City Bites

Just ’round the corner — Wilf & Ada’s opens a coffee shop steps from diner

Just under two years after launching the super-successful Wilf & Ada’s scratch diner on Bank Street, owners Jessie Duffy and Dominic Paul are expanding, jumping on the opportunity to launch a cozy 20-seat coffee shop just around the corner at (you guessed it) 5 Arlington Avenue.

Arlington 5 — Wilf & Ada's new coffee shop. Photo: Jennifer Lynne (laceandluce.com)
Arlington Five — Wilf & Ada’s new coffee shop. Photo: Sarah Brown

When Loudmouth Printing moved to new premises on Catherine Street, the couple took over the 500-square-foot building and embarked on a whirlwind three-month reno that culminated in a packed-out launch party on October 4, with 300 well-wishers (many of them Wilf & Ada’s regulars) gathering to toast the new business.

A few days after the opening, City Bites sat down with Jessie Duffy to talk coffee, café life, and controlling two restaurants.


 Photo: Jennifer Lynne (laceandluce.com)
Jessie Duffy (left), co-owner of Wilf & Ada’s. Photo: Jennifer Lynne (laceandluce.com)

You seem to like buildings with a history. Ada’s was a family diner and you kept the vibe alive through Wilf & Ada’s. In addition to the printing business, what was here before?

This building doesn’t have the same kind of history as Ada’s did, but it has been a lot of things over the years — everything from a veterinary office in the 1930s, to a pet store, to a punk rock venue in the 1990s.

You and Dominic teamed up with Ion Aimers to launch Wilf & Ada’s in January of 2014. Was it always in your plans to open another establishment so soon?

No! But I had always wanted to run a café. In fact, before we opened Wilf & Ada’s I had been putting together a business plan to run a café, so when this building became available I had everything ready to go.

Now you have a diner and a coffeehouse side by side. How will they complement each other?

The diner serves hearty food and the menu is fairly fixed. Here, the menu is going to be much lighter — muffins, light lunches, soups, and salads. We plan to change (the menu) daily. There will only be a few sandwiches each day, so the chefs can mix it up. Dominic is working in the kitchen, but we’re also excited that Simon Bell [formerly of Oz Kafe and Café Urban at Saint Paul University] is cooking here.

Wilf & Ada’s always seems busy. Can you see Arlington Five taking on an “overflow” role?

Definitely on weekends! When the diner is packed for breakfast, customers are always asking where they can wait until space opens up. Now we can send them ’round the corner to the café for a coffee. I also picture people stopping in for a coffee and sandwich. I see it becoming a meeting spot.

Inside Arlington 5, a new coffee shop 'round the corner from Wilf & Ada's. Photo: Jennifer Lynne (laceandluce.com)
Inside Arlington Five, a new coffee shop ’round the corner from Wilf & Ada’s. Photo: Jennifer Lynne (laceandluce.com)

It’s a coffeehouse, so tell us about the coffee.

It’s from Happy Goat Coffee [in Little Italy]. We loved the idea of having locally roasted beans and when we met with owner Henry [Assad] before opening Wilf & Ada’s, he toured us around and let us taste-test. Everyone loves it at Wilf & Ada’s, so it just made sense to continue the tradition at Arlington Five.

And that giant coffee machine?

It’s the most expensive thing under this roof! A German-made ECM coffee machine. It’s amazing.

Now that you have two places to run, where will you be hanging out?

Dominic and I will be back and forth, but we have great staff next door [in Wilf & Ada’s] so we’ll be spending a lot of time at the coffeehouse in the short term. Owning a café is something I’ve dreamt about, so this will be my hangout for sure.

I know it’s only been a few days, but any sandwiches knocking it out of the park so far?

The Berkshire ham [from Perth Pork Products], cheese [from Iles aux Grues], and mustard is really popular. I know the chefs want to change up the soup and sandwich selections every day, but I’m not sure the customers will let them!

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The German-made ECM coffee machine — Arlington Five’s pride and glory. Photo: Sarah Brown