It's not every day that bright, young, enterprising people open a totally hip, yet essentially retro, business in Hyde Park/Kenwood. But by some miracle it has happened, and on 47th Street no less, at the Z&H Market Cafe (named for the owners' grandparents). How to conjure an image? Think of an old-world neighborhood grocer, with a mix of fresh and canned goods -- except add refrigeration and a high-tech espresso machine. Think of a diminutive Dean and Deluca, only 785 miles closer. Think of a scaled-down version of Chicago's Fox and Obel, but with customers who've had no cosmetic surgery. The new Z&H Market Cafe has a bit of everything you need: high-end goods, a deli, superb coffee and tea, bread that's to die for, and even a little nook where you can sit and watch the world go by while you sip hot chocolate from a bowl.
The two business partners, Tim and Sam, who man the store themselves with a frugal amount of staff, are so passionate about their new place it's both fierce and heartwarming.
"Do you want to try a cup of coffee made in our new Clover single-cup commercial-grade coffee brewer? It's a patented Vacuum-Press system, and there are only 2,400 of them in the country!"
"Well," I say, "can it be an iced coffee?"
"Sure, we'll make you a single-brew iced latte, and from now on we'll call it The Elizabeth!" (super delicious, and highly recommended).
If you live nearby, one of the neat things about Z&H is that it's not just fancy dried and canned goods: you could pop in there at the last minute to buy dinner. There's a small supply of fresh Amish chicken (breasts and whole fryers) in the back fridge, and they soon hope to have fish from a local (sustainable) fish farm. There's a limited but fresh selection of produce, lots of dried pastas, and perfect, chewy baguettes from La Briola. They even have a handful of pre-roasted Amish chickens available for purchase. If you can't make ten easy gourmet dinners from what you find in this store, I'll eat my hat.
The owners admit they need a little time to work out the kinks. For example, it's not that easy to stock just a few heads of fresh unwilted lettuce, but they're getting the hang of that sort of inventory problem as every day goes by.