Yet another cafe has opened up on the northern side of the Railyard, but it's a happy side effect to the explosion of growth and development that is taking place on this side of town. The burgeoning art, entertainment and business district is now home to a multitude of exciting projects. New Mexico School for the Arts, an arts charter school taking over the former Sanbusco Center, broke ground on its new dorm project not five days after Lion & Honey, a colorful café that serves up boba tea, nitro coffee from Illy and bubble waffles, opened its doors.
Owner Grant Kosh converted his arts space, formerly Gerard Vachez Gallery, to a coffee shop that still displays his artwork— black and white airbrush paintings and prints of celebrity portraits—on the walls. This adds cultural stimulation to consuming the fun munchies and treats he offers behind the bar. The decor is a trippy, multicolored rainbow of candy jars, pops of neon and spoof cereal boxes with names like "Frosted Fat Explosion" designed by artist Ron English.
When it comes to cereal, Kosh tells me that after his official opening (only the soft opening had taken place when we spoke) he plans to offer bowls of cereal for $2.50 on Saturday mornings while he plays vintage cartoons on the TV. Bags of gummy bears and little vials of CBD are also for sale, alongside a spectrum of merch and house-branded CBD infused-products.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabis-derived product that relieves anxiety and pain by targeting the brain and central nervous system, but doesn't contain any psychoactive ingredients, and thus doesn't get you high. Its presence in the wares of Lion & Honey reinforces the notion that this is not your typical coffee shop. There's definitely an added edge to the color and light-heartedness that teasingly calls to mind other substances besides coffee, but none of it is over-the-top or in-your-face.
Pastries on offer are from Clafoutis ($2), along with house-made bubble waffles—a style of Hong Kong street food, also known as egg cakes, which have lacy edges and soft, chewy bubbles of dough instead of the traditional lattice-shaped style of waffle. They range in price from $6.50 to $8.50, depending on your choice of toppings, which have Willy Wonka-inspired names like "Augustus Gloop." You can get them with blueberries, lemon curd, or Nutella and banana. They are also gluten-free, and all of the dairy used in-house is organic.
Kosh also went for a soft-serve machine that offers vanilla, chocolate or a swirl ($3 for a small, $5 for a large), or you can get an orange cream, a root beer float, or an affogato made with the Illy-based nitro coffee on tap (all for $5). The nitro coffee comes in two flavors, Vader (dark roast) and Storm Trooper (medium roast) and, in keeping with the candy-colored aesthetic, you can also get it topped with toasted marshmallows. You can even try a "fizzy lifting drink," the house-made version of an Italian cream soda, which comes in a variety of more conventional flavors, made with organic cream ($2.75). Boba tea ($6) comes in flavors like PG tips, matcha and Thai tea, any of which can come with a shot of CBD for an extra $3.
I picked up a light purple "Talia's Taro" boba tea and the "Veruca's Schnozberry," a blueberry and lemon curd bubble waffle. The waffle was the right mix of crispy edges and half-hollow, fluffy honeycombs, and the tea was a light purple, semi-sweet confection. Together, they called to mind indulgent street food but didn't push me over the edge. I tried a shot of nitrogen-infused cold brew that poured like Guinness and tasted cool and creamy.
I'd have to be in the right mood to hang out in the space for a long period of time, though, with its declarative decor and rock 'n' roll-themed artwork, but it was easy enough to spend an hour picking over the art-themed coffee table books littering the tables and chairs. The cafe is still new, and obviously small in scale, but considering the aim of the food is to conjure up Hong Kong street offerings (in that it's almost junk food-themed), and street food in general tends to hinge on the efforts of one person, it doesn't feel out of place.
Once school is in session for New Mexico School for the Arts, the place will probably take off, but, in the meantime, Lion & Honey is a fairly exciting little café for pretty much anyone.
Lion & Honey
418 Montezuma Ave., Ste. B,