Struggling actors used to wait tables to pay the bills. These days, they open coffee shops. First came Jack’s Stir-Brew, the homespun, four-table nook where Jack Mazzola fends off ever-encroaching Starbucks with Fair Trade beans, organic apples, and a conspicuously neighborhood-friendly vibe. And then late last month, Craig Walker, an avowed Jack’s fan, followed suit with Local, an equally pint-size nook with a similarly enlightened approach to sourcing beans and fostering community.
Walker and his wife and partner, Elizabeth, have lived around the corner from their shop for almost two decades, and folks who don’t recognize him from his part-time barista gig at the nearby branch of Porto Rico know his face from the Law & Order franchise, where, he tells us, “My body count this year is thirteen.” Walker takes the coffee shop’s name to heart, procuring his beans from a Massachusetts micro-roaster and his food mostly from shops within a two-block radius: The olive rolls come from Grandaisy (formerly Sullivan Street) Bakery, the mozzarella from Joe’s Dairy, the ham from Pino Prime Meats across the street. The menu (the full version of which we’ve dropped into our database) includes Greenmarket apple-cider doughnuts and pressed sandwiches on Parisi semolina bread, with a tasty Feta and green pepper with oregano and olive oil, inspired by a trip to Salonika. As for the major players in the coffee industry who only buy a tiny percentage of Fair Trade beans for appearance’s sake, “It’s like punching a nun in the face and going to church on the weekends,” says Walker. Or is that just the plot of an upcoming SVU? — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld
Local, 144 Sullivan St., nr. Houston St.; 212-253-2601.