Duo behind the community’s favorite cafe opening downtown Easton wine bar with an international twist
If you open the Tucker Silk Mill Instagram page and go back to March 2017, you’ll notice that before that the account was completely dedicated to wine. For those who know the Australian café owners Jason Hoy and Melanie Hansche, this is hardly surprising.
The two have been knee deep in the wine business for quite some time now. Hoy has spent a decade running Ultimo Wine Center, one of Australia’s premier wine retailers, and Hansche is currently Associate Editor of Food and Wine Magazine.
So, given that Tucker is a community-centric cafe and grocery store, it makes sense that the couple’s next business is set to be the first wine bar in their adopted Easton home.
Kabinett, a name that is both a nod to German Riesling flair and “that special place to put good wine,” Hoy said, will be nestled right between Center Square and the Delaware Riverfront on Northampton Street during of its opening. Taking the place of the old Easton Cafe, the wine bar and restaurant is slated to open in early 2022 after a complete reconstruction and renovation of the space.
The vision of what Kabinett could and will be is one that has remained with Hoy for 25 years – “It’s been around my head since my mid-20s,” he said. Back then, while in Australia, his life consisted of flying to Europe to show people French and German wines, as well as hosting Summer of Riesling, a national festival. And a wine bar where he could put all that knowledge to good use was very much on the agenda when he and Hansche moved to Easton. A few years later, it becomes a reality.
Hoy said a number of Tucker’s regulars are real estate developers, and when one of them bought Kabinett’s future location, they approached Hoy and Hansche to do something about it. It really was a situation in the right place at the right time, a situation that will lead, as Hoy said, to an idea that has been growing for two and a half decades.
Hoy expects the bar to have a global selection of wines. Naturally, couples’ relationships in Australia will result in an abundance of Australian wines, and Hoy’s experience with German and Austrian wines will result in the same. “But I have also been buried in the best French and Italian wines,” he said. “You will find them all.
Don’t worry, there will also be food. Hoy describes them as “raised plates”. “It will be the seasonal, fresh and really tasty ingredients,” he said. “There will be certain things that go out of people’s comfort zones. But I want to think that when they taste them, they won’t be uncomfortable.
And of course, what’s a good dinner and a drink without a matching view? As the owners of Tucker noted in their Facebook post, they are planning an outdoor patio overlooking the Delaware River. The location and the resulting foot traffic were certainly appealing to them, and it would make it one of the only places in downtown Easton that could boast such a view. But between their construction and other projects, Hoy also believes this block of Northampton Street is about to explode. Kabinett will surely be a highlight and a destination when he does.
Kabinett is still a few months away from being a reality, however. In the meantime, preparations are already being drawn up. The Kabinett team are eager to develop the staff and the menu. “We will be using Tucker as a laboratory for our kitchen before we open,” he said. “We will organize private dinners and meal tests. We’re really going to use this as a training ground for a new group of leaders.
And not even a week after the announcement, the community that has been built around Tucker has come out of the woods with enthusiasm, Hoy said, and much of that community is lending a hand in preparing Kabinett.
“Three or four years ago when we opened, 30 people showed up to help paint Tucker,” Hoy said. “We didn’t really know who a lot of them were, they just introduced themselves, and it was amazing. The difference now is we know the people, we have this great support network that will help us cross the line.
Hoy thinks back to the days before Tucker on Instagram – “It was the Kabinett account,” he said, although much of it was just photos and photos of wine bottles. This week, Hoy and Hansche launched @ kabinett.winebar on the social media platform with a single photo, introducing Kabinett to the world. But already, Hoy can’t help but marvel at the 600+ subscribers he’s earned. “I remember it took me a few years to get so many followers when Instagram started,” he said.
But he sees that as a good sign that people are already interested – and hopefully that’s a sign of things to come. “I think we’re going to have a great time,” he said. “We will continue to build on it. “
Our journalism needs your support. Please register today at lehighvalleylive.com.
Connor Lagore can be reached at [email protected].