At Messenger Coffee Co. + Ibis Bakery, life’s simple pleasures vie for the spotlight.
The high ceilings and open workspaces of the architecturally old-is-new-again building at 1624 Grand Blvd. combine to create a powerful coffee-and-bread buzz.
As baristas grind freshly roasted Messenger Coffee Co. beans and Ibis’ bakers pull fresh-made loaves from the ovens, the notion of hunkering down on a laptop to quietly sip a latte may require hunting for a quiet alcove, heading to the rooftop or bringing along a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
The coffeeshop culture created here has been a huge draw since it opened a few weeks ago,. But the No. 1 question customers are asking when they arrive:
“Do you serve food?”
The menu is built on bread: Loaves of bread are for sale, certainly, but Ibis’ founder, Chris Matsch, hired chef Logan Taylor — an alum of The American, The Local Pig and Room 39 — to create items that honor the crust and crumb of the bakery’s newer grain-focused breads.
“We didn’t want to be a sandwich shop,” Matsch says. “We wanted to do something different and unique.”
The menu starts with Ibis’s famous toast, thick, chewy and spread with luxurious nut butters and jams that seep into all the nooks and crannies. The Crossroads location currently offers two options: seeded bread slathered with sweet cultured butter and an ever-so-slightly puckery housemade Concord jelly or a more savory country bread with green tomato marmalade and crumbles of fresh, soft goat cheese. Toast is $3.50 and available all day.
Toast may be a calling card, but Ibis Bakery has quickly gained a reputation for producing some of Kansas City’s finest breads and pastries. The Lenexa location will continue to focus on breads that use a long-fermented sourdough starter along with what pastry people refer to as “laminated” pastries — many thin layers of dough separated by butter, such as croissants, Danish and galettes.
The new Crossroads bakery will focus on breads made from flours ground from Kansas grains.
Given the size and scope of the new venture, it is worth recalling Ibis’ beginnings: Matsch baked his first loaf of bread just four years ago, recalls his wife and business partner, Kate Matsch. She started slicing and toasting the bread at Black Dog Coffeehouse, a business Chris’ parents own.
A few months later they had pushed the walls of the coffeeshop into a former martial arts academy to create a bakery. Matsch credits his meteoric rise to Fred Spompinato, a bread whisperer who last year retired and sold his Fervere bakery to Ibis. Spompinato’s mentorship has shaved years off the Ibis learning curve.
The Crossroads location adds a new tool to Ibis’ bread baking arsenal: a glass-enclosed mill that customers can watch Kansas wheat and other grains ground into flours. “Fresh-milled flour sort of speaks for itself, and we want that to happen,” Matsch says, so Taylor needed to tread lightly as he set about developing the menu.
For breakfast, he went with tartines, slices of buttered bread with various savory toppings to create an open-face sandwich. The bacon tartine ($10) is standard morning fare, featuring housemade bacon and two over-easy eggs, that when pierced with a fork, spills out a most vivid orange yolk.
Despite starting with a canvas of beige and brown, Taylor manages to give the veggie tartine ($8) vibrant color. He uses a thick, slightly warm layer of butternut squash puree spread over sturdy sesame-seed crusted bread. The puree is topped with frilly wisps of baby kale, candied onion, crumbles of Green Dirt Farm fresh cheese, two over-easy eggs (vegetarians could omit the protein) and garnished with mildly flavored, paper-thin slices of winter radish for texture and color.
Diners interested in going beyond bread can dive into a bowl of Crum’s Heirlooms creamy yet still slightly grainy heirloom polenta ($13) topped with a soft-poached egg ,wisps of country ham and braised greens drizzled with a “red eye” jus. One of the most interesting elements is the dried okra chips, which showcase some of the pickling, fermentiing and canning that will be going on in the kitchen as the seasons cycle.
For lunch, the pastrami tartine ($10) features house-cured pastrami and sauerkraut with Thousand Island dressing and neatly capped with a slice of gruyere cheese. It’s a petite pastrami sandwich, so don’t go looking for a deli-style overload. But it was tasty, and just enough to leave me wanting more.
Farmer’s salads and soup made from local produce will change weekly. In an odd little twist — because Taylor is a “hot sauce guy” — you can order a shot of housemade hot sauce with a nice slow burn for 50 cents to spice up your eggs.
My favorite item on the current lunch menu is the beet hummus ($9), which starts with a base of Kansas-grown chickpeas — who knew they grew in Kansas? — and beets. Triangles of sesame seed bread and a tangle of fermented, pickled and raw carrots, slivers of beets and turnip moons serve as edible utensils to scoop up the puddle of earthy, fuchsia-tinted hummus.
Ibis’ bread-based menu is designed to change based on what’s coming from local farmers, but already the offerings are a lively counterpoint to the rich shades of brown swirling in my gold-embossed Messsenger coffee cup.
Location: 1624 Grand Blvd.
Hours: Breakfast is available all day 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday; lunch items available at 11 a.m.