Kos Kaffe opened its first location on 7th avenue in the early 90s, with the second (and current) location opening in 1999, on 5th avenue. The world has changed a lot since they first opened their doors, but the feeling inside Kos Kaffe harkens back to a time before over polished coffee shops and is more like hanging out at a good friend’s apartment that makes great coffee and food.
Kos Kaffe is a quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood coffee shop. It’s also where I currently work as a barista – so don’t expect an unbiased review.
I began working at Kos almost a year ago, and I think it’ll be the last place I’ll ever work as a barista. Is it because it’s the most organized, most coffee-centric, or meticulously perfection seeking coffee shop a person could visit in Brooklyn?
But what does make it special is that when Sarah Huck Azuli or Allon Azulai, the owners and operators of Kos Kaffe, walk around the tables of Kos, it’s like watching the Prom Queen and King walking through the hallways in High School.
Any barista on shift at Kos can tell you who at least fifty percent of the clients are, what they’re working on, and probably a good portion of their life story. And that starts with Allon and Sarah, who you can find regularly reminiscing with customers that have been going there since the Backstreet Boys were chart toppers, and Brooklyn was Brooklyn (say it was a snarl).
Kos Kaffe embodies the attitude of friendliness and home. To start off, Sarah furnished the coffee shop in a way that takes different parts from everyone’s favorite and nostalgic part of Americana and puts them together just right – like serving vanilla ice cream on apple pie.
For example, the marble topped tables in the main seating area are reminiscent of a 1930’s bar in Chicago, where some gangsters would be sipping on whiskey while twirling their mustaches. Or the casually placed plants, and wooden decor, harken back to a 70’s restaurant owned by a hippy, who’s owner would bring a plate of baba ganoush wearing a loosely flowing tie-dyed dress.
It’s the unfortunate reason why there’s a laptop policy in part of the coffee shop, because people don’t ever want to leave!
Even Kos’ Diedrich roaster looks like something from an old carnival that should be popping popcorn or making cotton candy.
But, don’t be fooled, the Diedrich roaster is a powerhouse, and quite honesty the mechanical heart of the coffee shop, pumping freshly roasted coffee beans right into the grinders that we baristas abuse on a daily basis.
Typically Kos has four to five various single origin roasts on hand, the rough burlap sacks encircling the roaster a testament to just how close a person can be to the coffee they’re about to drink.
The main coffee on hand is the Kos Organic House Blend which is a mix of two different single-origin medium roasted organic South American beans, such as Honduran, Guatemalan, Colombian, or Peruvian beans. The House Blend is served as a drip coffee in an actual ceramic mug!
The “novelty” of using ceramic mugs is noticeable enough that customer’s specifically ask for it, even patiently waiting for dirty ones to be cleaned if there’s ever a shortage.
This speaks to Kos’ desire to be as friendly to the wonderful lands that produce the coffee that the shop so proudly serves. It’s a big reason why Organic is so proudly presented with the Kos Blend, but also fits Kos’ overall philosophy – to be closely connected with their customers including caring about them and the neighborhood they all share.
It’s incredible to think that I’ve made it this far through this review without mentioning Kos Kaffe’s food.
Along with having an in-house roaster, a full espresso bar, and a larger than average seating area, Kos Kaffe has a full service kitchen that serves up food that quite frankly is better than a lot of traditional restaurants in the area.
Kos’ secret weapon is owner Sarah, who was a professional chef before overseeing Kos, and has even published two cooking books: Campfire Cookery: Adventures & Curiosities of the Great Outdoors and Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes.
Every item on the menu is popular. Day in and day out there is never a point where any particular item goes for long stretches of not being ordered.
And that’s pretty remarkable.
The food is so popular that there are certain customers that come by and order items like clockwork. There’s a regular that orders a Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwhich every weekend by phone, or one who picks up her daily Lentil Salad.
There’s one woman who goes between the Grilled Cheese Sandwich or the Frittata depending on the day, and the countless others who love the food of Kos Kaffe so much that they eat it everyday without fail.
It’s not a rare occurrence for a customer to return from a long trip and come to the counter to order exclaiming, “I’ve been out of town for a week, and I need my sandwich!”
The menu is a perfect length that allows for simplicity but also a healthy variety as well.
There’s four salads to choose from: Kale, Lentil, Salad with Chicken, and a Market Salad that varies based on seasonal vegetables.
There’s also six sandwiches: Chicken Sandwich, Tofu Bahn Mi, Grilled Cheese, Egg Salad Sandwich, Sabich, Brisket.
A comprehensive breakfast menu that is served all day (unless items run out): Sausage Egg Biscuit, Buckwheat Pancakes, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Granola Bowl, Irish Porridge, Toast, Grapefruit, and a seasonal Fruit Bowl during the warmer New York months.
And of course Brooklyn’s currently most favorite food item: Avocado Toast.
Yes, all of this in a small coffee shop on 5th Avenue and Garfield Street in Brooklyn!
As a staff member, I can attest that Kos’ dedication to it’s customers comes first and foremost. During meetings we’re reminded to make you, the customers, our first priority, and I hope that it’s recognized by each customer that walks through the doors.
It’s why it was so important to include Kos Kaffee, and the coffee they serve, on this website. In many ways it exemplifies many of the reasons why I love the coffee business so much. It’s a place that actually fosters the idea of community, by bringing people together over food and drink, which is a truly beautiful thing in the year 2018.