A new community coffee house and art gallery opened in Wilmington’s Little Italy last month. Milk and Honey is the latest offering in a city where we take our morning cappuccino and afternoon tea quite seriously.
This new business takes its name from the book of Exodus in which God promises to lead his chosen people out of slavery and to a land “flowing with milk and honey.” It’s arguably the best tagline for a destination this side of “What happens in Vegas…” And manager Quincy Watkins wants to see Milk and Honey be a worthy destination—as in the local coffeehouse and meet-up for those who live in the ten-block radius. “I have so much respect for Brew-Ha-Ha and LOMA Coffee. Wilmington is a coffee city, and I wanted something of that high caliber to serve this neighborhood. A premiere coffeehouse.”
I sat down with Watkins to discuss the two C’s: coffee and community. First, the coffee. Watkins asked me if I wanted to try a cup, made from single-origin beans. Is the Pope Catholic? Do fish swim? Is water wet? Watkins is serious about his coffee, as am I. We discussed our European travels and the coffee scene there. He used all his superlatives for Belgium’s cafés after I recounted the fantastic Italian coffee bars that I visited this fall. Back here on Union Street, my expectations were running high. Watkins served me my coffee in clear mug that showed off the beautiful crema. I usually take my coffee with a splash of cream, but with the delicate froth topping this beverage, I found cream to be extraneous. The flavor was robust, like I like it, and complex, with brightness and nuance. I have a hard time picking out individual flavor notes, but I recognize well-rounded flavor when it hits all the parts of my tongue and lingers. When I asked Watkins about the process (it isn’t espresso) he gave me a proprietary smile and said, “Just call it Milk and Honey Froth Method.” Whatever. I’ll call it delicious. He is equally serious about the tea. As he was steeping a peppermint variety for a customer, he told her about the mojito blend that was coming later in the week. While beverages are the focus here, Milk and Honey does offer a short, but thoughtful, menu of breakfast and lunch food items. Highlights include pastries from Charlie Rose Sweets. Lunch options include the Baby Cake, a blackened grilled chicken on spinach wrap, and the Chi Town, an authentic polish sausage sandwich. “We are a coffeehouse first, but we take care with our food.”
Interestingly enough, given Watkin’s enthusiasm for coffee, it wasn’t part of the original plan for the space. Watkins is a pastor with The Neighborhood Church out of Philadelphia. Founded fourteen years ago, The Neighborhood Church began with the simple mission of being neighborly (putting the ‘Neighbor’ back in the ‘Hood’). In January, the church felt called to expand their mission to Wilmington and specifically the West End or Little Italy neighborhood. “There is an economic renaissance happening in Wilmington. And here in the 19805 zip code, Little Italy, you have diversity, not just with race, but diversity in age, professions, and ethnicity. This is where we wanted to be.” A community center seemed a good way to work toward the church’s mission and develop their community outreach.
In Wilmington, that outreach has three major areas of focus: youth development, Forever Young, and support for veterans. Youth development centers around teaching tech literacy, problem solving/critical thinking, and entrepreneurship to area youth. Watkins has a background in process consulting. He brings his toolbox filled with tech skills and troubleshooting abilities to his work with young people. At the other end of the age spectrum, Forever Young is a program that engages people fifty years and older, helping that population stem the tendency to isolate themselves as they age. Finally, in regard to Veterans, the Neighborhood Church intends to be a resource for support, aid, and encouragement for whatever needs local veterans may have.
In dreaming up the new community space in Wilmington, somebody floated the suggestion of including a coffeehouse/art gallery as a way to augment the hospitality. Watkins, coffee lover that he is, latched on to the idea. Though Milk and Honey is a non-profit that supports the Neighborhood Church’s mission, the coffeehouse was not created for evangelizing purposes. Nothing about the space says “church.” Online reviewers describe it as “chill” and a space with a “great vibe.” I was drawn in by the artwork on the walls, all done by local artists. This month the gallery features encaustics by Yakime Brown from Watkin’s personal collection and stunning portraits painted by Chloe McEldowney. Milk and Honey joins the growing collective of businesses in the neighborhood (#westendgrows) who are open and showing art for Wilmington’s Art Loop, the first Friday of every month. Milk and Honey also features musical performances in the evening on the third Friday of each month. For board game aficionados, Tuesdays have been designated as game night starting at 6:30 PM. At the first one, last week, Milk and Honey ordered and offered up free pizza for all who attended. In addition to these events, Milk and Honey’s Facebook page boasts Happy Hour on Wednesdays from 5-7 PM where locals can network while sipping $2 espresso drinks. Free Wi-Fi is available, too, in case you need to field that last-minute business email. Neighbors can walk over to check out this new hub of the West End, but for those who live farther afield, off-street parking is located in a side lot. For now, as the business builds, Milk and Honey’s regular hours are Monday-Wednesday, Friday 6:30 AM- 2 PM, Saturday 8 AM -2 PM. It is closed Thursdays and Sundays. Check out the Milk and Honey Facebook page to for the latest details about upcoming events. Milk and Honey is located at 807 N. Union Street in Wilmington.