During the Northern Hemisphere's warm months of 2012, we profiled a number of shops under the banner of “Build-Outs of Summer” – the idea being, there's all these fascinating projects getting constructed when the weather's nice and it stays light later, so why not show 'em off and get folks excited for new cafes?
One of last summer's featured Build-Outs was Artifact Coffee, a collaboration between restauranteur Spike Gjerde (of Woodbury Kitchen) and his coffee lieutenant, Allie Caran. We knew their coffee program would be super serious – Woodbury Kitchen has been lauded time and again for their restaurant coffee service – but we didn't realize their food situation at Artifact would be similarly epic.
We now know better, thanks to Richard Gorelick of the Baltimore Sun:
In the span of eight days, I had two of my favorite restaurant entrees of the past year at Artifact Coffee. The first night was a 12-hour braised pork shoulder with rigatoni, tossed with roasted turnips in a pesto made from sharp-flavored ramps, the early spring vegetable sometimes called wild garlic. Another night was a sublime stew of chicken, carrots, parsnips and kohlrabi bathed in red wine.
Yes! But there's more:
Artifact Coffee opened last June, but dinner service was added only in December. Each dinner is a different thing, but it's only that thing — a Hobson's choice.
Over time, though, there's great variety. The menu is posted each week on the restaurant's website and on its Facebook page, where you can look over some of the past offerings. The new menu is posted every Tuesday: dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday.
In late January, there was New England clam chowder and Yankee pot roast. In February, a first course of chicken and waffles was followed by roast chicken breast and confit thigh. At least twice there have been vegetarian dinners, one built around a vegetable pot au feu with oat dumplings, root vegetables and onion broth.
And there is always the option, if you just plain don't want the fixed menu, of a hamburger or a bacon cheeseburger.
Wow. This review pretty much catapults Artifact Coffee to the top of our “must-visit” list, and it offers an interesting counterpoint to the restaurant coffee hullabaloo from last week. What if, instead of trying to adapt coffee service to a restaurant setting, there were more cafes like Artifact? Imagine a world where the high end cafe setting is home to incredible small-menu dinners and the focused interest of lauded chefs. Nothing is sacrificed, all the gear and training is already in place, it's every bit as special for a quick espresso at noon as it is for a dinner date. You've pretty much imagined our dream cafe.
Congrats on the glowing review, Artifact, and we'll see you soon.
Look back at all of our 2012 “Build-Outs of Summer” coverage, and watch for a fresh season debuting in June on Sprudge.com.