When Hemi Braunstein lived in Israel, he hung out in coffee shops where, he says, "You sit and meet people and talk about politics or sports." But when he moved to the United States in his late 20s, "I was missing that. It seemed like a very closed society, unless it involved alcohol."
That was part of the impetus for opening Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse, a joint venture with his wife, Amy Siebert, tucked away in a small Point Breeze business district.
The décor, like the all-vegetarian menu, is locally sourced. Mosaics and paintings by regional artists line the walls. There's also an expansive magnetic board lined with sketches, like a community refrigerator door.
The menu features a few staples: baked goods in the morning, and hummus, wraps, paninis and salads for lunch. Also featured are a few rotating daily specials, including a vegan soup.
A recent panini special featured asparagus, grilled kale, roasted-garlic spread and feta, which balanced well with fresh, juicy tomatoes and the multigrain bread.
And while the vegetarian fare is mostly Siebert's domain, Braunstein prides himself on the fair-trade coffee; he promises all beans are roasted within two weeks of consumption. The iced "dirty chai" (chai with a shot of espresso) is a favorite meant to be sipped on the back patio.
And while Braunstein acknowledges that "it might cost a little more, or you might have to wait a little longer," Make Your Mark doesn't want to be "just another coffeehouse."