Northside’s Dangerbird Espresso Serves Craft Coffee from a Trailer, Pays Homage to Neighborhood’s Vultures

Dangerbird serves up classic coffee and espresso drinks, tea and baked goods from the likes of North South Baking Co. and Hunley Bee Bakery — plus Yip Whips for good dogs.

click to enlarge (L to R): Samantha Burroughs and Kathy Long at the Dangerbird Espresso trailer - Photo:
(L to R): Samantha Burroughs and Kathy Long at the Dangerbird Espresso trailer

Dangerbird Espresso is the newest spot where you can grab a cup of coffee in Northside, but there’s a twist: You might see it in another neighborhood on any given day.

That’s because the coffeeshop operates out of a 17-foot, enclosed mobile trailer. But, until manager Samantha Burroughs decides to hit the road, you can find it parked 9 a.m.-3 p.m. every weekend in the courtyard adjacent to Growing Trade Pet & Plant, where she also works. 

The trailer has a dark gray finish with a shiny silver roof. There’s a propane tank on the front and, most prominently featured, the titular Dangerbird, a vulture drawn up in black-and-white traditional Western tattoo style by local tattoo artist Jaclin Grace Hastings (@jgracetattoo), co-owner of Over-the-Rhine’s Lonesome Town Tattoo. 

click to enlarge Dangerbird gets its coffee from local Sidewinder Roastery - Photo:
Dangerbird gets its coffee from local Sidewinder Roastery

If the imposing cartoon carrion-eater doesn’t scare you off, there are some solid drinks and snacks to reward your bravery. On top of the classic range of coffee and espresso drinks — with beans from local Sidewinder Roastery — Dangerbird offers chai straight up or dirty, an assortment of organically grown teas, sparkling water, cold and hot chocolate milk (aka hot cocoa) and pastries from the likes of North South Baking Co. and Hunley Bee Bakery. For the extra-good puppers out on a walk, Burroughs provides Yip Whips (like a Starbucks whipped cream Puppuccino).  

Growing Trade and Dangerbird’s co-owners Jerome Wilson and Kathy Long knew they wanted to use the courtyard as a place where people could relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance naturally provided by the potted plants that occupy much of the yard, but it wasn’t until the opportunity presented itself to purchase a Homesteader trailer from Hawaiian mobile food pop-up Ono Grindz that they started to take the idea of a mobile coffeeshop seriously.

“This courtyard’s slowly been evolving,” Wilson says. “We always had this vision for it when we moved in that it was going to become this social gathering space. We thought that having a trailer here would be one extra thing for people to come do in our courtyard. So, you could come, you could get your coffee in the morning, sit with the plants and our shop cats (Aki and Bert) and maybe look at the plants. Maybe buy plants? So that was sort of the idea, that it would be an extra draw here at Growing Trade.”

After all the bureaucratic formalities and health inspections, Dangerbird Espresso opened in late September. 

One question the owners now likely encounter on a regular basis: What’s the story behind the name?

“Well, I don't know if you're aware of the black vultures that hang out in this neighborhood. They're here in the wintertime. So, we’re obsessed with them,” Wilson says.

click to enlarge The exterior of Growing Trade Pet & Plant, with the entrance to the courtyard on the left - Photo:
The exterior of Growing Trade Pet & Plant, with the entrance to the courtyard on the left

As are most Northside residents and the “...Only in Northside” Facebook group page, where users frequently post jokes and pictures about the birds (there’s also a less-used but dedicated Vultures of Northside Facebook page). 

The black vultures are omnipresent in the neighborhood and can be seen by the dozens circling taller buildings. Perched atop St. Boniface Catholic Church on Chase Avenue, a vulture could be mistaken for a stone gargoyle before it suddenly swoops down from the parapet to devour some unfortunate rodent.

“Somebody on Facebook suggested that they should be called ‘murder birds’ because they're the one species of vultures that will actually attack living creatures, as opposed to turkey vultures, who are really passive,” Wilson says.

Turns out the cassowary, a flightless bird found around Australia and New Guinea, is often referred to as the world’s most dangerous bird and already has the prestigious unofficial title of “murder bird,” thanks to the ostrich-sized avian’s dagger-like claws and antihuman outlook. But a cool name for Northside’s resident black vultures was still needed. 

Enter iconic singer/songwriter Neil Young.

“So, Zuma, the Young-Crazy Horse album,” Burroughs says, “‘Danger Bird’ was our favorite song on it.”

click to enlarge Black vultures at Hueston Woods State Park in College Corner, Ohio. The same birds live in Northside. - Photo: CC 2.0
Photo: CC 2.0
Black vultures at Hueston Woods State Park in College Corner, Ohio. The same birds live in Northside.

Dust off an old copy of Zuma (or pick one up at Shake It Records down the street) and “Danger Bird” is the second track. It starts with a melancholy minor-key three-chord progression, very moody and indicative of Young’s overdriven Folksiness. 

Young sings: “Danger Bird, he flies alone / He rides the wind back to his home / Although his wings have turned to stone.”

This tune shows Young’s devotion to narrative songwriting techniques popularized by Bob Dylan and other Folk artists of the time, but modernized with electric instrumentation and a Blues jam structure that allows for indulgent guitar solos. Turns out, this song’s somberness has similarities to Northside’s black vultures.

“Here's the thing: These black vultures just started coming up here in the last couple years,” Wilson says. “They didn't really hang out here 10 years ago, but they've been arriving because our winters are warmer and warmer.”

The connection being made here is that due to global warming the neighborhood is being flooded with aggressive carrion-eating birds that aren’t afraid to kill. 

“The other thing about the vultures is, in the morning when the sun comes up — especially in the wintertime — they spread their wings out to dry them in the sun,” Wilson says. “And so you'll see them up there standing with their wings spread out.”

“Our logo has one with its wings spread out because that's its morning ritual, and that kind of references that coffee is the morning ritual for humans.”

Dangerbird Espresso is located in Growing Trade Pet & Plant, 3840 Spring Grove Ave., Northside,

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*A previous version of this story listed Burroughs as the co-owner of Dangerbird. She is the manager. Co-owner Kathy Long was also originally left out of the story.

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