Step into the posh, pastel entry to Felix Roasting Co. and you might forget for a moment (or for several moments, what’s the hurry for?) you’re on New York City’s Park Avenue South. You might be in New Orleans, Paris, Miami Beach, or perhaps some strange hybrid of the three.
Felix—which comprises three spacious rooms at street level and will soon boast a large coffee lab and tasting room in the basement—is decidedly unique for its environs. Beyond the decor, it’s a place that evokes a slower pace than the bustling streets outside. In fact, says Reagan Petrehn, Felix’s head of brand and “coffee stuff” guy, the goal is to pull you off the streets of Manhattan both figuratively and literally.
Kansas City native Petrehn plays the classic coffee-wunderkind-amidst-splashy-investment role here, and his hospitality and warmth are as infectious as his talking points are down pat. As he guides me through the front of the cafe—which he says they call “The Hall”—towards a stunning round coffee bar beneath a domed ceiling (which the team earnestly calls “The Sanctuary”), he points out the intention behind each element of the space. The Park Avenue South facing side of the curved copper-topped bar serves as the fast bar, Petrehn explains, with a “G&B-style pre-dosing experience” for speed. Service is anchored by a La Marzocco Linea PB and twin Malkhönig EK43s, alongside a suite of opulent copper-plated toys like a Mazzer Kold grinder, Modbar AV-ABR modules, and Marco MIX water boiler. The fast bar focus is primarily on espresso service, and no pour-over is offered.
In an expression of expansive interstate commerce, the beans themselves, while roasted under the Felix banner, are done so with remote consultation in faraway Houston, Texas. “Our logistics are so efficient with the roastery being located in Houston that it’s hard to justify the rent in NYC for the small gain in convenience,” explains Petrehn as we advance towards the back of the space, known as “The Lounge.” The Lounge is similar to “The Hall” but with less natural light, and I’m assured laptop use and hanging out is encouraged. It’s here I meet founder Matt Moinian, hotelier-investor who is in fact, using his laptop and hanging out. Along with Moinian, the operation is steered by design partner Ken Fulk and a handful of other busy crew, ever milling about behind the bar making sure everything seems perfect, and supervising the build-out of a downstairs tasting lab geared towards wholesale, education, and events. (I’m told it will look like an Italian wine cellar, and I don’t doubt this.)
Tea and pastries are currently the only outsourced elements here. The former comes from Spirit Tea, while the latter come from the Lower East Side’s Supermoon Bakehouse, with doughy selections ranging from classics to vibrantly colored croissants. Alternative milks, such as oat and almond, are produced in-house.
It’s hard to call out any one favorite element of Fulk’s eye-catching interior concept: the starburst blush-and-teal terrazzo floor radiating enthusiastically outward from the bar, the basketweave detailing on the sanctuary ceiling, the variations of Arabica blossom wallpaper throughout the space. Indeed, clever touches—whether coffee-focused or design-focused—dominate here, from the condiment bar with chilled lines drawing the house-milked almond milk and its friends up from the basement, to the four different designs of to-go cups, to the coffee-botanical-design-adorned custom hand towels (yes) in the bathroom. It’s all a part of what Petrehn says is drawn from “many different time periods and aesthetics”—a goal of making you a little lost in space and time, not sure of where you might be at all, except for here, very specifically inside Felix.
And of course, a place with such aspirations of grandeur would be remiss without a performative slow bar. Seasonal drinks rotate here, like a campfire-experience-inspired s’mores latte, or a deconstructed espresso tonic served up in a snifter with fresh basil, Campari reduction, and a rosewater spritz. “We have a few people that come back every day for one,” says Petrehn of the signature drinks with prices well above $10.
We are, after all—as much as the owners might like you to forget it—still in Midtown Manhattan.
Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge Media Network and the co-author of Where to Drink Coffee. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.