Speak softly and carry a big spoon
New York City is finally getting a permanent all-day cereal cafe—in the heart of Times Square no less. But despite the location and gourmet cereal offerings crafted by Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar—like Rice Krispies sprinkled with green tea powder and fresh strawberries and served with locally sourced milk—Kellogg’s NYC is not your average glitzy, high-concept Midtown restaurant. There are no LED screens, and no neon signs.
It’s “the antithesis of Times Square,” explained Anthony Rudolf, founder and CEO of Journee, who partnered with Kellogg’s to open this all-day cereal cafe. Really, the best way to describe Kellogg’s NYC, the breakfast brand’s first permanent restaurant, is simple, and that’s just the way it was designed to be.
At Kellogg’s NYC, which will open to the public on July 4, “We didn’t mess with the cereal experience whatsoever,” Rudolf said. “It’s a bowl of cereal where you pour your own milk over it and there’s a spoon.”
But simple doesn’t mean lazy, and it certainly doesn’t mean uncreative. Rudolf explained, “So much of a cafe or restaurant is about how much work goes ahead of time to make it as simple as possible in the moment of the experience,” starting with the cereal itself.
There is the option to “Raid The Pantry” and Frankenstein your own bowl with any combination of 14 cereals. You can even top the bowl with add-ons of your choice, like banana and strawberries, or coffee grinds and Pop-Tart crumble. The main event, however, is a full menu of ten different cereal recipes with names like “Berry Au Lait” and “The Circus,” all of which can be served with the customer’s choice of milk, yogurt, or soft-serve ice cream from Blue Marble. These gourmet cereal bowls and sundaes were designed by Tosi, a pastry chef with a long history of working with breakfast cereal; she rose to prominence in the culinary world with her cereal milk at Momofuku’s Milk Bar, and has also collaborated with Kellogg’s in the past at a pop-up cafe called Recharge Bar.
“Christina obvious pushed the imagination of what currently exists,” Rudolf said of this menu. At the end of the day, however, it’s entirely replicable at home—that’s the beauty of this whole darn thing. “The ingredients that Christina is using you’re already familiar with. There’s nothing you can’t purchase to do at home, so there’s no real stretch there,” he added.
The simplicity is the beauty of Tosi’s cereal bowls, which are clever combinations of otherwise everyday ingredients that you’d probably never think to combine even if you had all of them in your own pantry. “The Corny Blues,” for example, is a bowl of Corn Pops dressed up with blueberry jam, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt—which sounds a little crazy because who salts their cereal? But that one addition adds a savory dimension to the otherwise sweet bowl. Life In Color—made with Froot Loops mixed with lime zest and marshmallows and topped with a drizzle passionfruit jam—is surprisingly light, and though it’s meant to be served on soft-serve ice cream from Blue Marble, it’s just as good with whole milk. And the milk is good, sourced locally from farms within a 250-mile radius of New York City through Five Acre Farms. In fact, all the ingredients are locally-sourced whenever possible, and it is expected that the menu will change as fruits go in and out of season.
The care given to the menu has also been given to the restaurant itself. “We didn’t want it to be glitzy with neon signs. We wanted it to feel like a real, warm, contemporary restaurant that you’d want to come to,” said Noel Geoffroy, senior vice president of morning foods at Kellogg. And the whole experience is meant to make you feel comfortable with the idea of eating breakfast outside of your home by creating “connections to what you’re already familiar with,” Rudolf explained.
To do that, Rudolf played with delivery system, which ends by picking up your order from a bank of red lacquered cabinets meant to mimic the cabinets where you or your family may have stored cereal. “Connecting the kitchen cabinet to the end of the line experience here was where we threaded that needle of emotional connectedness,” he explains. You place your order and pay, then you’re handed a buzzer. When it buzzer beeps, it displays a number. Simply open up the cabinet, as you would with those in your own kitchen, with the number from your buzzer; grab the brown paper bag with your order; and enjoy your cereal the store or take it with you.
Though it sounds complicated, pick-up makes a lot of sense while you’re doing it. When she first heard about the cabinets, even Geoffroy didn’t fully understand how the cabinet system would work, but got it fully after seeing them for the first time. “It was an a-ha. I get what was in [Rudolf’s] head,” she explained. “It brings the cabinet experience, as well as the surprise and delight of opening it, getting your bag, finding the things in it. I think it was a really original and smart idea.”
The surprises don’t end with the opening of the cabinet though, because with each brown paper bag comes a prize, much like, well, a box of cereal. Some will be as simple as a temporary tattoo or mood ring (I got Honey Smacks-branded socks), and since Kellogg’s NYC isn’t constrained to fit the prize into a small cardboard box, “we can take it to the most insane levels,” Rudolf said, which includes vouchers for ride-sharing apps or even tickets to unique New York City experiences like a sold-out Broadway show.
“It’s another cool way to link into what people think about the cereal,” Geoffroy added. “You think about what you get in the box, not only the great memories of your favorite food, but also some of the fun and the light that comes with it.” And the commitment to creating that sense of wonder is why Kellogg’s NYC makes you feel like you’re in your childhood kitchen rather than Times Square, if only your parents had red lacquered cabinets that were always stocked with bowls breakfast cereal and milk created by award-winning chefs.