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Photos courtesy of Downstate

Downstate Kitchen and Coffee Dishes up Mexican Fare in Newburgh


Espresso drinks and traditional Mexican bites? Count us in.

When Brandon Grimila and his business partner Fernando Cordova opened Downstate Kitchen and Coffee on a corner of Newburgh’s Lander Street—a mostly residential neighborhood in the historic district’s east end—not everyone thought it was a good idea.

Downstate owner Brandon Grimila.

Downstate owner Brandon Grimila.

“Some people said, ‘Why Lander Street? It’s notorious for drugs and crime,’ but we knew exactly where we were and why we were there,” says Grimila. “We live in Newburgh and are inspired by the people of this city. We wanted to do something off the beaten path, cut ourselves into the fabric of this city, and rewrite the narrative of what a great café can be.”

Both Grimila, 32, and Cordova, 33, are trained chefs with exceptional credentials. Grimila, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, earned his stripes at fine restaurants such as Bar Boulud in Manhattan and Hotel Fauchere in Milford, Pennsylvania. He met up with Cordova, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), at The Dutch in Manhattan, where, as station partners, they became fast friends.

Downstate owner Fernando Cordova.

Downstate owner Fernando Cordova.

During the pandemic, they launched the seasonal Promises Kept Events, an Esopus-based mobile catering company. They came up with the concept of their second venture, Downstate, while vacationing in Mexico. “Some of the best café experiences I’ve had were in Mexico, and Fernando migrated from Morelos, just outside Mexico City, with all this amazing food. We also learned that Newburgh is more than 50 percent Latino, so it made sense to lean into that and feature Mexican food.”


The 20-by-20-foot space at 47 Lander Street—owned by writer and actor Robert Fontaine Jr.—had intrigued Grimila as he searched the city for a café space. “I knocked on the door and said, ‘What is this place? We’re looking to open a coffee shop.’ Robert happened to share our vision to rebuild the neighborhood. He wanted to open a café here himself because he thought the street needed it, and the rest is history,” he says. Grimila and Cordova renovated the space and built out the bar, making sure to keep the interior simple with wood accents and natural lighting.

Downstate serves Mexico City-inspired cuisine alongside premium Parlor Coffee (based in Brooklyn) to match the integrity of its culinary program. “You usually don’t see the two paired together, and I think maybe we’re bridging the gap,” says Grimila. “Most Americans, I think, are aware of high-end, specialty coffee but unaware of high-end Mexican food made with style and care. It’s an underrepresented cuisine, and so for us, it’s about pairing it with a coffee scene that they already know and love.”

Cordova’s brother, Erik, also an alum of The Dutch, is the head chef, whipping up breakfast bites like a huge burrito—stuffed with fried eggs, potatoes, peppers, onions, pickled jalapeños, queso Chihuahua (soft white Mexican cheese), and choice of meat—or the equally grand torta, a crusty sandwich packed with fried eggs, refried beans, mayo, pickled jalapeños, queso Oaxaca (a stretchy cheese similar to mozzarella), cotija, radish, and lime.

lunch plate

For lunch, try the beef barbacoa sincronizada (a tortilla-based sandwich) with guajillo pepper mayo, queso Oaxaca, salsa fresca, and cilantro; the quesadilla, a blue-corn tortilla bursting with queso Oaxaca, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, crema, and a choice of cecina (air-dried beef), chorizo, or carnitas (pulled pork). Or dig into the traditional pozole verde, a traditional soup with shredded chicken, green chile broth, hominy, and cilantro, which Cordova learned to make in his mother’s Bayonne, New Jersey, kitchen.


One of the notable things about Downstate, according to Grimila, is that Erik makes the tortillas fresh daily and uses heirloom yellow corn from Masienda. “The masa is what makes the tortilla, and it’s pressed here every day. That makes a huge difference.”

On the java side, patrons can order an espresso, cortado (a beverage that is equal parts espresso and milk), cappuccino, latte, and mocha—to name a few. Nut milks are available. Tea options include hibiscus-rosella, matcha latte, and an iced drink called agua de Jamaica with products from its other partner, Spirit Tea, a Chicago-based company.


While it’s still too early to gauge the impact the café has had on the neighborhood, Grimila says he’s seeing a lot of positive signs. “Our contribution is lifting up the neighborhood by creating jobs and an environment where every single person is welcome. We wanted to do something attractive for the people in the city in an area that’s been neglected.”

Related: 10 Hudson Valley Coffee Roasters for Top-Tier Brews

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!