“I can’t believe you’re not hungry,” East One Coffee Roaster‘s owner and operator Tom Cummings tells me. His disappointment at not being able to feed a guest—I just need a glass of water—is palpable. I wish I could make room. Instead, we take our water in the roastery, café and restaurant’s spacious dining room, right next to where beans are being turned into the house’s signature roast. Does this description sound confusing? Sometimes Cummings feels it, too, but it soon starts to make sense.
Cummings opened his first restaurant in Copenhagen in the ’90s, way before New Nordic Cuisine was on anyone’s radar. “We used to do a killer brunch,” he says. After that, he spent over a decade working for IKEA, both on the food and design side, before ending up in the coffee business in London, where he had three shops, including New Row Coffee and FreeState Coffee. When the Massachusetts native decided it was time to return to the States, he knew he wanted to create something in Brooklyn and ended up with this rather huge—by New York standards—space in Carroll Gardens, which opened in early April.
“What we saw in London was the little coffee shops growing and blossoming, and we saw the New York market as between five or ten years behind what was happening in London,” says Cummings. “In London, people were taking roasting and coffee and food, and they were bringing the three things together.” He never thought the shop would end up in this particular neighborhood, but he kept coming back to the space.
And it’s proven a good spot for what they’re trying to do. “New Yorkers have a very specific genre of coffee that they like,” Cummings says, and he thinks even most third-wave shops have catered to that with a “city blend”: a medium roast on the chocolatier side. “It’s not what I would call an ‘experience’ coffee.” To provide an experience while still making those palates happy, their basic blend uses Ethiopian beans, along with Tanzanian and Guatemalan, to give a bit of brightness at the end. It works.
Beyond coffee, they’re serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, alcohol and even happy hour oysters. It’s the kind of spot everyone wishes were on their corner—perfect for a coffee on the go, yes, and getting some work done, but also for taking a meeting or sitting down for dinner.
The food is by chef Will Ono, who served most recently as the executive chef at Brooklyn Heights’ Chez Moi before staging at Noma and Mugaritz in Europe. He keeps the produce and meat local, and is doing a lot of in-house preservation. Cummings raves about the bread and butter pickles he puts on the burgers, made with Fleisher’s meat.
There are always three specials in addition to their regular menu, too, so when you find yourself in Carroll Gardens, don’t be like me: Show up hungry.