Espresso NEAT has built a reputation in Fairfield County as being at the top of their game. Year after year, they’ve been awarded best cafe and best coffee, and after you’ve gone there, you can see why. Owner Rachel Haughey and her crew pick their coffee beans with care and perform routine coffee cuppings to ensure that only the best quality coffee will be served at their Darien hotspot. And, that quality comes through big time. Add in their other options like tea, espresso, coffee, salads, snacks, breakfast goodies, and sandwiches, and you’ve got the perfect spot to hang out or grab a quick bite.
So, to Rachel, it was only natural to take Espresso NEAT into the next phase of evolution by opening up a brand new restaurant that was part cafe and part cocktail bar. The new venture, NEAT, will open up in the National Hall Campus in Westport in early August. Working with Rachel in this venture will be owner of Experience Hospitality, Bobby Werhane, and Managing Director Kevin Daniel Lalumiere. Both Bobby and Kevin are locals, too, with Bobby coming from Westport and Kevin from Fairfield. Kevin and Bobby unite Rachel’s expertise and cafe experience with an amazing resume of bars, restaurants, and shops. The team at Experience Hospitality helped to bring some amazing restaurants into NYC like Spasso, dell’anima, L’artusi, and Johnny Utah’s, adding an even more rounded background to the structure of NEAT.
Not being ones to let such awesome news slip through the cracks, we were lucky enough to have a nice conversation with Kevin about this brand new collaboration, how it all started, why they picked Westport, and an exclusive look into the cocktail and food menu.
You have lots of great experience working with restaurants and shops, so how will all your experience help to make NEAT successful?
I think the collaboration itself will work simply because of our combined experiences and overall operating philosophies. Rachel and her team at NEAT have a great following. We both share an exceptional regard for high quality products and we care about where our ingredients are sourced. On both sides, we require the use of premium ingredients in all of our hand-crafted products. It’s not every day that you find a partner who shares the same values you do.
How did you and Rachel meet and what brought about this new partnership?
Bobby and I were always a fan of Espresso NEAT and we struck up a conversation with Rachel and it happened just like that. Two teams of industry professionals who appreciated each other’s craft, making connections. I think it was serendipitous when we met up because she was looking to expand her brand. Everything just aligned at the right moment.
Why was Westport such a great location for NEAT?
We were aware of some fantastic happenings on the west side of the river. And, we love Westport for the great and flourishing hospitality town that it is. Specifically, though, the National Hall Campus is undergoing some dynamic renovations and we’re excited to see what will happen with its thoughtful development. It’s a sophisticated town and we have a sophisticated concept. What’s really amazing about the new place is that NEAT will be in The Old Firehouse on Wilton Road, adding to the overall allure for both our operating group and customer base alike. There is already an electricity, a palpable buzz in that part of Westport. We are thrilled to have seen the success and energy that the opening of bartaco has already delivered. In line with that, our group is also opening another restaurant on campus in September.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the cocktails that you’ll be serving at NEAT.
We’re going to have a broad selection of classic and innovative drinks. We want to strike the right balance between approachable, fun, and quietly edifying where the opportunity presents for our knowledgeable staff. [Kevin later shared some sample “representative” drinks with us:
1) Ford’s Gin, Green Chartreuse, Fresh Lemon Juice, Demerara-Sugar Syrup, Absinthe Rinse, Tarragon Sprig
2) Caña Brava Rum, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Fresh Lime Juice, Fresh Pineapple Juice, Gingerroot, Apple Liqueur
3) Tequila Cabeza, Yellow Chartreuse, Strawberry, Fresh Lemon Juice, Cane-Sugar Simple Syrup, Hellfire Habanero Shrub Bitters
Damn, that’s all we can say!]
We see that you’ll be offering an international portfolio of wine, but we’re wondering about your craft beer selection. What kind of brews will you have?
We’ll have a draft beer system featuring rotating craft-worthy artisanal beers. We’ll be mixing things up and when we stumble on something that we like and we think that the customers will like, we’ll throw it out there. There will be multiple taps, and we’ll also will have cans and bottles available.
Wrapping things up, what are four words that you’d use to describe the new NEAT?
Sophisticated, distinctive, quality-driven, and mindful.
After we talked, Kevin was able to share with us some of the ideas about some of the food that would be served at NEAT. Some of what they have planned are cheeses, salumi, crudités, ramen, roasted and grilled veggies, salads, gourmet grilled cheese, soft pretzels, a variety of crostini, sliced roast beef with horseradish, and something that we’re very excited about: mason jars that are filled to the brim with killer decadent ingredients.
As stated above, NEAT is planning on an August opening which will be followed up with Bobby and Kevin’s new restaurant in the same complex. For now, you’ll just have to get your fix of Espresso NEAT in Darien, but soon you’ll have your caffeine fix and your cocktail buzz going on with some great food thrown into the mix.
6 Wilton Road
Anticipated Opening: Early August
Anticipated Hours: 7 am-12 am