Project Coffee owners Emily Arthur and Ian Steger

Image: Isaac Eger

A new coffee café has opened its doors in the Burns Court neighborhood on the corner of Pineapple Avenue and Selby Lane. Owned by Sarasota's Ian Steger and Emily Arthur, Project Coffee had its soft opening this past weekend and welcomed customers with good coffee and minimal and modestly priced fare.

Nothing on the café’s menu reaches into the double digits. The most you will spend is $7 on toast—two slices of sourdough with large dollops of your choice of avocado, tomato or hummus, each dressed with a variety of herbs and spices. The biscuits are baked in house and the carrot cake is sweet perfection, with noticeable bits of carrot and nuts. Everything is dairy-free, including the coffee drinks. Steger and Arthur use oat milk, instead, and you will not notice the difference. Most places charge extra for alternative milks, but Project Coffee includes them in the price.

Project Coffee's toast

Image: Isaac Eger

The new place is a pleasant place to pass the time. Open and bright, the café’s street-facing windows bring in sunshine and illuminate bare white walls and feed indoor plants that dot the corners and shelves. The space horseshoes around a large bar where friendly baristas shuffle and tap espresso tools and pour drinks. It’s roomy, with plenty of places to sit and work or chat over a cup of specialty coffee by Bandit Coffee Co.—a St. Petersburg roaster.

Project Coffee's carrot cake

Image: Isaac Eger

The coffee is drip, and you can get a small cup (10 ounces) for $3 and a large (16 ounces) for $4. The roast I had on my visit was a light and peachy brew from Ethiopia. For Steger, 24, the taste of the coffee comes second to the social atmosphere it creates. “I love to casually socialize over a cup of coffee,” he says. “It’s the common denominator. We all have to wake up and do dumb stuff.”

For now, Project Coffee is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, until the café has its grand opening in September, when the space will be open seven days a week with longer hours. Project Coffee is located at 538 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota.

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