After a storied six-month residency at Sqirl, Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski have opened their first stand alone G&B location at Grand Central Market (GCM) in downtown Los Angeles. This extra long coffee bar flanks the Hill Street side of the historic marketplace that opened in 1917 selling produce, pupusas, and agua frescas to the bustling downtown LA community. Now G&B has become part of the new initiative at GCM to bring in contemporary artisanal and street food purveyors, joining current new residents like Valerie Confections and Sticky Rice Thai food with cheese, oysters, and BBQ on the way.
Glanville and Babinski started serving coffee at GCM on May 31 to a steady stream of regulars and new customers discovering them in the market. During the construction phase, I met up with Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, who kindly found time to talk about their new G&B location and how they view their growing company. If the success of their time at Sqirl is any indication, the new GCM location will be a brand new must-stop sight for visitors to the the LA coffee scene, as well as a welcome addition to the people who live and work in downtown LA.
Julie Wolfson: This is a really long coffee bar. How do you plan to utilize this new space?
Charles Babinski: We want to have sort of bar style service, no line, just step up to the bar get a drink really quickly. We are going to have stools on either end but for the most part it will be 30 feet of standing bar. The goal is to have this big long bright sunny bar where people just hang out.
Wolfson: What’s on the menu? How do you choose which coffees to serve?
Babinski: The same rules apply. We blind cup coffees. The ones we think are the best are the ones we serve. We are hoping to do some great stuff with 49th Parallel as far as getting some single origin espresso. Ritual as well for getting a hold of some of the smaller lots that they have. I think we will have a menu that has some interesting more exclusive stuff, but mostly it is just finding the best coffees around and serving them. The menu is brewed coffee, espresso, and tea. Shakes are coming. At Sqirl we were making them with McConnel’s ice cream. It’s delicious. Look out for that as well.
Wolfson: How did you get this spot in the market?
Babinski: This was already a coffee bar. It already had everything it needed to have to host a coffee bar. It’s a nice space because it is right on the street and there is so much seating all around it. It feels like a foyer to the rest of the market. This is the spot we wanted and this is the spot they wanted to give us. It all worked out great.
Wolfson: What espresso machine are you using at this location?
Babinski: The same one as at Sqirl, the La Marzocco Linea MP. At Larchmont we will have a 4 group Linea 4AV. We are doing things to find ways to control the espresso recipe at every level so as to get a better product. We are controlling the dose, the amount of water. We have single batch grinders. We are looking for ways to regulate dosage within a 10th of a gram. That is a lot of the thrust of our quality control as far as espresso goes. Hopefully when you come and you see somebody at the bar making drinks, it looks like they are cranking out drinks, but what is happening is utterly exact. The coffee in to a 10th of a gram, the coffee out within a gram, and the quality is insured.
Wolfson: What filter brew methods will you use?
Babinski: We are playing around with that. We are playing around with the Curtis Gold Cup and other mechanized brew methods. We would like to not have the person holding the kettle, pouring it, because it is a waste of that person if a machine can do it just as well. So finding machines that can give an exact amount of water within the specifications that we want to brew cups of coffee. Our hope is to have a mechanized machine that disperses the water but still uses a Kalita. It would just be controlling the way that the water is hitting the coffee.
Wolfson: What are you looking forward to as you get this new location up and running?
Babinski: I can not wait to have a fully staffed coffee bar to do the training to be selling as much coffee as we possibly can in as many awesome places as we can. I will be doing training, programming, QC, and things like that. Percy Ramirez and Sumi Ali are here and we will need about 15 to 20 people to staff the two locations.
Wolfson: Kyle, when you and Charles are cupping together, how often do you agree and disagree about coffees?
Glanville: We mostly agree on the coffees. We share a very similar aesthetic and taste perspective. Clean, sweet, good acidity, no roast. I guess we are about as crotchety as you can get when it come to what coffees we select. For us it always feels like a needle in a haystack.
Initially we were cupping together all of the time, but as we started to kick into these other projects, I had to bow out of that. Sometimes he brings the other guys into it or I will suggest a roaster in another part of the world. We have a comprehensive feedback scenario. We apply a lot of the principals of green coffee buying to roasted coffee buying. If you send us samples, you are going to hear what we thought. We cup blind. We are not brand allegiant.
Wolfson: How do you feel that your time at Sqirl helped launch the company?
Glanville: It taught us a lot about the type of hospitality model that we wanted to create. We found a way of interacting with people and figured out how to articulate what that is and helps make us special. Coffee bar space is about as regular and communal as you can get in public with the exception of an alcohol bar or a public park. There is something special about it. People start their day with coffee. You see the same faces. There is a conversation that unravels over time. We really loved out regular customers at Sqirl, and that’s not bullshit. We really enjoyed it. It was not only because they are cool people, but because we figured out a way to open the door to have that reveal itself and contribute to the patchwork of the space. I believe that once you open a place you don’t really own it any more, it is owned by the community. The people are stakeholders.
Wolfson: What do you hope will be the atmosphere and community here at Grand Central Market?
Glanville: There is a lot about this place that we don’t know yet. We know there are available bodies to purchase coffee. There is a huge community of people who work in law adjacent to here. Knowing that, we should have newspapers for them like the London Financial Times, New York Times… so we will have those.
Wolfson: Will you still have only glass jar take away cups?
Glanville: We will have those as an option, but we will also offer paper. That is something we learned a lot about. Some people really dug the glass. There is a subscriber mentality to it. Once you get one, you bring it back and get a fresh one. That’s nice, but for some people they say, ‘this is not convenient.’ People don’t like when you mess with their ritual, but I am not going to sugar coat it, I really despise paper cups.
Wolfson: Charles talked about some of the drinks you will be adding to the menu. How do you approach making these drinks?
Glanville: I think you can approach espresso with a little bit more of a spirits mentality. You can have it on it’s own or you can use it in different formats and mix it with things. It has always been espresso or espresso with milk but if you are truly focused on seasonality and staying current and having a menu that is interesting, it is only reasonable to play around with that and try things mixed with it.
G&B is open every day at Grand Central Market from 7am to 6pm at 317 Broadway, Los Angeles CA 90013. You can find Charles and Kyle and their G&B team on the West side of the market on Hill Street, facing Angel’s Flight.