James Murphy's new cafe Daymoves — which neighbors his established dining endeavor, the Four Horseman wine bar — has optimism infused into its concept. The man who spent a good portion of LCD Soundsystem’s comeback album American Dream examining death sounds almost quixotic when explaining his expectations for the new spot.
“Hopefully, thoughtful service, good light, and peace,” Murphy tells Billboard by email. “[We want] guests who come to feel like they’re breathing and resting up for their day –getting stronger — in that way which is often unique to a beautiful lobby cafe in a great, small hotel in some city you’ve traveled a long way to experience.”
Daymoves is meant to disrupt the prototypical New York cafe, the ones filled with glowing Apple logos and business talk. They’re places to do things, and Daymoves is not; the idea here is more of a “daytime sanctuary and a community center,” as Amanda Spina, general manager of Four Horsemen and Daymoves, puts it. The community-over-productivity ethos is built into the space: There is no public Wi-Fi; couches are placed claustrophobically and in right angles, as if to encourage human interaction; and the entire spot is a fresh nook behind a corridor. As the naked oriental strand boards that line the short tunnel suggest, Daymoves is still a work in progress.
Daymoves’ physical aesthetic is what first unapologetically stands out. Large rectangular speakers hover over the room while a skylight allows the sun and outdoor plants to adorn the establishment. The decor is playfully anachronistic. Open shelves and furniture boasting colorful hues look like they could’ve been part of the Mad Men set circa Season 5. A bodybuilding woman poses next to the YouTube logo in a painting that serves both ‘80s New York graffiti and ironic Tumblr. Hands are also a design motif: Purplish ones hold a light orb on a reflective table and another calm blue one reaches at you from inside the bathroom door. Daymoves’ answer to the common New York cafe problem seems to be simply embracing the surreal.
It also appears to be less precious about its menu offerings than its sibling, though Murphy’s love of coffee is well-documented. Spina says the cafe is “roaster agnostic,” and that view does make for good coffee — whenever it comes. The batch brew took nearly 30 minutes after the server mentioned things were still being sorted during its grand opening on Thursday (Sept. 19). But its presentation does carry as much personality as its surroundings; the coffee came in a pyrex cylinder alongside cream in a mini apple-shaped china. The almond croissant, topped with marzipan and filled with almond paste that goes down smoothly, should become a menu favorite.
Murphy did pop up shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Thursday in a dark blazer and New Balances for a business meeting on one of Daymoves’ couches; there was little fanfare, as he probably preferred.
At the couch by table holding the purple hands, a man in a pale purple t-shirt was innocently taking pictures of the space with his iPhone. He was there for a while and didn’t have an opinion; or rather, wasn’t interested in having one. He lived nearby and wanted to see what had taken the place of Larry Lawrence, a cocktail bar that was purportedly "good for chilling with a small of group of friends,” according to one Yelp review. His take: “Well, it’s different.”
Overall, Daymoves is the sort of spot one wants to visit when he or she doesn't have a deadline; it's a place to talk to friends or read the paper. "And a place where they can have coffee made for them at a really high level, without feeling like someone is yelling at them about how cool their technique is," Murphy affirms.
Daymoves is open now at 295 Grand Street (between Roebling and Havemeyer) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, next to The Four Horsemen. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends.