An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Aug 12, 2014
01:59 PMThe Connecticut Table
Espresso NEAT Expands to Westport, Adds Cocktails and Food to Menu
When Espresso NEAT opened its doors in Darien five years ago, it did so with an intense focus on coffee and a mind for true hospitality.
As owner Rachel Haughey explained, the name and brand, NEAT, is a nod to the classic way of ordering an alcoholic beverage; with no ice or mixer. Simply put, it’s just the liquid in the glass.
That’s how the Fairfield County shop does it with coffee–premium quality coffee served simply.
“When you enjoy something ‘neat’ you’re focusing solely on it,” says Haughey. “We’re not adding anything else to it. When you have a good quality, an amazing cup of coffee can be enjoyed and appreciated on its own.”
The owner got her start in the professional coffee business at Gimme! Coffee in Brooklyn, N.Y., before taking a job in commodities (the hope was to trade coffee) in Greenwich. She and her husband moved to Rowayton after years in Manhattan and decided to open her own coffee shop in Darien (right) in 2009.
Now Espresso NEAT, an established shop with a loyal following of coffee purists, is expanding to Westport. A partnership with Experience Hospitality, a New York-based management hospitality company, will see the brand grow in new and delicious ways.
The new location at 6 Wilton Rd. will drop the "espresso" part of the name and go simply by NEAT. Craft cocktails and food will be served in addition to the exceptional coffee customers have come to expect from the flagship store. The Westport location is expected to open later this month.
"The ability for us to remain incredibly focused on the coffee side of things and partner with someone who has the expertise and experience on the cocktail side enables us to do both well,” says Haughey.
(Coffee at Espresso NEAT, left.)
The partnership started several years ago when Experience Hospitality President Bobby Werhane stopped by Espresso NEAT. Both Haughey and Werhane say they quickly realized that they shared an ethos about food service and hospitality.
“[Espresso NEAT] is the only coffee shop between Westport and New York that does it right,” says Werhane. “There’s thoughtfulness with the product and production.”
Werhane’s company has developed, owned and operated many different restaurants around the country, primarily in New York City. The focus is to create restaurants with an urban flair in suburban environments.
“We feel like there are a lot of towns throughout the country just outside of large urban cities like New York and Boston that [are filled with] folks who have lived in urban areas and make the suburban sprawl. They still have those urban styles and sensibilities,” says Werhane.
(The interior of Espresso NEAT in Darien, right.)
There is a push in the National Hall area of Westport to create a downtown community filled with mixed-use buildings for dining, shopping and living. Werhane says this is the perfect location to launch a project like NEAT, and Haughey agrees, saying she had previously looked at the spot on Wilton Road for a second Espresso NEAT location.
The two decided that combining forces in an up-and-coming suburban area would be advantageous for both businesses but most importantly for the customer who desires a superior dining experience like the cafes and bars in New York City.
“We’re adding a really great culinary program,” says Werhane. “The goal is to have the best egg-and-cheese sandwich in Fairfield County, but we won’t have 18 varieties. The same goes for the four salads or sandwiches we will offer…We’re picking the bread smartly and putting them together smartly.”
The coffee, cocktails and food will all be made with high-quality ingredients and will be served with the utmost care for the customers because both Haughey and Werhane believe that hospitality is more than just a smile.
“My definition [of hospitality] is someone’s unique fingerprint on the experience that you have,” says Werhane. “We’re simpatico on that point.”
NEAT is expected to open on Aug. 28 barring any unforseen changes.
"I’m thrilled about this expansion and partnership–to partner with someone who shares the same focus on excellence as the product we serve and the way we serve it," says Haughey. "To share those ideals, it’s just a really great match."