The new Iconik location on Guadalupe Street—affectionately referred to by its staff as Lupe—is housed in an old building directly opposite from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Agua Fría.
To stumble across its quiet patio, tucked away behind an adobe wall made taller by stylized art deco ironwork, feels like discovering some new secret garden hidden away in the Railyard. Layers of paint have been stripped off the exposed brick of the outer walls and steps, which are lined with repurposed planters replete with flowers and herbs. True to Iconik's classic sense of form, the new location features a bold black and white graphic mural of an angel painted by local artist Autry Macias, who designed the original double-headed griffin logo for the ever-expanding coffee company's brand. It all fits seamlessly with the vintage tinged aesthetic of the Lena Street shop, which mashes up mid-century modern furniture and decor with borrowed touches from the industrial revolution.
However, Lupe features more art nouveau influences; a natural outgrowth of the history of the building, which dates to 1926. The open kitchen mirrors the original location's layout as well, encouraging a kind of familiar view of the front and back of the house. The structure, which tops out at 8,300 square feet and is a former school operated by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe (and, after that, Bert's La Taquería), is being developed by Ted Harrison, founder and president of the nonprofit Commonweal Conservancy. He envisions a project called Common Ground, which aims to be a social hub of the Railyard and includes a new downtown location for midtown yoga studio YogaSource.
Drawing upon the wealth of local creative talent, longtime customers were called upon to help out. Woodworker Michael May and welder Alex Barrett assisted with interior design. Seating arrangements range from antique chaise lounges from the 1920s to a communal table with a planter full of calla lilies built across its center, to a counter lined with metal chairs. The art deco touches are evident in the antique light fixtures, and in the old 1920s-era double sink in the men's restroom. There are even artfully distressed church pews lining the western wall of the interior.
Never let it be said that Iconik lacks for intentionally designed, thematic unity—in fact, most of the decor was sourced by the company's own baristas on a company-sponsored antiquing road trip through Texas. "We like to encourage our employees to do things that are out of the ordinary," says Sean Ham, a former art preparator turned computer consultant who took over from Todd Spitzer and Darren Berry in July of 2015, and now shares ownership with Lena Street Lofts. In addition to incorporating his employees into the world-building of the new café, he frequently takes them on destination trips all over the coffee-growing world. "Our motto is, from seed to cup, everything matters," Ham says. "Obviously that refers to the farming and processing of the bean and being conscientious of that, but it also extends to what to expect when you come to Iconik."
Trips around the world provided culinary inspiration as well. Lupe's menu was designed by Chef Mario Rascon of the Lena Street location, but features an entirely new lineup of smoothies, toasts and salads. The avo-pineapple smoothie ($7), which includes pineapple, avocado, banana and spinach, was inspired by the food available at a hostel in Santa Cruz de Atitlan, Guatemala, called La Iguana Perdita. An unusual combination of flavors to be sure, but the smoothie itself makes for a refreshing treat on a hot summer day.
I also sampled the Egyptian dukkah ($6.50), a toast topped with avocado and tomato and seasoned with a blend of nuts, seeds and spices. It was earthy and spicy, and I'm intrigued to see how the menu continues to evolve over time, given Iconik's far reaching range of influences.
And there's no lack of delicious coffee on the menu, prepared through an under-the-counter Modbar pour-over system, which yields a pour-over style cup of coffee in the time it takes to brew a shot of espresso. "Because of the method of extraction, which is really low-pressure and low-temperature, I can make an entire cup of coffee with more extraction much faster without touching it, so I'm free to pay attention to customers," says manager Chase Stafford. The resulting coffee is flavorful but served much hotter than a typical pour-over. The new location also plans to host open mic nights and musical events.
Two blocks from Collected Works Bookstore downtown—another location where the growing chain has staked a claim—doesn't seem that far, but in the coffee shop industry, two blocks can amount to a whole other world. If Santa Fe can support two Starbucks within a few blocks of each other on San Francisco street, it can definitely make space for a locally owned, independent coffee roaster situated on opposite ends of the Railyard district—not to mention the Collected Works location as well.
314 S Guadalupe St. (enter on Agua Fría St.), 428-0996
8 am-1 pm daily (with plans to extend to 7 am-7 pm in the coming weeks)