Back in her native Poland, Sonia Jozajtis’ aunt prepares coffee traditionally. Beans are ground and swirled in hot water. The grounds are allowed to settle. At the table, one then drinks until they reappear on the tongue, coffee and ritual intertwined.
Given this background, it’s unsurprising that Jozajtis and the other minds behind High Voltage Seafront Cafe, a pop-up-gone-permanent on the Asbury Park boardwalk, have achieved such a textured vibe. The cafe space opened this June after a successful a 2016 summer pop-up run, and synthesizes the vision of Jozajtis, her partner Jason Thomson, Allison Trautwein, and Mike Caliendo.
The common denominator here is an intentionality about the coffee, the food, and the experience, delivered in a space that feels like the living room of plugged-in friends who manage not to take themselves too seriously.
“We built everything ourselves,” says Thomson, who is also the editor/creative director of the local alt-weekly triCityNews. “From a design perspective, I like the look of a worn-in space. Like an old pair of blue jeans, it has more soul.” Everything from the hand-lettered logo to the custom counters and blues-meets-indie soundtrack feeds an urban/beach mash-up vibe equally ready for the freelance set and the sun-seekers.
“It brings people to another place,” Trautwein says.
The design also draws on Thomson and Jozajtis’ travels, including jaunts back to Poland. Let’s set the scene. You’re lounging on an avocado-hued loveseat with a lavender latte in hand. Morning sun streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows as it rises over the Atlantic and dances across a back wall painted “High Voltage blue.” The cafe—all raw tables and vintage chairs, all artfully strewn magazines and hand-mounted subway tile—radiates with early light.
It’s Asbury Park with a Euro twist, and it fits. The city is known for its mash-up of moods and cultures, deliciously eclectic. There is Convention Hall, its swirling plaster seashells evoking another heyday. There are girls in pin-up bathing suits, mural artists, and folks carrying throwback boom boxes. Then there’s the beach, punctuated by a riot of rainbow umbrellas. The city draws a raucous crowd, but a friendly one.
“There’s no city like this on the East Coast,” says Jozajtis, a Poland-to-Brooklyn-to-Asbury transplant who also owns lifestyle brand Nomad Asbury and glamping company Wanderland Popup Hotel with Thomson. (Sensing a theme?)
The food program at High Voltage continues Jozajtis’ international bent, with notes of Balkan, Euro, and other global elements. “You always remember the flavors from when you travel,” she says. So, she worked to create a sense of adventure with a menu heavy on healthy options that still read like an indulgence. On weekends, that includes seasonal pierogis and flatbread pizzas, a riff on Polish street food. The team also tapped neighbor-bakers Medusa Stone Fired Kitchen, who churn out killer wood-fired bread for open-faced sandwiches, along with traditional Polish pastries like rogal.
Since its pop-up days, High Voltage has seen rising energy in Asbury’s coffee scene. “It really feels like a coffee community here now,” Jozajtis says. Case in point: the team tapped Maiden Coffee Roasters, a new offshoot of the ever-popular Cafe Volan, as one of two New Jersey roasters. “I like the way they roast,” says Caliendo
After three years honing his coffee cred at Jersey Shore roaster and shop Rook Coffee, Caliendo brought a passion for exploring the potential of each roast to the High Voltage team as manager. By his second day on the job, the infectiously enthusiastic employee knew he wanted all in—he’s now a co-owner.
Single-origin pour-overs (roasted by Maiden) are prepped on a picture-pretty Yama Silverton, or available as Japanese style hot brewed over ice. Batch-brewed coffee gets the FETCO treatment, and relies on the Humble Jefferson blend from Jersey City-based ModCup, who also provide the espresso that makes its way to a La Marzocco Linea Classic. A Mazzer grinder rounds out the equipment.
When the boardwalk spot surfaced, High Voltage was already planning a Springwood Street location—part coffee shop and cafe, part streamlined grocery stocked with local, sustainable goods, it will be part of Asbury Park’s new transit village—slated for fall. But despite the huge task of building two cafes at once, they couldn’t resist.
“It was full throttle,” Trautwein says. The hustle paid off. When you’re sitting on the boardwalk with a coffee in hand, you’re definitely doing summer right—but don’t think of High Voltage as seasonal. Come winter, the team envisions Euro-style days on the boards.
“I want to bring that European vibe into Asbury,” Jozajtis says. “Wrap yourself in a blanket, drink hot cocoa, and stare at the ocean.”
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