Love Coffee, Love People

Since the mid-1600s coffee shops have been cultural hubs for connectivity, a place to unwind and think. As the centuries have rolled on the technology may have changed but the allure of a cozy café remains prevalent.

owner Evan Santiago holding a flat white with oat milk

Hybrid Coffee + Kitchen is the newest coffee shop to open in the Jersey City area, at 110 Cambridge Avenue, but many locals are already familiar with the name. Less than a year ago, owner Evan Santiago debuted Hudson County’s only mobile coffee cart on Exchange Place, which he custom built from a converted 1970s horse trailer. After only a few months of proven success, he decided to expand to a brick-and-mortar location, which opened in late November of 2019.


“My desire is to create a coffee culture that is outside of your standard norm and my brand overall is inspired by my travels and things that I went through in life,” Santiago expressed.


As an art director by trade, the decor of his new location is certainly reflective of said attitude. A hand blown glass neon sign that reads Love coffee, love people; an original wooden 1970s Pac-man with over 60 games; a display case with plant life; reclaimed wood; a real fireplace with colorfully upholstered antiquity furniture. Then there’s the eye catcher, tables made from old cast iron Singer sewing machines, a touch Santiago refers to as his signature style, creating and cutting out the wooden tops himself. 


“I wanted to create something that was a conversation starter. I curated the space as a little piece of my mind. I wanted to make it feel like home. Each space has a purpose.”

Even the location itself has a deeper purpose. Hybrid is in the same building as the Hope Center, a modernized church. Santiago is the centers acting art director and media director, taking part in over 20 free community events annually. While the center technically owns the space and licenses the brand, Santiago owns the brand itself. But it’s all filtered through the non-profit, adding real heart to this home.

“I’ve always had this desire to open up a coffee shop and to be in the service space industry. When you’re doing something like this you’re not only serving people and pleasing people, but you’re pleasing palates as well.”


In addition to the lattes, teas, coffee, and espresso, currently the food menu lists items such as avocado toast, eggs-in-a-blanket, a hybrid waffle, brioche French toast, stew sandwich, and latin style chicken soup, made by Santiago himself.

It’s rare to walk into a new place and immediately feel at ease, but Santiago has an innate capacity for empathy, a likely reason why he’s seen such success.

Hybrid brings in the local community in every aspect of business. The coffee is from Jersey City’s own ModCup, where Santiago was a consumer for many years prior to owning his own piece of the culture and various delicious pastries are sourced directly from Choc-O-Pain on Palisades Avenue.


“Coffee is full of science and full of art, to create a great drink. I want to pair good coffee with good product.”


All the dishes, cups, and stoneware are handmade from Union City based artist Jono Pandolfi, and in the corner customers can purchases pieces from missionary group, Traveling Thrift, and leather by Billy Kirk. For the future Hybrid plans to dig its roots even deeper into the community, selling local art work, product, even flowers.

“I want a space you can walk in and you feel like you can get everything. Where you can work, you can eat, you can buy a card. A place that fulfills all the needs, all the things that you need to get through your day.”

With the new year will be a new opportunity to grow. Hybrid aims have a calendar of events for the whole community to enjoy, including live music and open mic nights.

“I’m planted here. I want to grow where I’m planted. My wife and I, with our kids, wanted to build in the location where we live. It’s easy to go out, but why not invest in the city that you walk in every day?”

Hybrid Coffee + Kitchen is located on 110 Cambridge Avenue in Jersey City. Find them on Instagram.

The Mayor & The Spring Flower

Kuppi Coffee Company in Edgewater, New Jersey, was a fun little find on my search for a healthy place to drop in after working out.

Subway tile line the walls, brick to compliment the room, hanging lights, wide windows in the front overlooking the parking lot, and airy windows in the back afforded a view of the Hudson River. Couches, high tables, communal wooden tables, and trendy stadium style seating scattered throughout the room. A place for every type of customer. I arrived at the counter and ordered a Chickpea Smash, smashed chickpeas over multi grain bread with arugula, radish, and topped with Sriracha, side of cappuccino.


As I placed my order an elderly man struck up a conversation with me. He was an Armenian fur designer living in Cliffside Park who moved to the area from Istanbul many years ago. I bit my tongue not to mention my adversity to animal cruelty amid my animal rescue efforts. By the time I signed my receipt he offered me a seat at his table. Since my original position was surrounded by several children playing under the age of five, adorable but no thank you, I took up the offer for a quieter atmosphere. Here, I’d sit for the next two hours as I sipped and nibbled.




I enjoy meeting strangers in public places, especially those from another country. I find there’s so much to learn, like an audio book in first person perspective. The individual paths that led such a stranger to the exact moment I share with them, listening to their passions, discovering a foreign city that is soon added to my travel list, and trying to understand their, oftentimes broken, English. The Mayor* did not disappoint. I soon discovered he was a regular at Kuppi and the owner dubbed him Mayor because he spoke to every new face that entered the shop.
What I found most amusing about Mayor was the amount of times he seemed to contradict himself. He doesn’t like when others talked about history, he has no use for the past, and yet he loves to read history books; he doesn’t like people but yet smiled at everyone in the room; he thinks those who talk too much don’t understand when to ask questions, and somehow in the two hours we sat with one another he monopolized the conversation for about an hour and 45 minutes. As he spoke, I remained essentially silent but smiled and nodded my way through. Sometimes people just want to be heard, and I’ve made a career off of listening.

Journalists are oftentimes treated like therapists with a byline.

I looked around as he pointed to the Turkish woman dying of cancer, the Russian customer with the billionaire husband, the Palestinian millennial always with her laptop, the mortgage (or insurance) salesman typing away, the disgruntled Eastern European on line who is inherently miserable with two children, and the owners mother who sat directly next to us. Each person with their own backstory, and the Mayor was privy to them all. Then, there was me, a new character for him to learn. I’d undoubtedly be his ‘spring flower’ (a nickname I quickly acquired) from Long Island with a penchant for smiling.

Our time together grew to a close as my two hour parking was up. We shook hands and I gathered my turned off laptop. I didn’t get the work done that I had planned but I walked away with something more. Kuppi’s became more than an atmosphere. For me, it’s the story of The Mayor & The Spring Flower.