Opening just in time for the holiday weekend is the expanded portion of Rare Bird Coffee Roasters, with new hours and lunch menu items becoming part of the popular coffee shop along West Broad Street.
The expansion officially opened earlier this week, and the shop’s weekday hours will be going from 2 p.m. closing to 6 p.m., with co-owner Lara Berenji eyeing a move back from the 2:30 p.m. weekend closing to 7 p.m.
With a happening breakfast, lunch and dinner spot such as Northside Social right up Maple Avenue, Berenji teased about her own shop’s growth lending to some friendly competition.
“We’re trying,” she said with a chuckle. “Both places elevate the area by just drawing people in. I’ve noticed so many more people and maybe it’s just the waning of the pandemic, but a lot of people are out and about everywhere.”
But it’s hard to focus on anything outside of the project when there’s been such a transformation inside.
An interior that previously only had about 16 seats, according to Berenji, now seats around 60 people. That’s in large part due to the roasting operation that had once occupied its front window being moved into the rear of the added space. New seating, including a communal table and stool seating for a wrap-around bar, take up the entire original plot along with a few small tables and the barista’s counter.
The expanded area has seating for those who are looking to spread out a bit more. A handful of mid-sized tables that can accommodate four guests are in the new area — either as free standing units or as a part of a booth. Small tables for two, similar to what you would find in the original area, are a part of the booth seating as well.
Behind panels of glass in the expanded area is the beefed up, in house roasting set up. While beans that are being roasted by Berenji’s husband and co-owner, Bryan Becker, are largely the same (except for the seasonal Ethiopian Limu Gera, which took a year off due to pandemic related reasons), the new roaster does allow for a more distinct taste between the products.
“They’re just more pronounced,” Berenji said. “Our roasters just recently had a [tasting] of all our existing coffees and said that this roaster is improving the ability to differentiate the flavors that were in them.”
Lending his talents to Rare Bird’s roster is Chris Licciardi, the shop’s new head baker. With experience at Dog Tag Bakery in Georgetown, the Greenway Downs resident would regularly come by the shop and chat with Berenji about the shop’s plans to expand.
Conversations about new kitchen equipment and whether or not they’d consider adding sandwiches to the menu, all the while hoping he was throwing his hat in the ring for when the expansion finally did happen.
“When they decided to get the new space, they reached out to me and said they were secretly hoping that I would be interested,” Licciardi said. “On my side, I thought I was pushing them away, but it worked out.”
Licciardi’s bread and butter (pardon the pun) are making what are called “laminated doughs” or all the croissants, danishes, scones and puffed pastries.
On the sweets front, he’s also responsible for the coconut lime cookie as well as a double chocolate chip cookie and sugar blossoms — which are basically a vanilla shortbread cookie that has an edible flower on each one. He’s working with Becker to come up with a few different types of bread that can be used for lunchtime sandwiches that are soon-to-be-revealed.
For those interested in giving Rare Bird’s new menu and space a try, they won’t have to wait much longer.
Rare Bird Coffee Roasters is located at 230 W Broad St, Falls Church. For more information, visit rarebirdcoffee.co.