no menu of those was available.
Grand Central is owned by the operators of Shish, a couple of doors down Grand, and a Turkish influence subtly colors the food choices. I found most everything to my liking but for Katharyn some of the flavors were a bit too assertive.
We asked to see a breakfast menu and were shown one with the caveat that it had been changing frequently.
We’ll be going back to try breakfast and lunch (and dessert). It’s good to welcome this new / old entrant to the local food scene.