This winter, when we heard a Breaking Bad-inspired café, Walter’s, would open in Brooklyn sometime this summer, we thought: that is hilarious! But also, maybe cool? And, finally, it sorta makes sense, because both coffee and watching Breaking Bad are addictive. As is, of course, meth, one of the show’s main characters. And yet, when we saw the hazmat suits and blue rock candy featured in the first Walter’s in Istanbul, we couldn’t not be skeptical: could this café, so cartoonishly themed, stand up to Brooklyn’s no nonsense judgers?
The answer, we think, is: yes. Because we went to visit last Thursday—its first day of business in Bushwick—and Michael “Panda” Fernandez (a large tattoo of the animal takes up much of one forearm), Walter’s Head of Coffee and Shop Manager, made a point to clarify, “We’re not themed—it’s an ‘inspired by’ kind of deal.”
And, we found, his claim checks out. Predominantly, Walter’s is a very large (1,500 square feet), very minimally-decorated space. Its main attributes are a preponderance of seating, a preponderance of outlets (above the banquettes, so you don’t even have to crouch down, awkwardly, to plug on in) and a few splashes of color: yellow, like the hazmat suits. This hue also appears on coffee mugs, and the front wall. Otherwise, you wouldn’t necessarily know Walters is the passion project of Deniz Kosan, who, in addition to loving coffee, is obsessed with Breaking Bad. (Recently, Kosan showed Fernandez an image which featured a design-scheme and a staircase similar to Walter White’s lab, and Fernandez asked, ‘Oh, is that the upcoming café in Dubai?’ and Kosan replied, “No, that’s my apartment.”)
So, it’s true—Walter’s in Bushwick may not look explicitly like the inside of Walter White’s house, or meth lab, or Albuquerque, or something, but the inspiration from the show is still explicitly, albeit it subtly present: the beakers out of which the coffee is served; the menu, arranged like a periodic table; the sign out front, which is another yellow square, fashioned like an element. And, finally, “It’s very clean, like a lab,” Fernandez points out. But beyond that? Walter’s founder Deniz Kosan was interested first and foremost in servicing the neighborhood—and by that, he means: freelancers.
“There are a lot of remote freelancers here, you can camp out,” Fernandez told me, as we sat at large communal table in the front of the shop, and I sipped my iced caffeine out of a glass beaker. And that is a relief, given a couple of realities: despite the fact that Brooklyn has become fairly coffee obsessed in the last decade or so, and given how many cafés there are, there are still very few that are large, have Internet, abundant outlets, and, specifically, are outfitted to service the large and growing freelance population in Brooklyn.
“We have enough space, so I don’t blame [other cafés],” Fernandez says of the habit of pushing remote workers out before too long, with clipped Internet service, or before ordering another drink, but Walter’s has at least twice the space of a standard café, and allows them to be generous with their Internet, and outlets. “We’re not going to kick you out,” Fernandez summarizes.
Walter’s gets their beans from Nicaragua, Columbia, and Ethiopa, and they roast at Pulley Collective in Red Hook. Fernandez is skewing their roast profiles darker, though the trend is somewhat light these days. This makes “much more flavorful” coffee, Fernandez believes. While they don’t plan on wholesale any time soon, Fernandez says they’ll follow the current trend and do a subscriptions service much sooner.
Like Walter White, who loved himself a perfect cup of black coffee, Walter’s is interested, first and foremost, in keeping their coffee drinks simple—and doing that very, very well.
“In general, the goal is to be very welcoming,” says Fernandez, but within the confines of offering just the rudiments, er, elements, of classic coffee. Recently, a customer asked him for a vanilla latte; Walter’s, however, does not carry vanilla syrup. Still, Fernandez suggested the natural latte might do the trick: the milk is naturally sweet, he told the customer, and the espresso chocolatey. In the drink, both flavors come forward. “I made it, and she loved it, and that way you’re not paying for other flavors, you get to highlight the coffee.”
So, Brooklyn freelancers, get to know Walter’s. You’ll get the basics—space to work, outlets, simple, delicios coffee. And, if you go in soon, Fernandez says you can get their latest batch of the best cold brew he’s ever had. It’s from Ethiopia, and it has hints of lemon curd and blueberry cheesecake. That one, above all, Fernandez bets you will not want to doctor up. “Nine times out of ten, they won’t add milk,” he says proudly.
Come to think of it, Walter White would be proud, too. And Heisenberg, Walter White’s alias, and, incidentally, the password for connecting to Walter’s network. So happy sipping, and remote working to you.
65 Irving Ave., Bushwick
All photos by Jane Bruce