A trip to Europe is currently out of the question thanks to COVID-19, but the new DORO Marketplace in West Hartford fills that void a bit, with a chic coffeehouse atmosphere, shelves full of imported specialty products and perfectly flaky croissants, made with French butter.
The new fast-casual concept by the DORO Restaurant Group, which opened over Labor Day Weekend, is part cafe, grocery store and bakery, with counter service and grab-and-go meals. The building, at the corner of New Britain Avenue and South Main Street, is a new area of town for the group, which has three restaurants (Treva, Avert and Zohara) in West Hartford Center on Farmington Avenue and LaSalle Road.
“It feels good ... sort of having this community center, it’s new for this neighborhood,” said Scott Miller, DORO’s chief operating officer. “The Center has always had some fun breakfast spots ... but this corner is very unique. It kind of takes West Hartford and Newington people coming through, people going toward the mall, a diverse group of people coming in every day.”
The project emerged from DORO’s desire to produce its own breads, and the initial bakery idea widened in scope to feature the coffee, baked goods and cafe menu. Dorjan Puka, DORO’s CEO and founder, said the project was pushed back several months, as ovens and other equipment shipped from France and Italy were delayed by the pandemic.
“But it happened to be a good time for us,” he said. “People like something in-and-out, quick, with a reasonable price. It’s very casual, and if at the end of the day you’re tired, you don’t want to cook, you can grab a chicken, you can grab hummus. People work hard these days, they want something easy."
The marketplace’s menu offers freshly prepared breakfast sandwiches, pastries and a full coffee program with espresso beverages in the morning hours. In-house pastry chefs craft breads by the loaf (baguettes, Pugliese, challah, sourdough) in addition to classic sweet and savory croissants, cinnamon rolls, babka, banana bread and cookies. A dessert case displays daily sweets, like tarts, cake slices, eclairs, panna cotta, profiteroles and tiramisu.
The coffee program has received a lot of good feedback, Miller said, featuring Trumbull-based Shearwater Coffee. The menu offers espresso drinks like lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos, in addition to brewed coffee and cold brew (with a nitro option.) Cross Culture kombucha and Harney and Sons tea are also available.
That coffeehouse concept was important to Puka, a native of Albania. “I love the vibe of a cafe; that’s just life for us,” he said. “Waking up in the morning, getting a croissant and coffee, that’s where you meet everybody, it’s very social.”
“Good Morn’” breakfast options ($3.95 to $9.50) served from 7 to 11 a.m., feature breakfast sandwiches, burritos and bagels, along with egg plates and bowls, a tofu scramble, Belgian waffle and challah French toast. Shakshuka, a Mediterranean spiced pepper stew topped with two eggs, feta and Albanian sausage, is a favorite borrowed from the Zohara menu.
DORO’s breads also form the base of the “toasted or not” menu section ($2.95 to $6.95), available all day with creative toppings: an avocado toast with cherry tomatoes, radish and everything bagel spice; a toast topped with Zohara’s market hummus and fresh vegetables, a black fig toast with labneh and honey and a ricotta toast, currently featuring in-season tomatoes.
Lunch and dinner items ($6.50 to $11.95) include sandwiches, salads, grain bowls and heartier entrees, like red wine braised beef stew, chicken parmesan or meatballs over polenta. Rotisserie chickens, courtesy of a French rotisserie oven, are available in quarter, half and whole bird portions ($8.95 to $28.95), with sides (green rice, charred broccoli, polenta, schmaltzy potatoes, mac and cheese) and sauces (buffalo, chimichurri, garlic aioli, gochujang lime.) These have been an early favorite, Miller said, and the market sold 500 chickens in its first week.
The marketplace features shelves with specialty European products, including Albanian olives, jams, chocolates, nuts, bagged coffee and olive oil. A refrigerator case with to-go items offers prepared salads, sauces, fresh pastas from Treva, hummus from Zohara and cold rotisserie chickens.
Miller thinks the marketplace, with its unique day and night offerings, fits the current uncertainty of the dining landscape as COVID-19 continues to impact restaurants and consumers' dining habits.
“The big question mark coming up, as to what indoor dining is going to look like indoors in the next few months...[this is] another revenue stream, but also I think a safer bet, knowing that people could walk in and grab a variety of different things,” he said. “As we grow, maybe we’ll have more. We might add another [refrigerator case] because that’s what’s selling; we just have to see what’s working. We want to offer a wide variety of things and represent our restaurants.”
Leeanne Griffin can be reached at email@example.com.
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