Making an innovative, creative life thrive requires the right ingredients to fuel it—good coffee, good food, and the space to think and be inspired chief among them. An unusual collaborative business in what was once known as Manhattan’s Fur District is hoping to knock all three of these ingredients out of the park.
Till and Sprocket sits quietly in a storefront on West 30th Street, in the looming shadows of the giant, castle-like NYPD 23rd Precinct. Beyond the space’s tastefully gold-lettered entrance you’ll find window seats peppered with fashionable throw pillows, a long marble bar stretching towards the open kitchen and dining area, and behind that bar, not one, but two, three-group Synesso Cyncras, a Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder, and suspiciously good-looking Kraft-paper bags of locally roasted coffee. The restaurant—primarily a cafe in the mornings, with coffee service blurring into lunch and dinner as the hours wax later—is clearly operating beyond average NYC parameters.
Pass through the main space and into the atrium-bathed courtyard in back, though, and you’ll come upon not only a lovely private dining space but a mysterious set of double doors. These are the borderlands between Till and Sprocket and its sister business, Interface, a not-exactly-a-co-working-space that offers membership-based facilities for gathering and, the founders hope, collaborative inspiration.
“Loosely defined, it’s a membership lounge/community space,” Andrew Karp, the lounge’s director tells me. And indeed, it feels like that. No office carrels or rows of USB ports clutter this open landscape, which is instead anchored by a few communal tables and vaguely separated, but not fixedly so, seating clusters of comfy chairs and couches.
The meeting and collaboration space will, well, interface with the restaurant and cafe in a fluid way for members, says Karp. The building’s owner, Alex Bernstein—whose family, once furriers in this neighborhood, moved into realty—saw the two spaces as ways to find a new model for the changing neighborhood.
Interface is a passion project, says Karp, meant to provide resources and amenities to its community while fueling the new media creativity that has been drawn to the area. “The restaurant idea was originally the revenue driver—something the neighborhood has always needed beyond a grab-and-go coffee shop or a TV-strewn Irish sports bar,” explains Karp, adding, “In turn, hopefully, [Interface] culturally can support that.”
“Both brands are ideas to raise the water level of the entire neighborhood,” he continued. “The hope is that they begin working together, they begin collaborating, they begin solving each others problems, and this neighborhood will become more than just fur and jewelry wholesale, it will become what it was meant to be—this culturally vibrant technical and media-rich neighborhood.”
For Interface members, $100/month gets them access to the private space each day, along with coffee and pastries furnished by Till and Sprocket. Other food and drinks from the bar may be ordered into the space as well. Members will also have access to special events, from workshops and media presentations to the upcoming “Cranksgiving” charity bike race finish line party, in November. The space also offers Wi-Fi, which it should be noted the connected cafe does not.
But what if you’re just looking for a great cup of coffee or a bite to eat? Till and Sprocket’s coffee program is poised to deliver, from the double-fisted espresso machine lineup to Chemex, Phoenix, and AeroPress by-the-cup methods, and coffee brought in from as nearby as Brooklyn’s Sweetleaf and Lofted roasters to further-flung guests like Bay Area boutique roaster Linea Caffe. Coffee is available at all hours, and is accompanied in the mornings by treats like strawberry muffins and passion cream donuts, housemade by pastry chef Sydney Dempsey, formerly of Dominique Ansel Bakery (home of the Cronut®). Later in the day, full lunch and dinner menus accompany the coffee and bar offerings. Dinner, which launched only a couple of weeks ago, is the work of chef Bryan Arbeláez, formerly of Upland, and is firmly rooted in a lively New American sensibility of grains and greens.
Though the coffee program has been up and running for a few months, finally getting all the moving parts together in the restaurant and Interface lounge has been a bit like a sitcom, says Karp.
“The chef, Bryan, found his phone in the freezer this morning… after two days.”
Here’s hoping for no more wrenches in the sprocket.
Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge.com, based in Brooklyn. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.