Despite their .cafe domain extension, the new Stone Ridge establishment Black Dot resists classification. “We don’t really like to put ourselves in a box,” says co-owner Salvatore Carbone (Sal for short). “So we just called it Black Dot. Not Black Dot Cafe, not Black Dot Coffee Shop.” It’s just Black Dot, period.
They do serve coffee, but that’s just part of it. The Black Dot experience, as the co-owners envision it, is part gallery, part coffee shop, part artisanal market, all aesthetic experience.
Owners Carbone and Margrit Wenzel, both 27, grew up in the Hudson Valley—he in Poughkeepsie, she in Kingston. They spent the past decade on the local hospitality circuit at hotels and restaurants like Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in Hunter and Brunette Wine Bar in Kingston, as well as managing short-term rentals. They’re also both artists—Carbone a graphic designer and Wenzel a photographer, who worked for a stint at Dia:Beacon.
Their disparate interests and training find a harmonious home in the sleek, minimalist Black Dot. “Our passion really lies in hosting and creating an awesome experience for people,” Wenzel says. “Here we are able to showcase our love of design, art, food, and drink. We have a really nice mix of curated art and retail for people to shop. And we love coffee. This really allowed us to combine it all together.”
The couple’s longtime dream of opening a cafe-and-then-some in Kingston struggled to find purchase, as the city grew more and more saturated with hip coffee shops in the past few years. Then in December 2019, they found the space at 3669 Main Street in Stone Ridge, former location of Carthaigh Coffee, and decided to take up the mantle of the hamlet’s only coffee purveyor.
Carbone undertook the reno himself, learning along the way. “We painted, we did a custom bar, custom benches, and retail shelves,” he says. They had initially planned to open in April 2020, but COVID derailed their timeline. The couple used a month of lockdown to evaluate the situation and make a decision on how to proceed. “We’re the type of people to accept the challenge and really roll up our sleeves,” Carbone says. “So that’s what we did.” They carried on with renovations and planning, ultimately opening to the public on December 26.
Inside, the space is a clean, whitewashed breath of fresh air. Carbone used finished pine plywood on all the surfaces, which he then brushed with a nontoxic white milk paint and sealed. “Our style is minimal but functional,” Wenzel says. “Not so clean you’re afraid to mess it up. People come in and apologize for messing up the floor. But it’s ok. We expected that. We like that about space—we can just mop at the end of the day. It is clean and bright and inviting, but it can also take whatever you throw at it.”
A swooping black textile artwork made of cotton, wool, and linen fibers by Kingston-based artist Kat Howard makes a stark contrast to the alabaster walls of the sitting area. Display shelves hold ceramics from local artisans, like vases from duo Benedicte and Jerome Leclere of L’Impatience and custom Black Dot mugs from Angelo Estrada of Estrada Design.
They also have sleek electric kettles from Fellow, loose leaf teas and herbal blends from Aesthete Tea, and single-origin coffee beans from their Beacon-based supplier Big Mouth Coffee Roasters.
“Sal picked up our beans for the week today down in Beacon,” Wenzel says. “It’s really nice to have that experience of neighborly business. We offer something that is from nearby but you can also get in a different part of the area. Maybe you’ll check them out next time you’re in Beacon. It’s an extension of his coffee shop, in a way.”
They plan to grow the retail section with time, as they do the food menu. “We’re trying to perfect one thing at a time, but we’re definitely expanding everything,” says Carbone, who hints at the possibility of future pop-up dinners, beer, and wine. For now, the menu is limited to three simple dishes that straddle the breakfast-lunch line and can be made in their 4x10-foot kitchen.
Aside from the espresso bar offerings, Black Dot currently offers an egg-and-cheese on a Bread Alone croissant (avocado and bacon extra, $8-$12); a smoked salmon tartine, with pickled shallots radish, cucumber, and goat cheese ($12) on sourdough baguette; and a slow-roasted tomato confit tartine, with goat cheese and arugula ($9). Aside from Bread Alone pastries, they make coconut chocolate banana bread daily in-house ($3 a slice) as well as chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies.
They are working on rolling out a few more hot dishes for winter, but in general, all the food will fit squarely in the brunch-all-day category. “We’re really thoughtful about everything we’re putting out, to make sure it’s something that works for any time of day and works for us on the back-end,” says Wenzel, referring to both the limitations from prep space and local sourcing. The goal is to be as sustainable and seasonal as possible with offerings. “[Our kitchen is] a small space, but that challenge actually makes the food more creative and more fun,” Carbone says. And Wenzel adds, “Every time I’m angry I have this little kitchen, I think of food trucks and the crazy food that comes out of them.”
Come spring, the couple will deck out the front porch with string lights, flower boxes, and benches, and possibly set up some bistro tables in the backyard. “Getting those glimpses of people getting together and having conversations in the space has been really really nice,” Carbone says, “because that was a really big motivation for us to create the space—to foster togetherness and community in the area.”
Black Dot is open Thursday to Monday, 8am-5pm.
3669 Main Street, Stone Ridge