In this second in a series of interviews by Irving Farm to the talented food and drink professionals we work in partnership with, we take a minute with Corey Lopez-Thomas of DTUT.
Tell us about “DTUT”. What’s it stand for, if anything?
DTUT (pronounced D-T-U-T) stands for Downtown Uptown. Our goal is just that: to bring a downtown feeling to an uptown location. The Upper East Side needed some vintage couches, reclaimed wood, and good strong coffee.
How did you get started in the food and beverage industry?
I started working at the original DTUT when I was 17 (which was open from 1997 to 2002). I was a barista. I fell in love with the feel of the place, and eventually became general manager. I stayed there until I was 22, when DTUT lost its lease. After that I bartended at Biddys pub, another local favorite on the Upper East Side, and became partner there when I was 25. While bartending I really missed the food industry and realized that I wanted to make it my career. I had been a general manager, a barista, a caterer and even a dishwasher – but I had never been behind the scenes cooking in the actual kitchen. So while bartending I began also working part-time as a cook in a restaurant in midtown. After that I knew the food service industry from every perspective, and felt prepared to open my own place.
What made you want to open a cafe?
As a bartender, I got a good feel for the kind of food and drink experiences that New Yorkers want. It became clear to me that the Upper East Side needed a community space where customers feel welcome to take it easy and enjoy a good cup of coffee. It was a void that hadn’t been filled since the original DTUT closed down.
Tell us about the space—and those awesome mugs, are those handmade?
The space is designed so that you can be as comfortable in it as you would be in your living room. We bought a variety of couches and armchairs from thrift stores around the city, mostly in Brooklyn and Queens.
It’s important to us to support and display local, independent artists. All of our mugs are handmade just for us by an artist in the Hudson Valley. She stamped our name on each one, and molded, glazed, and fired them in her small studio. Every mug is different. Our chandeliers were also made specially for us by an artist in Brooklyn. The one close to the bar is actually a reclaimed wooden door that we helped the artist pick out.
What coffee are you currently serving?
Thank you, Corey!