El Condor, an ambitious all-day cafe and coffee shop from a pair of powerhouse restaurant operations and real estate veterans, has opened its doors in the West Village, at 95 Greenwich Avenue, between West 12th and Bank streets.
Former Alain Ducasse operations director Nicolas Simon and real estate broker Mucjon Demiraj — who also run a restaurant consulting firm that counts big-ticket names like cocktail bar Death & Co among its clients — are behind the cafe. El Condor’s coffee program starts with two initial blends, a smooth and slightly sweet Brazilian and Guatemalan mix for the drip coffee, plus a sweeter, low-acid espresso blend. Each of the coffee blends are made with a roaster installed in the basement of the space.
El Condor is in competition with plenty of coffee shops already scattered in the West Village, but Simon, who is French, says that he is aiming for a lighter, sweeter, European-style coffee at El Condor versus more acidic American blends. “We’re really trying to balance the proper acidity with some sweetness, some caramel notes — we really want to do something very round, very soft, and smooth,” Simon says.
For the food, pastry veteran Youssef Aderdour — who previously worked at Australian resorts and flashy Midtown haunts like Zuma and American Cut — oversees a wide-ranging, all-day cafe menu that includes muesli with coconut yogurt and goji berries, a congee with ginger, scallions, and turmeric oil, kumquat preserve spread over toast, and roti with pulled lamb shoulder. Once a liquor license is approved, the team plans to add beer and wine to the drinks menu.
The pair designed the brick-walled, 500-square-foot space with both grab-and-go customers and those who intend to park themselves at the cafe for hours in mind. The 18-seat dining room has an open tab system similar to a bar, and customers can book reservations to claim tables ahead of time for group gatherings.
Simon and Demiraj also say they have prioritized employee benefits in the cafe’s operations. El Condor is a no-tipping establishment where wages start at $20 per hour and there’s a revenue share system. Their goal is to establish a baseline annual pay rate of at least $50,000 for each employee. The focus has paid off: when they were hiring for El Condor, they received 90 applications for 10 to 12 open positions, according to Simon. “As long as you don’t properly take care of people in this business, [the industry is] not going to get any better,” he says.
Simon and Demiraj see El Condor as an extension of their hospitality consulting company Wilcuma, which has guided headlining brands like Death & Co in national expansion plans. The coffee shop, they say, will be a calling card to demonstrate what kind of an operation they can run on their own — and they already have El Condor expansion plans in the works.
The pair initially raised money for the coffee shop through a crowdfunding campaign, where they netted nearly $299,900 from 128 investors. Now that the first shop has gotten off the ground, they’re already eyeing secondary spots elsewhere in NYC as well as locations in Houston, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee. They aim to adapt the shop to fit easily into different setups, like a hotel lobby. It’s not exactly the Blank Street method (the coffee chain known for contorting into cubbyholes of vacant real estate all over NYC) but it allows for expansion without the staggering 10-year lease. “We can plant the flag in another location, if you will, without requiring too much capital,” Simon says.
El Condor is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
El Condor’s food menu:
El Condor’s drinks menu: