Salt and Honey Bakery Cafe, El Paso, TX
801 N Piedras St #6, El Paso, TX 79903, USA
People often ask me what I love so much about coffee shops. The natural answer? Coffee. I mean duh, right? So assuming we move past the obvious liquid goodness that we all love so much, there are close 'seconds.' My next favorite thing is certainly the people. But really close behind that would be the coffee shops ambience, or shall we call it, the vibe. The vibe of a coffee shop can make such a difference. It can make a good coffee taste and feel (yes, feel) even better. A rude barista or commercial-ish shop can also make decent coffee a little more 'meh.'
The vibe at Salt and Honey Cafe was ahhhmazing.
Before leaving El Paso to start our three hour drive to the Trinity Site - where the first nuclear bomb was tested - the hubby and I wanted to grab a yummy breakfast AND coffee. I Googled best breakfast places in El Paso and found Salt and Honey Cafe. I was expecting good food, but I was taken aback by the fabulous (and unique) breakfast items, delicious coffee and truly one-of-a-kind store design. This one took me by complete surprise and I'm fortunate that I was able to get in touch with the architect and designer, Rida from Root Architects, to get the inside scoop on how this beautiful place was designed.
Before I dive into the design, let's talk about coffee. Peep the coffee menu above - it's a shortened version of their full menu, which you can check out below. Salt and Honey brews 2Ten Coffee, a roaster local right there in El Paso (check out the last blog post to find out more about 2Ten) and they've got quite the coffee menu. I was fascinated by the Arabian Nights (Turkish coffee) and Sydney Cider (vanilla ice-cream + cold brew & topped with whipped cream). However, I couldn't resist trying their namesake latte - THE Salt and Honey Latte. And there are no regrets here, friends! I normally find sugar lattes overwhelming. If I order them, I take three sips and I'm done. This happens every Fall when I THINK I want a pumpkin spice latte. However, the honey flavor in this was very subtle. I'll be honest - I didn't pick up too much of the 'salt', but it's probably a good thing that the saltiness was a little muted.
And the food. Oh my goodness the food. If you're experiencing food envy by the above, then you can join my husband's club. He ordered 'The Londoner' because you know... big growing man needs a big growing man breakfast. But, I ordered the East Coast Bagel and squealed when it came out because it just looked so dang pretty! An everything bagel, cream cheese, arugula, capers, onions, tomato, sprouts and beet-soaked salmon. Every bite was a delight and though my hubby did enjoy his hearty meal, he admitted that I may have 'won' on the food front.
Okay, finally we get to talk about the design!
The first question I asked Rida: was there an original component to the shop that served as your focal point?
Rida: 'This project changed a lot due to the existing building conditions. We found during demolition that the original brick, concrete columns, and mosaic tile were all salvageable so we decided to make them the focal point of the design. We also took into consideration the corner location and chose a color scheme that would not only be vibrant during the day, but provide a nice warm glow welcome mat to the neighborhood. We tried to pick furniture and lighting to tie it all together.'
I was in-love (no exaggeration) with the honeycomb tile and beautiful original red brick walls (reference first photo). Just look at this place. It's an Instagrammer's paradise. If you check out the second photo, you'll see the color scheme. Warm blue on the walls and soft blue on the chairs. Light wooden chevron tables compliment the chevron flooring on the other side of the store, adjacent to the honeycomb tile. With vintage light fixtures, a soft camel brown leather couch, old-fashioned colored glass reading lamps, Rida has certainly achieved a glow. I had to ask him: was it difficult to line the chevron wood up to the honeycomb tile?
Rida: 'Oh yeah. I draw pictures, I don't know how people build stuff to look like the pictures. The problem with old buildings is that nothing is square, which makes detailing impossible. The guys from Cumbre Construction did a good job.'
I don't know how they did it, but I was impressed just looking at it. I had a hard time picking out my favorite element in the shop, but I naturally had to ask him: did you have a favorite part of designing the shop? Perhaps, a favorite element?
Rida: 'I like thresholds and contrast. That's why I became an architect. There is something beautiful about bringing new and old elements together and re-purposing a space. I love looking at three details in that place: 1) where the new metal windows meet the brick 2) where the new chevron floor tile meets the vintage penny column 3) and my favorite, the concrete column in the middle of the dining room surrounded by new floors and furniture.'
Rida: I like the column becasue she spent her whole life covered up, and we got to expose her. You can see all the little cracks and chips, old writing and construction dimensions all over her face. It just makes me smile every time. And yes... the column is a she.'
As soon as I read his bit about making 'new and old' come together, I literally said 'YASS!' out loud. It takes real talent and a good eye in order to bring together original, vintage items with new and modern design elements. It's done so well here with the original red brick and penny column. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo which gives you a clear view of the penny column, but you can catch a glimpse on the right edge of the photo above (and on the left edge of the third photo of the coffee counter). Also, adore that the column is indeed a SHE. Makes since right since she's named 'Penny' after all, yeah? I haven't met Rida in person, but I think we'd be good friends :)
Oh and one last, very important detail.
The owner didn't pay Rida a cent for all this hard work.
Surprised? I was too until I found out that Rida is the owner's brother. Isn't that amazing!? Throughout the entire process, Rida knew what his sister wanted, even if his sister was unsure herself. Rida delighted in the opportunity to build his sister the restaurant of her dreams. As Rida says, even though his sister once tried selling him when they were kids (*haha*), she seems 'pretty happy' with the results.
I'm sure 'pretty happy' is a vast understatement. I'm certain she is elated and extremely grateful
Rida, Salt and Honey Cafe is one of a kind! I can't wait for even more people to read your design story, visit your shop and rave all about it. I'm already eager to come back for a visit!