What: Craft coffee and made to order breakfast and lunch in a grocery store turned cafe.
Where: 904 College Ave., Boulder
Neighborhood: The Hill
When: Daily, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
With just over a month under its belt, the new Alpine Modern cafe, nestled just past The Hill in Boulder, is the third and final installment of the Alpine Modern lifestyle brand.
Lon McGowan, founder of Alpine Modern, has started a quarterly magazine, created a consumer goods shop in Boulder, and opened a cafe on The Hill—all in the past year.
“Our whole mission is to promote modern design in the mountains,” McGowan said, sitting in a corner booth of his cafe. “It’s experiential [the cafe], it’s acquisition [the consumer goods store], and it’s inspirational [the magazine]. And those three things combined is our lifestyle brand.”
And what’s more important to a lifestyle brand than proper caffeine?
The cafe is purposefully sparse and bright. The sleek design was brought to life by the same team who created the store and magazine, which can be found on the large communal table in the center.
“This is ours,” McGowan said proudly. White walls, dark wooden tables, and a gleaming counter screamed modern. McGowan and his team want you to see the design thread throughout the brand, and if you walk into their consumer goods store on 13th Street in Boulder, the similarities are hard to miss.
At the coffee shop the design is minimalistic and clean, yet rustic. Immediately one will recognize the espresso bar, which looks like a combination of a space-ship and a 1950s soda shop. It’s nothing like a traditional bar, which was the whole point.
“We didn’t want a big box in front of the customers,” said McGowan. He explained that the espresso machine often acts as a useless barrier between the customer and the barista. “It’s this big, unnecessary machine.”
The simplicity is striking inside, with just landscape photographs to decorate the otherwise barren walls. Not surprisingly, this was intentional.“When you try to adorn things [with] too much decoration, then it loses what is actually the interesting piece of the space, which is the people, the food sitting on the table, and so that allows this living art,” explained McGowan.
Like the coffee shop, the food and drinks are simple but unique, and, of course, intentionally beautiful.
In addition to all the drinks made at the counter, there is a contraption in the left corner that looks like it can be another sleek, modern design element. Instead, the tower of glass beakers and black beams are used to produce the newest coffee craze —cold brew. McGowan has made sure that when he is filling the space in his cafe, there is form as well as function.
He explained that this unique system is called a Kyoto tower, and is a Japanese-style way to produce cold drip coffee. On average it takes 12 to 16 hour to produce just one batch. The result is rich and delicious, with more caffeine, and is served in a six ounce glass with ice ($3.60). Its also possible to “cut” the drink with water for a more traditional iced coffee.
In keeping with the Alpine Modern way, the menu is simplified. On one side you will see drink options, but no sizes. McGowan preached, “One of our brand initiatives is to simplify, and so a menu with three different prices…is way too complicated.”
The coffee is all sourced locally, and roasted out of house by design. Huckleberry Roasters and MiddleState Coffee provide Alpine Modern from coffee beans from around the world and are both located in Denver. They add weight to the mission statement of the brand: modern life in the mountains. McGowan explained that they are not trying to be coffee experts or roasters, just serve really good coffee to compliment really good food.
Once you’ve ordered your coffee, the breakfast avocado and egg tartine ($7.40), an open-faced sandwich with a secret avocado recipe, paprika, sea salt, and a poached egg on top, is a must try. Beware: it is only available until 11 a.m. when the menu switches to lunch. If you are desperate for an avocado fix, they still have you covered. The avocado baguette ($7.90) with tomato, triple cream, and sherry vinaigrette on a pretzel baguette will fulfill your craving and your Instagram feed.
According to McGowan, the cafe is designed to be a more accessible entrance to the brand, because as he explained, “No one is going to stop drinking coffee in person with people in cafes.”