The first time walking into a new coffee shop is a special moment. A fresh chance to slip away from a busy day, try a new blend and most importantly, meet the staff and locals who make the shop what it is. You’ll find BANTER, a new Australian café, tucked away on a quiet street in New York’s Greenwich Village, the perfect hideaway to step inside, find a seat by the window, and let the hours pass by. BANTER itself is just that – a space that fosters conversation and community – a home away from home – your new local.
What prompted you guys to make the leap to open BANTER?
Nick Duckworth: I started working and managing bars in Sydney ever since I finished high school. I didn't take the usual path of going straight to university and going for an office job, I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, and I always knew my passion for hospitality would one day let me do this. I moved to New York with the desire to work in the hospitality industry. New York is a global hub for hospitality with some of the finest and most amazing culinary and dining experiences. I wanted to use the city to grow my own skills and leverage its constant inspiration to help develop the vision for my very own restaurant. All of these goals somehow aligned once I met Josh.
Josh and myself both met whilst managing another Australian inspired restaurant - Two Hands. There was a point in time where Two Hands was expanding to a new location in Tribeca, and we were left to run the place on our own. It made us realize how well we worked together and I knew it was the perfect opportunity to create something special with him.
Josh Evans: I was a Construction Manager/Project Manager for five years in Melbourne but to be honest, I didn’t like going to work in a suit everyday sitting in front of a computer. I still remember in November 2014, my fiancé Claire and I were watching the previews to a movie and I told her that I wanted to start a café in NYC. She laughed and brushed it off. She soon realized I was pretty serious when I started taking coffee courses. Eventually I quit my Project Management career and was back in hospitality full time.
My fiancé and I loved going out in Melbourne which is arguably the hospitality hub of the world - so much to see, eat and drink. They are miles ahead of every other city in the world.
My dream was always to start a neighborhood cafe that no one else was doing in the area. NYC is a very busy city and space is a luxury. Nick and I were looking for a unique space with a very particular criteria, including the need for a wide frontage. At the Sullivan Street location, we have a restaurant that is 30ft wide with beautiful old bi-folding doors that open up onto the porch area.
Nick and I both have similar personalities with different strengths that really compliment BANTER. We have a great balance between having a good time at work but getting the job done efficiently. I still remember meeting Nick on the first day we worked together – he was 10kgs heavier with no facial hair and he looked 10 years younger! We were both very interested in starting a business so we met up at La Colombe for our first meeting and we’ve both never looked back.
We love the design of your café – what inspired it?
ND: Encapsulating the essence of the Australian spirit and culture, BANTER's vision is to provide our customers with the unique character and humor of the Australian culture, coupled with superior knowledge of our product and personalized customer service. We are a fusion between Scandinavian style and a converted warehouse apartment. The focus is on a color palette of blue/grey’s, emerald green and duck egg blue. Wood is heavily featured in the café’s look, with a variety of ply and pine found throughout the restaurant.
What steps did you take to open BANTER?
ND: BANTER has been something we have been planning for over a year now. We have been tweaking our concept for the past 12 months to incorporate a unique Australian café experience, right in the heart of Manhattan. Josh used to come sit at Two Hands whilst I was working, and we would constantly be throwing ideas back and forth as to how we should present Banter to the public. We had been searching for the right space for a long time, and once we came across the wide frontage at Sullivan Street, with the open glass doors and outdoor patio, it was a space we couldn’t refuse. It fit our concept perfectly, and Greenwich Village is a great fit for BANTER.
We’ve been casually stalking your menu. What inspired the fares?
JE: The menu was created by myself, Nick and my fiancé Claire Weller. We all combined our past experiences within kitchens, to create a menu that will appeal to all with a distinctly Australian flavor. We were inspired by the Australian café scene in Sydney and Melbourne (I hail from Melbourne and Nick from Sydney) and wanted to bring that flavor to our own space in New York.
The menu is based around providing fresh and tasty ingredients that can create a good and healthy meal, yet there will are other options on the menu for those who enjoy a little treat to kick start their day! Our theory is if it’s tasty – get it on the menu. Nick and I (and our staff) have to enjoy everything on the menu so we can confidentially recommend the right choice to our customers.
ND: Our menu is super exciting and customers are absolutely loving it. It is well balanced between savory versus sweet, breakfast versus lunch, healthy versus non-healthy. Each item can be ordered at any time of the day, if someone feels like a salad or a pulled pork baguette for breakfast…they should be able to order it! Vice versa when someone feels like breakfast for dinner.
What should someone order on their first visit? Any favorites?
ND: Josh’s personal favorite is the Pulled Pork Baguette. We slow cook the pork shoulder for eight hours. It’s been a serious hit so far. And our Avocado Toast is stacked high. Avocado Toast is not to be spread across the toast. We take care with our presentation and each and every ingredient that goes on each dish. Stacking high is key!
How would you say the NYC coffee scene differs from Sydney or Melbourne?
ND: The volumes at which cafés operate here are much larger than back home. This calls for us to be able to provide the exact same high quality products, whilst keeping up the greater demand. Our flexibility in the industry and ability to work in all areas of the restaurant, allow for us to do so.
JE: New York is an amazing city and its fast-paced nature is something that certainly drives that, but with that being said, everyone needs to take a break here and there and live in the moment.
Traditional cafés aren’t like that, it’s in and out, your coffees aren’t made beautifully because no one has the time to sit back and enjoy them. Cafés back home in Australia are an experience. People use them to escape, relax, kick back and just enjoy life. The Australian cafés here offer that same escape, where you can hit pause of your busy day and enjoy a New York minute with music, food and atmosphere that can transport you to anywhere you want to be.
As young restauranteurs, what would you say has been the biggest hurdle in opening a new café?
ND: We always had a strong belief behind the concept of BANTER and what we had to offer. Although we are both quite young, our past experiences have allowed for us to create an experience for the customer, from the minute they walk, to the last sip of their coffee. Many told us we were too young to properly operate a café, particularly in New York City. However, we believe our unique Australian food and coffee experience will speak for itself and show that BANTER isn’t just another regular café on the block!
Can you tell us the meaning behind your philosophy?
JE: Our key focus with BANTER was to create a fun environment for not only our customers but also our staff. It’s so important to Nick and I that our staff are enjoying the work place. We believe happy staff create a natural environment that makes BANTER a very comfortable place to sit at and chill out as a customer.
ND: BANTER is conversation. We wanted to create a space where people can meet over a good Australian-inspired coffee and meal and continue the conversations they had from the last time they visited BANTER. We wanted a space where people could feel at home, as if they were walking into the house of their best friend, family or their own. BANTER in its own right is conversation, but it’s more than that. It’s comfort, enjoyment, fun. It’s something that you do naturally with everyone around you, and something that can only be done with a giant smile across your face.
169 Sullivan Street
New York, NY — 10012