It’s been just more than a year since Undercurrent Coffee opened its doors for the first time in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, but already demand has crested over.
In response, owners Todd and Erin Huber today unveiled Undercurrent Coffee’s second location, inside the newly renovated Optimist Hall, a former textiles mill that dates back to the 1890s.
“It’s very intimate, with beautiful, comfortable seating and huge wide open windows,” Todd Huber said of the new space. “It really mirrors what we were trying to do with our cafe in Plaza Midwood, but on a much larger scale.”
Also open to the public for the first time today after years of development and anticipation, Optimist Hall boasts a huge indoor marketplace featuring some of Charlotte’s most popular and progressive food and beverage purveyors. With Undercurrent providing the coffee flow, the 135,000-square-foot building also houses a brewery, a paper supply store, a cocktail lounge and office space.
“We’re really excited about it,” says Huber of the hall. “Our space is beautiful. We’re basically mirroring what we did in Plaza Midwood, so the food and beverage program is not changing too much. It’s really just the space and the community that we’re doing it in.”
The new Undercurrent cafe features some of the original mill’s details, including the high ceilings, enormous windows, and white brick walls. Wood accents surrounding the bar help to soften the industrial feel and bring warmth and color to the cafe.
The coffee, food and drinks menu may look familiar to those customers already familiar with Undercurrent, although they may notice something new atop the bar. While the original cafe at Plaza Midwood hosts a Kees van der Westen Spirit Duette, the Optimist Hall bar has a La Marzocco Linea PB AVR.
“We just wanted to try something different, for variety and for educational purposes,” Huber said, “so we have some more experience if and when we expand any more.”
Supporting the Linea are two Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima Pro grinders, with a Mahlkönig EK43 for grinding drip coffee. Said drip is brewed by a Wilbur Curtis G4 ThermaPro, and Kalita Waves handle manual pourovers.
While Undercurrent features coffees roasted by companies based far and wide across the country, roasts from Arkansas-based Onyx Coffee Lab are perennial.
“We will always have Onyx as a blend on batch brew and as our espresso blend,” Huber told DCN. “We also highlight them for single-origin espresso and pourovers. We do bring on guests roasters, but I don’t necessarily consider ourselves a multiroaster, just because of the consistency with which we use Onyx.”
Alongside coffee, a full food menu will include the existing cafe’s popular Plough Boy’s Grit Bowl and, of course, avocado toast. The shop takes a seasonal approach to its food program, with the majority of ingredients coming from local and regional farms.
The immediate success of the first Undercurrent bar and the groundswell of support from the community at large are not lost on Huber as he and the rest of the Undercurrent team open store number two.
“We’re very grateful to be able to play a part in our community’s culture and we’ve been very grateful for the support that we’ve had since we opened 13 months ago,” Huber said. “Without a strong community to support businesses like ours, obviously we couldn’t exist. And the symbiotic relationship, it’s one so far that’s worked really well and we are very appreciative to be a part of it.”