BRATTLEBORO >> Coming from Oregon, the owners of Graffiti Sandwich were not sure what they wanted to do in terms of offering food in the area.
"We wanted to see what was working here and what maybe we can do here," said Maureen Kennedy, co-owner. "Fortunately and unfortunately, we didn't have a kitchen for six months. We ate out just about everywhere a couple times. When this space became available — we were looking at other places, too — we kind of knew it would work. We knew there was a need for something different and a need for breakfast downtown and we knew it could easily be done."
Graffiti will replace Tulip Cafe at 12 Harmony Place across from Emerson's Furniture on Elliott Street. Tulip has moved to Main Street.
Graffiti's lease started on May 1. Then six weeks were spent getting the space prepared before opening on June 20. The rear of the building will now function as an office but could be used for a large dining group in the future.
"We reworked the kitchen and painted a lot," said Travis Mason, chef and co-owner,
"We had to bring in our kitchen and buy all new equipment," said Kennedy.
The restaurant offers seating for 36 people but has capacity for 50. Table service is not offered. Ordering is done at the counter. Graffiti is only closed on Wednesdays. Its hours are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Meat used at the restaurant is free of hormones and antibiotics. The pork is raised in Vermont. The eggs come from Vermont too and are cage free.
Mason said he tries to buy local products as much as possible and would "love to get in cahoots" with some more of the local farms. Maple syrup for hot sauce and coffee comes from Bunker Farm in Dummerston.
At Graffiti, Mason mixes different cultures' cooking.
"There's a lot of different flavors going on," he said. "I guess it's my take on some traditional sandwiches. It's basically what we like to eat."
The name Graffiti has to do with translating the way the artform can be anything from "a mural on the wall" to "big cityscape bubbly letters" to food.
"Anything can go between a piece a bread," Mason explained.
Mason uses a convection oven and immersion circulator for heating up food. Meat is vacuum sealed and cooked at a precise temperature in a water bath. About 15 pounds of pork is cooked for 14 hours nearly every night.
Having been a chef for 15 years and working in restaurants for a total of 22 years, Mason said he started off cooking "fine dining fancy French food." But coming into his own, he start discovering more Asian flavors. That's not to say he ditched his southern roots. His father lives in Alabama.
Mason and Kennedy decided to move back East and be closer to family over a year ago. They ran a food cart with the same concept as the restaurant in Portland, Ore. Several of the items were carried over to the new menu.
"My sister lives in Brattleboro," Kennedy said. "Vermont has a similar vibe to Oregon."
"The winters are different. We traded the rain for snow," added Mason.
The project faced limitations with not being able to have any open flames and propane or gas in the building. The restaurant's space made sense for selling sandwiches, Mason said.
"With apartments above, we would have to run a hood out of the back and the owner doesn't want it anyway," he said, mentioning also the expense of installing the hood filter. "You got to be creative."
The website, graffitisandwich.com, will be updated soon with slight revisions to the menu. Specials will be added.
Currently, spicy ham-and-egg or egg-and-cheese sandwiches cost $5.50. These breakfast items are available all day.
Da Nang Pork puts natural pork meatballs, Vietnamese slaw, cilantro, sriracha mayo and hoisin peanut butter on a hoagie. Ono Chicken features garlic soy marinated chicken with roasted broccoli carrots, black bean cream cheese and sriracha mayo on the same roll. The Barbecue sandwich is braised pork shoulder, house BBQ sauce, pickles and smoked mayo on brioche. A Half & Half features chicken salad and egg salad with pickles on brioche. Also on the menu are ham-and-cheese and miso eggplant sandwiches. All these selections cost less than $9. Sides include sweet potato salad and potato chips.
Graffiti hopes to hold "pop-up nights" in the future. Customers may see a ramen special one night or Mexican food another.
Mason and Kennedy met in high school but then "re-met" 20 years later after Mason's first wife died of cancer. They became friends on the social media website Facebook before then.
"You moved back East. I was living in Brooklyn. I was living in New York for 14 years. That year you lived there, we hung out as friends," Kennedy recalled to Mason. "Then we made it back to Portland. Let's just say, six months later, we were married. And no one was surprised."
Mason and Kennedy have a boy who's almost 2 years old. Mason has another son who is 13.
The couple said they are happy to live in Vermont and be part of the downtown. They reside in Dummerston.
"People here have just been so welcoming," said Kennedy. "We already have regulars, coming back two or three times in a week."
Kennedy served as head of finance and operations for an executive search firm in Manhattan, N.Y. She was telecommuting for the last four years but quit in January.
"We're going to go for it," she said. "I'll be taking orders and giving change."
For now, Kennedy and Mason are the store's only employees.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.