Urbana Café Expands to East Walnut Hills

With gourmet Hot Pockets and a Mile High Club theme

Feb 6, 2018 at 12:09 pm
click to enlarge Daniel Noguera at Urbana Café’s Pendleton location - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Daniel Noguera at Urbana Café’s Pendleton location

Daniel Noguera’s Urbana Café, a Cincinnati-born coffee shop with a strong presence both in Findlay Market and Pendleton, is taking its talents to East Walnut Hills later this year. And with the expansion comes innovative adjustments in what Urbana will bring to the table, both literally and figuratively.

While maintaining their myriad pastry options, Noguera and his team plan to bring in an outside chef as a consultant to build on the breakfast-focused menu. The intent is to add options for lunch, including an upscale transformation of a college dorm room staple: the Hot Pocket.

“Part of the Hot Pocket variations is that we’re making things that people understand and have seen, and they’re fun,” Noguera says. “And we’re making them a little better. We’re trying to mimic all of the fun things that make a Hot Pocket a Hot Pocket, but still make it a bit more refined with better ingredients.”

Deep in dough-driven experimentation, Noguera was unable to disclose any of the final recipes behind his Hot Pockets, but the goal is to have both savory and sweet options available. He has also retrofitted his brick and mortar on Broadway Street to improve the current kitchen’s efficiency in preparation for the pivot to lunch cuisine.

Noguera intends to take a “theme-oriented” approach to the style of his new East Walnut Hills shop, having his patrons take to the skies in what he calls an exclusive Mile High Club set in the 1960s, with rich colors and leather seating, stripped of the risqué undertones — mostly. The goal is to turn a coffee break into more of an experience.

“Our coffee is as good as the coffee in Italy, the coffee in New Zealand, Latin America, but what we don’t do is make coffee an experience,” Noguera says. “It’s just a pit stop. You come in with your computer and are looking down, never appreciating the coffee you’re drinking.

“It’s going to be accessible for everybody, but it’s not the place where I foresee people coming to do their papers. It’s the place I see people coming to have a date or a conversation or catch up… to just have a cup of coffee.”

Despite the expansion, Noguera wants to avoid the cons that often follow suit when a company starts to spread its wings, and he has no intention of losing what has made his original concept successful.

“We want to experience having a second location that is not too far from (the current Pendleton location) and manage both and keep the experience as the focus,” he says. “The idea is to keeping hammering on the experience. We want the customer to feel so damn good about the space where they are.”

Urbana’s East Walnut Hills location will feature a new and improved espresso machine crafted by Dutch company Kees van der Westen, serving the shop both practicality and aesthetically with its hyper-modern look and feel.

“(Westen) uses technology to an extent but also uses a lot of hardware to control water flow, temperature and things like that,” Noguera says. “In most modern espresso companies, they use a lot of computer programming and software to control the temperature of the machine and keep it stable.”

While originally committed to serving just the Queen City’s epicenter, Noguera is excited to move away from the hustle and bustle of Over-the-Rhine and downtown and stretch toward the outer neighborhoods.

“Initially, the idea when we first started the company was to be able to offer coffee to the core of the city, to be very embedded into the downtown area,” Noguera says. “And now that town has seen so much growth that it’s almost saturated. There are so many coffee shops out there. So we want to branch out a little more, bring some of what we’ve done here to other places.”

The East Walnut Hills location is expected to be the first of several Urbana Cafés stretching outside of Cincinnati — Noguera has aspirations to set up shops as far as Mason and even Dayton.

Fortunately for Findlay Market frequents, Urbana’s expansion will not keep Noguera’s espresso-fitted Vespa from setting up outside the community market, as he plans to continue if not strengthen his efforts at OTR’s signature landmark.

Noguera aims to have his second location up and running between late March and early April of this year.

Urbana Cafe will be located at 2714 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills*, urbana-cafe.com. 

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the neighborhood was Walnut Hills instead of East Walnut Hills.