Restaurants / Openings

Top Coffee Shop Moves Into New Downtown Tower, Looks to Transform the Houston Tunnels’ Caffeine Scene

It’s Getting Much Cooler Underground

BY // 12.05.18

For Boomtown Coffee, it’s the tunnels or bust. The independent Heights and Downtown coffee shop is expanding in a major way — with an outpost in the upcoming chef-driven food hall Understory, located in the atrium of the new Capitol Tower.

Opening this summer, Understory already had a lot of buzz before the cups of Joe came into play. It’s slated for a full-service restaurant, seven food stands, including East Hampton Sandwich Co., Mama Ninfa’s Tacos y Tortas, and a full cocktail bar.

But that’s only one side of the beverage coin. Now, the food hall is in for some serious caffeine. Think a coffee program with beans from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Kenya, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia, and coconut and almond milk galore.

The new Capitol Tower’s tunnels connection was a major draw to Boomtown CEO Andrew Loreman. The former Gensler employee is no stranger to the tunnels’ currently limited dining options.

Loreman sits at Boomtown’s Main Street location, which is bustling at 10 am. Baristas sling lattes, hover around the espresso machine and call out names — with orders like the Mayan Mocha and Milk and Honey Latte.

Boomtown’s CEO is sipping on a Milk and Honey, topped off with a creamy heart. “Milk and Honey is my daily order, it’s just a latte with honey and cinnamon. It’s also our No. 1 selling latte,” Loreman laughs.

The coffee addict wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes the classic choice at Understory. It’s the kind of drink workers in the area just won’t find at Starbucks — like The Spectre with espresso, milk, cinnamon and agave, or the Sea Turtle with espresso, milk, dark chocolate and caramel.

“I complained forever working Downtown that there’s just not that many original concepts in the tunnels. It’s almost all chains,” Loreman says. He’s thinking a little less corporate empire, a little more local.

“I think the takeaway from the tunnel location is just that people realize that there is something better than Starbucks or what they’re used to,” Loreman says. “We’re hoping that being in a central location Downtown, we can convince some people to change.”

There’s also something compelling about the chance to spread the true quality coffee gospel.

“I think it’s going to be a game-changer in the tunnels. We found here at this location that a lot of people Downtown actually are a more suburban population. It’s almost all people that live outside the Loop and I think the tunnels, even more so,” Loreman says.

“I think it’s kind of perfect for us because our goal is always to serve the highest quality product possible, but also make it approachable to people who maybe aren’t already familiar with specialty coffee.

“We’re excited to be able to hit the masses a little more.”

Open Spaces

The majority of Boomtown’s Main Street and 19th Street coffee menu will be on the table at this new Boomtown, with maybe slightly less slow-brew pour-overs. “The coffee menu is going to be as identical as possible to this (Main Street) location,” Loreman says.

The 300-square-foot Understory space won’t have a kitchen, but you can expect handmade pastries and baked goods from Boomtown’s commissary. But a fresh, flaky croissant is just one part of the equation.

“In general, what we hope is that someone walks away not just remembering the cup they had, but also just the experience overall, the interaction with the barista or the cashier or the bartender,” Loreman says. “That’s what we say all the time — we’re a customer service organization that serves coffee.”

boomtown croissants
You can still expect handmade pastries and baked goods at the new Boomtown.

Boomtown’s tackling it a whole new way with this unique new setup.

“We don’t have a roof above us for 35 feet, it’s in this big open space. It’s great because you can actually walk by on the street and look down and see Boomtown,” Loreman says.

“It’s kind of exciting for us to kind of live in both worlds — street level and tunnel.”

Boomtown’s ready to perk up Houston’s underground.

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