Espresso Joe’s – Great Music, Nice People, Awesome Food… Oh yeah, the coffee is fantastic, too!

The morning rush has settled down and Felicia McIntosh is using the break after the bustle to tackle a few of the many tasks at hand to make Espresso Joe’s at 50 West Front Street in Keyport. Multi-tasking is key – “There’s not enough hours in the day,” she imparts. The minute I walked in the door, my ritual began. I come here quite often, and they know me here.

Espresso Joe’s credit “Lo” 9 years old

As with many other businesses in this harbor town nestled in the southeast reaches of the Raritan Bay, McIntosh knows her regular clientele and she knows what they like. It’s 9:30 in the morning and I tell her I am a bit hungry. I am disappointed to learn that her now-famous chia-bowl is not available at the moment, a new batch of chia “is brewing right now and will be ready this afternoon.”

I ask her what she has, and she offers up hummus that she made earlier this morning.

The Best Hummus Ever (in the author’s opinion)

“On multigrain toast with tomato and lettuce” she says, and I agree. As usual at Felicia’s Espresso Joe’s café, the ingredients are all non-GMO, organic and farm-fresh which is going to subject my taste buds to a dish that is fresh and flavorful. She does not disappoint, and it hits the spot.

It’s August now, and McIntosh acquired this business in February – the third owner in less than 4 years. In the 6-months since, she has imbued personal touches that have begun to shape the café into a destination for seekers of good coffee, fresh traditional fare, vegan and gluten-free choices, and fantastic music performed by musicians from (very) near and far.

On a Wednesday evening, bring your guitar, poetry book, journal, flute, lute or cajón. The venue is yours for up to 10 mins or so at the open mic. On the weekend, bring your musical sensibilities and enjoy the regular local musicians, some of whom have been performing here for years, and many of whom McIntosh has built relationships with over her life as a local-music aficionada. The variety is notable and intentional, “I like all kinds of music,” she says, adding that the variety meets the varied musical tastes of her customers, too.

Full disclosure, I am biased. Keyport is my town, and some days, Espresso Joes is my office. Indeed, I am writing this sitting in my normal spot next to the Snapple refrigerator on the repurposed church bench with my laptop and coffee. For me, it’s all about the ritual of the patron. Indeed, we establish good relationships with businesses based on the quality of the products that they have to offer, but here at Espresso Joe’s, it’s all about the ritual of the patron – the experience they offer to me every time I walk in. Esspresso Joe’s satisfies my desire to have a familiar place to come to where I can eat, play and, sometimes, work.

My coffee is nearly done, and so is this article. The early afternoon bustle is beginning and Felicia is getting back to business. Someone is deciding what to order to eat, “Try the hummus,” I say, “It was the bomb.”

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