Have you ever stayed at a hostel? If you’re reading this from outside North America, chances are the answer’s yes. But here in the United States hostels have a cultural stigma around hostels that can be baffling to our friends abroad. They’re often in a rough part of town, and the folks you’re staying with ain’t all friendly Alpine backpackers if you catch my drift. Good coffee is not typically part of the American hosteling experience.
Unless you happen to be in Cleveland, where Passengers Cafe have teamed up with The Cleveland Hostel for what sounds like a not-at-all sketchy union of coffee goodness and reasonable room rates. The space is now open, adding one more tasty option to the growing coffee destination of Cleveland, Ohio. Maybe by “hostel” they “hip boutique hotel with shared bathrooms”—that sounds pretty okay. It’s like a WeWork where you sleep!
As told to Sprudge by Trey Kirchoff of Passengers Cafe.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Passengers Cafe is a coffee and espresso bar featuring specialty coffee roasters from across the country. We’ve partnered with The Cleveland Hostel and are serving Ohio’s casual to connoisseur bagel and toast chewers as well as hostel guests from abroad. Coffee. Espresso. Toast. Bagels. Falcons at your wrist. The wind in your hair. This is what is best in life.
Owner/Operator Trey Kirchoff has spent a decade in specialty coffee most recently as the Regional Manager for Macro Roaster of the Year award-winning Gimme! Coffee in New York City. Since transplanting to Cleveland in 2015, Trey has worked as General Manager for Chef Jonathon Sawyer’s Noodlecat and Chef Heather Haviland’s Lucky’s Cafe.
Owner Mark Raymond has traveled to over 70 countries and estimates having stayed in almost 100 hostels. The man lived his business, saw a need, and now caters to hostel travelers in this city which has fascinated and excited him since a very young age.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
The hostel lobby was previously little more than a reception desk in the corner and some second-hand furniture. The space is ripe for a proper build-out featuring a massive window facade, exposed brick, original plank flooring, 15-foot ceilings; full of possibility, primed for something great. Our focus in transforming the space into a 25-seat cafe has been to keep with the travel theme and compliment the already existing hostel space and focusing on the “specialness” of certain accents.
There is now a window bar, an espresso bar, a community table, and four-handkerchief tables bolted into the brickwork down the back hallway that leads to a bike share parking space. Sunrise blasts our logo decal from the front window against the gray ceramic subway tile that wraps the espresso bar. The self-serve coffee station is built into an old telephone booth that occupied Mark’s family basement throughout his childhood and is flanked by what can be lovingly described as cushioned benches from a stopover airport in the mid-1980s.
A nice sidewalk patio greets customers, comprised of three fold-up tables and fenced by flower boxes currently exploding with flora in this hot Cleveland summer. However, the crown jewel of the entire cafe experience is the rooftop patio now open to guests of the cafe. We’ve recently installed Wi-Fi up there to give you the best third location with a view of the Cleveland skyline. We are hosting rooftop yoga classes a couple times a week and have ambitions for comedy nights, open mics, and other small events planned for the rooftop this summer.
The newly introduced retail wall offers 12-ounce bags from our featured roasters as well as items for travel: dehydrated instant cappuccino, pocket journals, single-use soap and local detergents, universal adapters, locks, first aid kits, sewing kits, postcards, t-shirts, tote bags, etc.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Anybody can make a good cup of coffee and a good cup of coffee can save the day! Our focus is on batch brew and classic espresso drinks paired with a bagel or toast. Breads and brown, baby! The cafe is designed to put our guests in control, encouraging unintended palate development and education about coffee through repeat visits and effortless conversation. Enjoy a cup of something new, talk about it a bit, and then take a bag to the home or office or your next travel destination.
Our goals are:
- to create a space where locals and travelers can collide to share stories from their travels and get recommendations on places of interest in Cleveland
- showcase a rotating catalogue of exciting coffee’s from roasters around the country
- focus on the simple technique of making good, strong coffee and espresso drinks while encouraging our guests to do the same and try it themselves
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We have a two-group Nuova Simonelli and a BUNN brewer that can crank out something like 20 gallons of coffee per hour. Whole bean grinder is a Bunn-OMatic, espresso grinder is a Mazzer Jolly. Nothing too fancy schmancy, no Wonkaesque glassware or intimidating science equipment. Instead, we’re focusing on fast, approachable service and consistently, superior beverage quality. It should be noted that our toaster is dangerously powerful, it’s like if RoboCop was a toaster and its prime directive is to serve the public toast.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We soft-opened for the second half of June to get our feet under us and had our grand opening July 9, 2016.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Our logo was designed by the talented Joe Lanzilotta.
Our retail wall and free library were designed in collaboration with the wizards at Room Service.
Photos courtesy of Trey Kirchoff.