Since 2002, Doma Cafe and Gallery has been a fixture of Perry Street. It’s built a reputation as the consummate West Village coffee shop, its small tables constantly filled with locals drawn in by the promise of hot coffee, affordable food, and a tolerance for people who take three hours to finish a cup of tea. But while Doma isn’t going anywhere, starting this week, its menu is. Owner Evie Polesny tells Fork in the Road that she’s hired a new chef, Daniel Mateo, to add some new dishes to the menu and make Doma “more of a food destination. We improving the quality on everything and making it look more beautiful.”
When Doma first opened, Polesny says, its menu was created by one of her cousins, who went on to become a sous-chef first at the Spotted Pig and then at the John Dory. After her cousin left Doma, it was difficult to “keep up her vision,” Polesny says. Last year, she decided to try again, with somebody else at the kitchen’s helm, and found Mateo, an alum of Chelsea’s Barocco.
Polesny describes Mateo’s food as “Italian with a little Nouveau American,” and says he’s adding hot dishes like pasta, grilled salmon, and a local burger to the menu and altering existing dishes with better ingredients. Mateo will also be turning out baked goods that Polesny describes as “stuff that grandma might bake, but a kind of elegant grandma.” The croissants have changed, too: they previously came from Balthazar, but are now baked from dough delivered to the Doma kitchen. What’s more, the coffee now comes from Counter Culture, and everything on the menu will be available by delivery.
Polesny stresses that the menu changes are “not a complete overhaul — our customers already got upset when we changed the tomato soup.” Catering to those customers while attracting new ones was one of the bigger challenges of updating the menu — her customers, Polesny explains, “want something nice and elegant, but get irritated if we raise prices even 25 cents.”
Elegance aside, the economy is also behind Polesny’s decision to change Doma’s menu: “We used to be able to survive on those people who would sit for 72 hours with a cup of coffee,” she jokes. “But it’s a matter of paying the rent.” It’s an issue that has been exacerbated by the rise in neighborhood coffee competition from places like Jack’s and Joe’s.
Despite the continuing economic uncertainty, Polesny, who’s lived with her family in the West Village for years, doesn’t plan to go anywhere. “It all depends on how things change in the next few years,” she says, “but we want to stay forever.”