Directly above the Yabacho subway station and near Nagoya’s central park is the trendy and ever-stylish Parco department store. This shopper’s paradise has multiple levels and buildings crisscrossed with underground passages, elevators, escalators, and bridges that offer passage between the different shopping areas and the subway station below, as well as the hotel rooms and movie theaters of the top floors. In one subterranean area, nestled between a clothing boutique and a smartphone-accessory shop, is a small wooden shack serving specialty coffee and carefully crafted desserts.
&Eat is the second coffee shop produced by the multi-faceted design company Maisonette Inc. Its older sibling, Maison YWE, is a sit-down-style cafe, but &Eat is a takeout coffee stand designed to be an add-on to your daily activities. This idea of being supplementary is what's behind the unusual name: the main event of your trip to the area may be shopping, or a casual walk, but there’s also &Eat.
The cafe is made up of a small collection of plywood, glass, and metal framing, and shares part of a wall with the neighboring clothing store. Within this little rectangle of a coffee shop, a barista goes about his work of taking orders, preparing drinks, and plating confections.
A few mismatched stools are placed along the bar that lines the side of the cafe stand, and there’s more bar seating along the wall of the clothing store—you just have to walk through the boutique to get to it. Here and there, Tokyo artist and sign-maker Chalkboy has added bits of writing, both big and small, to the surroundings. The space is quaint and a tad rustic; sitting on one of the stools and watching the barista prepare your beverage, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a large, brightly lit, and gleaming-white department store.
Given the high-traffic location of &Eat, you might speculate that business would be good regardless of what the cafe served. Yet, it's worth pointing out, they are doing things right. The coffee here, as well as the barista training, is provided by local roaster and cafe Trunk Coffee Bar. Filter coffee is available via both ceramic Hario V60 and Aerobie AeroPress. Beans are ground via Kalita Mill. The fully washed Costa Rica Carrizal Caturra Catuai has hints of blackberry and Ceylon tea, with a silky mouthfeel and lingering sweet aftertaste. The apple pie, too, did not fail to impress.
The busiest times for &Eat are on weekends, when two staff members have to crowd into the boxy workspace. On weekdays the pace is more relaxed, and one barista runs the shop alone, though there is a bump in business in the late afternoon as people begin to commute home. Since this below-ground section of Parco is directly connected to the subway station, people can stop by &Eat and go right back to their train without seeing the light of day.
This notion of escaping a crowded commute for a moment to enjoy a carefully made coffee—without having to alter your route—is appealing. Being an addition to your day may have been the original concept for &Eat, but for some weary shoppers and tired commuters, it could well be the main event.
Eric Tessier is freelance journalist based in Tokyo. Read more Eric Tessier on Sprudge.