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On and Off Broadway

Name: Broadway Cafe and Broadway Roasting Company
Location: 4106 Broadway and 4012 Washington Street, Kansas City, MO
Roasters: Broadway Roasting Company

Rating: 3+

While coffee hasn’t quite achieved the feuded-over status of say, barbecue, when it comes to Kansas City cuisine, denizens of this city do have at least two decent sized roasting operations to chose from when it comes to locally roasted coffees.  Some cafes and restaurants seem to prefer the air-roasted beans produced by The Roasterie. Others stick by the longer-established Broadway Roasting Company.

Broadway’s operation started in the humble and slightly worn cafe that’s located right on Broadway in Kansas City’s Westport district.  This location is busy and full of life, frequented by a diverse mix of professionals, graduate students, retirees, skater punks and the homeless/mentally ill.  The staff were skilled and knowledgeable and the cafe offered plenty of places to sit, especially now that the roaster has been moved.  Still, I’d suggest heading a couple of blocks north and making ever so slight a jog onto Washington Street where you’ll find Broadway’s roasting facility and coffee bar in a renovated fire department building.  That location is bigger, brighter, cleaner, newer, less crowded and has the exact same menu. You’ll get more attention from the staff, have fewer interactions with people you don’t want to interact with and be able to take advantage of a bigger bean selection.

The menu at both cafes is similar. You’ll find a house blend (Colombia/Costa Rica), a decaf (Sumatra/Colombia) and rotating Single Origin coffee, all brewed on a Fetco and stored in airpump pots.  Espresso is prepared in both locations on a multiple group La Marzocco Lineas and the menu includes a medium-sized selection of espresso drinks.  At the Washington Street location, you can also observe the taunting presence of various by-the-cup brewing devices (e.g. V60, Clever, French Press, moka pot, etc), which staff informed me on multiple visits were still being used for experimentation with apparent plans to include them on the menu.  This, in my opinion, is the biggest weakness when it comes to what Broadway has to offer.

The house and decaf blends were roasted for a crowd that craves a “bolder” roast than I do.  Accordingly, I stuck with the single-origin coffees.  On one visit, I had the Mexican Chiapas, which was a medium-bodied coffee with a syrupy mouthfeel whose black pepper bite and mild acidity cut through the otherwise sweet honey and cocoa notes.  It wasn’t my favorite flavor profile of a coffee and I can’t say the brew method did it justice, but the coffee was nevertheless decent (3). On another visit, I had clean and balanced, Panama with less overall character (3-).

To me the real standout for Broadway is the espresso.  My shots were short, dense and not particularly syrupy.  Up front, the espresso (I didn’t get the name or composition of the blend) revealed a more traditional Italian profile with aromas of toasted bread, bitter chocolate and brown sugar.  That experience transformed, however, into something more distinctly American as the shot finished, leaving me with a burst of citrus acidity and fruit (pear and lime) notes.  I preferred the shot I had at the Washington Street roastery (on the right) which was better than the one I had at the cafe on Broadway, but only by a little (less so than the coloring and volume in the picture might imply), and likely to be luck of the shot rather than anything consistent in performance (4-/3+).  And, as an unheard of bonus, an espresso, which is only $1.75 to begin with, comes with a free small coffee!

Since neither location offered by-the-cup brewing options, I decided to do my own, and rather than write separately about these coffees, due to my backlog, I’m including a few notes here.  The pulped natural Nicaragua Mierisch had a surprisingly sharp and piney acidity with some pronounced herbal notes (3) while the naturally processed Nicaragua Limoncillo was (not-surprisingly) fruity of the sort that can be easily overwhelming (3), but which mellows nicely with age.  The bottom line is that both of these were good coffees, but not outstanding, or quite as good as I would have liked given the price and specificity of these lots.

Even if there are some things that I’d would like to see Broadway Roasting Company do better, there a few reasons I’d give it – at least the Washington Street roastery and cafe – moderately high marks.  The espresso is distinctive and good, and throwing in a free cup of decently good coffee with that purchase is just too good a deal to pass up.  Broadway offers a wide selection of well-priced, reasonably, high-quality coffees.  Most important, though, is that space itself is pleasant, quiet and gives you plenty of opportunities to interact with staff over the coffee you are drinking or intend to buy, which is something I observed a steady stream of regular customers doing.  That kind of interaction, which I commented on elsewhere, is one I value a lot these days and which shouldn’t be undervalued.

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