SouthFlorida.com
Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!

Review: A beautiful reawakening at Revenant Coffee House in Fort Lauderdale

 

★★★

Coffee lovers, rejoice. There is a revival brewing inside a Fort Lauderdale furniture store, of all places. When Matias Jurgeit, co-founder of the Alchemist in Wilton Manors, left the highly regarded cafe last year after a falling out with his business partner, he went to work on a bold new venture. Revenant Coffee House and Eatery opened in April. It is a caffeinated flight of pure imagination, carved from a side room of Cargo Furniture and a parking lot converted into an outdoor dining area overlooking the Middle River.

Jurgeit was offered space inside Cargo Furniture by Eric Eife, the store owner who was a fan and Alchemist customer. Like the Alchemist, the Revenant is hard to find. The paper sign taped to Cargo’s front window that announced its existence in the early weeks is gone, replaced by a more permanent etching. The Revenant is around the corner from the Egg & You diner, a block west of North Federal Highway and at the end of a row of shops that juts north of Northeast 26th Street. A word of warning: Do not park in the Egg & You lot unless you enjoy trips to the tow yard.

Inside, the Revenant has an ordering counter and small kitchen where Jurgeit and his crew brew coffees and teas and assemble light breakfasts and lunches. Customers sit at wooden tables and chairs that are also offered for sale. Outside, things are more rustic and scenic, with uncovered tables and benches and a hydroponic garden where Jurgeit grows tomatoes and herbs. Orchid plants are everywhere.

Jurgeit, an Argentinean-born former model and actor with ponytailed hair, blue eyes and rugged good looks, has built the waterfront deck of his dreams. He roasts coffee beans outside. He built a wood-fired grill and hopes to soon offer Argentinean-style meats. He trekked to a friend’s property in northern Georgia to dig the red clay for the dome-shaped oven he made with his own hands.

Every morning, rain or shine, his crew bakes fresh pastries, naan and chewy chapa rolls. Dealing with the vagaries of heat, humidity and moisture can be challenging. “It’s crazy,” Jurgeit says. “In the middle of the night when I hear thunder or rain, I go, ‘Oh, s---.’ But that’s all part of the show. What did man do 2,000 years ago? They dealt with the elements. I’m pushing the boundaries.”

The clay oven gets as hot as 700 degrees, but the variance in conditions requires adjustments on the fly. Jurgeit and his baker seem to be getting the hang of things. On my first visit in May, the pastries and breads were inconsistent. Some were light and flaky, others dense and doughy. On my second visit in June, things were better.

The breakfast chapa ($8) is a winner, a hefty roll with a fried egg, bacon, ham, cheddar cheese, avocado and arugula. The BLT chapa ($6) also is satisfying, with iceberg lettuce, tomato and jarred mayonnaise. The breakfast menu also features a berry-yogurt parfait with brown sugar ($5), served in a Mason jar. It’s creamy and sweet.

Pastry offerings include the pasta flora ($4), a crumbly and dry rectangle filled with quince and guava; the margarita ($4) a flaky, heart-shaped confection with a lemon and guava center; and the Sacramento ($4), which looks like a stubby torpedo roll, stuffed with dulce de leche and topped with powdered sugar. I also enjoyed the long, flaky and sugary factura ($2), which resembles a breadstick.

Jurgeit says he will add more lunch offerings, which for now are limited to salads and a simple but delicious avocado flatbread ($12). Housemade naan is topped with pesto, Hass avocados, onions, cilantro and extra-virgin olive oil.

The coffee is very good. Jurgeit is using the same syphon-brewed method as he did before, which makes for a lighter and more aromatic cup of coffee, and he uses high-quality beans from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Burundi. Some things will be familiar to Alchemist customers, including a Turkish-style cold brew shaken with brown sugar, whole milk and sweetened condensed milk, called Spirit of the Revenant ($4), and the Eternal Reverent ($5), Turkish-style coffee blended with grass-fed butter and organic coconut oil.

There are some creative new twists, including the Expression ($4), an espresso infused with sugar and house-grown rosemary. Jurgeit will also make the Expression American style ($5), in a taller cup without the sugar. The flavor profile of coffee with rosemary works wonderfully. In the espresso drink, it doesn’t hit until the back end. But in the American version, it hits on the nose and up front, and drinks almost like a tea. Who knew herbal coffee could become a thing?

“Everything is up here,” Jurgeit says, pointing to his head.

My biggest quibble was the serving vessels. Coffee this good deserves better than paper and plastic cups. I’ve seen Instagram photos with coffee in Mason jars, but they were nowhere to be found on my two visits.

Coffee is the specialty, but Revenant serves other fun beverage items, including the coco frio ($5), a chilled coconut with a straw inserted into a fresh-drilled hole; steamed coconut milk with housegrown Thai basil ($5); and ginger beer on tap ($5).

Jurgeit learned about roasting and brewing coffee during the three years he spent in Mexico acting in telenovelas. He was brought to Miami by Univision, and appeared in a reality show before his acting career sputtered. He got into the restaurant business in South Beach, starting as a busser and ending up a mixologist. After a nasty divorce, he began brewing coffee. He and his former business partner started with a small stand at the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, then sold coffee in Miami’s Design District before they launched the Alchemist in 2014.

The split left a bitter taste, Jurgeit says, because he only had a handshake agreement and didn’t formalize an equity stake. He says it cost $80,000 to open the Revenant.

He almost named his new coffeehouse the Phoenix, and the official corporate name is the Phoenix Mythology LLC. “As in rising from the ashes,” Jurgeit says. But he ended up going with the Revenant, a French word that means “one who returns after a long absence, or from the dead.”

“I’m a survivor,” Jurgeit says.

As word of mouth spreads and its reputation grows, the Revenant should not only survive but thrive.

The Revenant Coffee House and Eatery

2301 NE 26th St., Fort Lauderdale

954-947-7509 or TheRevenantCoffee.com

Cuisine: Cafe with pastries, sandwiches and salads

Cost: Inexpensive. Pastries cost $5, sandwiches and flatbreads $6 to $12, salads $7 to $14. Drinks $3 to $6.

Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Reservations: No

Credit cards: All major

Bar: No

Outdoor smoking: No

Wheelchair access: Ground level, gravel outdoor area

Parking: Metered street, do not park in the Egg & You lot or you will be towed.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

Copyright © 2017, South Florida
68°