Lauren Morlock is the founder and owner of Solo Espresso (1301 Poland Ave., 504-408-1377; www.soloespressobar.com), a specialty coffee shop tucked in a whimsical hideaway in the 9th Ward. Morlock spoke to Gambit about coffee and hosting restaurant pop-ups.
How did Solo Espresso come to be?
Morlock: I've worked in coffee for years, and I moved here from Seattle and decided that it was time to have my own place. Initially, Solo was going to be a pop-up at a bar in the Bywater, but that fell through and we had the space we're in now. I had already bought the [espresso] machine to do the pop-up, so we just started. The machine is actually my dream machine, and I worked on one like it when I was in Seattle. I contacted the manufacturer when I was planning on starting Solo, and they pointed me in the right direction of a man in Lafayette who was trying to sell his. I called him, and not only did he still have it, he had it on a mobile setup. He delivered the entire setup — the machine, grinder, all the extra bits. ... When the pop-up fell through, we literally started in the corner here on the stainless steel cart that it came on — no drywall on the walls — started out as a pick-up and delivery service. We built it out as money came in.
How does community play into Solo?
M: There's definitely a community vibe at Solo. I didn't just create Solo for myself, I created it for my community and my neighbors. I don't think that I would know as many neighbors as I do unless I had created this space. Also, all of the art here is done by friends and community members, all the signs are created by friends and all of the food is crafted by people who live in the neighborhood. The tables and chairs were created by community members who became our good friends in exchange for coffee. So it's all as community-oriented as possible.
Tell me a little bit about the pop-ups you host.
M: Every Saturday, we do a pop-up, either from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. depending on if it's more of a breakfast or lunch pop-up. It's always someone different, and it's their thing. We've had all sorts of stuff — baked goods, Cuban food, Indian food, Thai, Laotian, very simple breakfast pancakes. A woman named Leah is doing it (Dec. 28), her company is called Whistling Duck, and she does a traditional almond cake, then does a lot of cakes and scones and things like that. — SARAH BAIRD