Champagne, bespoke pencils, custom soccer jerseys, and superfood shakes. None of these are items you’d typically find in Chinatown, but a two-block stretch on Forsyth Street, where CW Pencils opened earlier this year, is rapidly changing the feel of the neighborhood. A block from where Le Baron owner Andre Saraiva recently installed the Vogue-worthy Cafe Henrie, Saraiva’s doorman and fellow Frenchman Simonez Wolf is now serving organic coffee, superfood smoothies, juice and more — all with a futbol-themed flair.
“Més Que Café,” the neon-lit slogan of Football Cafe, glows out towards Lion’s Gate Field, where Wolf’s soccer team Nowhere, FC plays. More than coffee is the cafe’s motto and mantra — a nod to FC Barcelona. Initially, Wolf and partner Diego Moscoso operated a pop-up shop in the space, before a gut renovation and a new concept.
“Last year during the World Cup we built a pop-up for two months, modeled after a ’70s Brazilian travel agency,” said Wolf, who over the years has worked the door at hotspots like Beatrice Inn and The Standard, as well as doing the Madame Wong’s pop-up parties. “We invited 500 people to make customized soccer jerseys by appointment, as part of the festivities. After it was over we kept the space about providing some healthy food options for the community. Many of the players and owners have also lived in the Chinatown area for years, so it was a natural growth of our club.”
Like the custom jerseys, Football Cafe’s menu is completely unique, and yes, more than coffee. Taking influence from Paleo and Ayurvedic diets, along with South American culture, the cafe infuses performance with creativity—their founding principles—using only organic ingredients. There’s also no sugar onsite, with agave being the go-to sweetener. The bright menu boasts raw juice, “Friendlies” (their term for yogurt mixes, complex superfood smoothies, La Colombe coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil, and the George Best: a hangover fighting, organic spin on Gatorade). “We only use the highest alkaline and most nutrient dense superfood ingredients,” Wolf explained. “Many come from climates like the Amazon or Peruvian highlands.”
Yes, there’s nods to their football passions throughout the cafe and menu, but the actual space’s vibe is more relaxed than pitched up. Dub reggae bass lines throb through the cafe, while local artists line the bench in front. In the mornings, NPR provides a respite from the chaos and crates of produce and iced fish lining Chinatown’s streets. More creative enclave than hooligan hangout, the space, designed by firm Husband+Wife, was inspired by “a sunbleached spa off the coast of Mallorca and a scene from Sexy Beast.”
After a brief soft opening, Football Cafe’s kitchen is fully kitted for fall and eventually they’ll be offering apparel as well. Two “Bowery League Championship” trophies crown a plexiglass case filled with football regalia near the counter. There’s a pride, not a cockiness that permeates the cafe, especially in talking to them about their offerings. There’s a drive to provide premium options for anyone on the street or the field, along with a nod to the decadence and prestige of ’70s soccer.
“It’s inspired by the multicultural landscape of football and travel… and of course the energy on the field itself,” said Wolf, who also runs two football clubs, as well as co-hosting a radio show on Know-Wave. “Lion’s Gate is the most famous street soccer pitch in NYC and maybe the US. If you play in NY, you have to come through here at some point.”
Football Cafe, 100 Forsyth St., bet. Broome and Grand Streets, Lower East Side; (917) 770-4789