On March 23, 2020, Patrick and Spencer Clapp could not have been more excited. After a little more than a year of hashing out a business plan that would bring to life their dream of a brick-and-mortar shop for their burgeoning coffee brand Coffeestamp, the brothers' business loan had finally gone through. It had been a long time coming; the pair had worked hard to grow Coffeestamp from the germ of an idea for a specialty coffee company six years ago into a successful roastery that had gained a good following at farmers' markets and specialty grocery stores around town. Finally, they were on the cusp of realizing their full plans.
See all of RFT food critic Cheryl Baehr's restaurant reviews
On that late March day, however, another act of official business was also happening. At 6 p.m. that evening, the City of St. Louis put into place stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, upending all regular business activity in the area in order to combat the virus. Patrick and Spencer could not believe their luck (or lack thereof) — the ink wasn't even dry on their loan documents when the future of their business suddenly seemed to rest on shaky ground. Undeterred, they decided to forge ahead with their plans and threw themselves into the construction of their storefront, figuring that if they failed in their Coffeestamp plans at least they would be able to get a rent discount for their efforts out of the deal.
Now, a year and a half later, the brothers have been able to put those worries about failure aside. The Coffeestamp storefront was not only able to weather the shutdown and other pandemic-related challenges — it has thrived in the midst of them as a beloved cafe patronized by its Fox Park neighbors, as well as anyone in search of a conscientiously sourced cup of joe and thoughtful, Honduran-inflected cuisine.
Coffeestamp's reception by the community validated the Clapp brothers' long-standing notion that there was both room and need for their voices in the specialty coffee industry. Ever since they were growing up in Honduras, in the shadow of the country's coffee farms near La Tigra National Park, the brewed beverage had been a part of their lives. Not only did they enjoy great coffee at home with their mom, they had many friends in the industry, so they got to see firsthand what it was like to work on the grower and picker side of the coffee trade. When a couple of those childhood friends started their own coffee exporting business about six years ago, the idea to help them on the importing and roasting side began to percolate within the brothers.
Though at the time Patrick and Spencer were working in the construction business by day, they dove headfirst into researching the specialty coffee industry in the hopes of launching a small-scale operation. In 2018, they bought a small commercial roaster and began roasting their friends' coffee under the name Coffeestamp, selling their wares directly to customers at local farmers' markets. The response was so positive the brothers began work on their brick-and-mortar idea, pushing forward even in the midst of the pandemic because they knew they were onto something special.
In August of last year, the Clapp brothers finally got to show off what they were up to when they opened the doors to the Coffeestamp storefront. Located on Jefferson Avenue just north of Gravois, the small cafe has a quintessential coffee-shop vibe; bags of whole beans and coffee-brewing supplies sit on wooden shelves against exposed brick walls, while burlap bean bags and plants decorate the rest of the space. An order counter, pastry case and espresso machine sit at the back of the small room, and a few tables, booths and window seating round out the eat-in dining room.
Though Coffeestamp got its start as a coffee roaster — and the various brewed beverages are indeed delicious and worth a visit in their own right — the cafe stands out because of its excellent food menu that has grown over time. Though not limited to strictly Honduran cuisine, the menu takes it as a jumping-off point with dishes like empanadas, which are filled with everything from bacon, scrambled egg and white cheddar for a breakfast-inspired offering to the Pino, which features warmly spiced ground beef and olives that infuse the meat with a mouthwatering, briny flavor. However, the most thrilling version is the Napolitana, a cherry tomato, mozzarella and basil wonder that tastes like the Rolls Royce of pizza rolls. It's a thing of beauty.
Coffeestamp offers two different burritos: the AM, stuffed with scrambled eggs, bell peppers, cheese and (optional) ham, or the PM, which features roasted chicken, baked beans, cheese, tomatoes and arugula. Both are exactly what you want for that particular style: overstuffed, well seasoned and wrapped in a delicate tortilla that gets just a hint of crispiness from being pressed.
The Mayan Tortilla is a magnificent hybrid of a quesadilla and tostada. Here, creamy, well-seasoned refried red beans and molten cheese are sandwiched between two corn tortillas. Piquant tomato salsa and slices of avocado adorn this magnificent concoction. The grilled cheese is another gooey wonder, a blend of mozzarella, swiss, cheddar and cream cheese that makes you wonder why on earth no one regularly puts the latter on a traditional grilled cheese. After eating Coffeestamp's version, you may never again want one without this luscious addition.
Those who have lamented the lack of a proper Cuban sandwich in St. Louis need look no further than Coffeestamp. The restaurant, hands down, has the best version in town — a mélange of roast pork and warm ham, both so succulent that their juices mix together to form a stunning meaty jus. Swiss and mayo add richness, while a generous garnish of pickle slices cuts through the decadence. Then there's the bread — a wonderful Cuban-style, hoagie-shaped roll grilled on a panini press so that it develops just a bit of char and crispness. It's flawless.
That Cubano is a tough act to follow, but the Choripan is up to the challenge. This glorious sausage sandwich is like if the best hot dog of your life took tango lessons in a Buenos Aires dance studio. For this masterpiece, three halved pieces of snappy chorizo are grilled, then placed into a pillow-soft, mayonnaise-slicked bun and topped with a mixture of chopped white onions, cilantro and chimichurri sauce. Rich and verdant at the same time, this sandwich is a masterpiece.
It's easy to get so mesmerized by the food that you forget the reason Coffeestamp exists in the first place is to be a source of ethical, specialty coffee in town. That it has done that, but also set the bar so high with their food, makes this a wonderful addition to the city's food scene — and proof that when you are on the path to something special, no amount of setbacks can keep you from making it happen.
2511 South Jefferson Avenue, 314-797-8113.
Mon.-Sun. 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Burrito AM $6.
We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]