Revival of Spokane’s Late-night Coffee Scene

Originally published in Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living, January 2022
By Kate Vanskike

Dorian Karahalios and Aimee Clark

Creative Minds Unite

Late-night brews, literature and more

What’s a coffee-loving entrepreneur to do when he or she doesn’t want the responsibility (or the investment) of a fully independent java joint? Pop-up coffee shops are one possibility gaining popularity in many cities, offering flexibility in location and duration while an entrepreneur dabbles in the business.

It was the perfect option for Dorian Karahalios and Aimee Clark, artists who met at Spokane Print and Publishing Center where Aimee works with a variety of paper mediums and Dorian teaches bookbinding and digital publication workshops. They shared a dream of opening a place where coffee and creative minds would come together for connection, fueling java junkies and muses alike, at night.  

Their artistic energies in motion, the pair searched for a place where people could hang out to write or sketch. Everything in Spokane (except the bars) closed too early, they thought. And longtime Spokanites they asked recalled places like Mercury and Java Junky’s that haven’t been open for years.

“We’re all old millennials who just want a quiet place to go out to at night that doesn’t serve alcohol,” said Dorian. “We felt like the revival of Spokane’s late-night coffee scene was long overdue and thought we’d take a crack at jump starting it ourselves.”

During the pandemic, Dorian had frequented the Twenty-Seventh Heaven Bakeshop on Grand Blvd – an inconspicuous shop in an angular building that also houses a tattoo parlor and barbershop. When he shared his pop-up musings with Lydia Cowles, the bakery’s owner, she offered her space, which she wasn’t using in the evenings anyway.  

“Who was I to turn down the stars aligning like that?” Dorian said.

Now presenting … Lunarium.

Not your standard coffee bar

If a simple cup of quality coffee suits your evening vibe, Lunarium will fit the bill nicely. There are no espresso machines or walls lined with syrups. There are two options: French press with a selection from local Roast House, or a 100% peaberry robusta from Nguyen Coffee, which Dorian selected after hearing a podcast about Vietnamese farmers and myths surrounding robusta, the lesser-known sister to Arabica coffee. You can also order tea by the pot or Chinese tea, both in a variety of flavors, or a craft soda like peach cardamom.

The selection of Roast House came naturally as it was one of the first places Dorian visited when he first moved to Spokane. “It was a nice dose of community that I seriously needed after leaving my hometown for the first time.”

As for the tea, Dorian said, “We’re constantly expanding our selection with things I haven’t seen in Spokane yet.”

Savory treats and delectable morsels – edible and audible

With a baker’s kitchen onsite, Lunarium’s opening menu offers a glimpse at what is sure to be a diverse collection of options representing Dorian’s and Aimee’s own journeys. Aimee spent much of her life exploring the sights, sounds, and tastes of France. Arizona native Dorian celebrates his Greek and Chinese heritages and the culinary delights of Tucson.

“My home cooking has always been focused on savory dishes and baked goods are Aimee’s jam (pun intended),” said Dorian. He says her scones have the perfect texture, and they pair beautifully with freshly whipped cream and homemade jam.

They proudly offer vegan and dairy-free options, including a sweetened condensed coconut cream for the Vietnamese coffees.

A few highlights:

  • kimchi avocado toast with sweet miso on four-seed bread made by Twenty-Seventh Heaven Bakeshop
  • grilled cheese with tomato-basil paste
  • frangipane – an almond-filled pastry served with cream
  • “Plateaux Gourmands” (French for gourmet platters) includes a pot of coffee or tea and a rotating trio of sweets you’ve not seen at any other local bakery

But simply listing menu items doesn’t do justice to the playful, mysterious literary gifts that accompany them on Lunarium’s Instagram posts. Take, for example, this caption of a star-shaped shortbread cookie:

“To capture the cosmic forces that dance among starlight, said The Magician, you must first begin with flour and butter. A pinch of desire, a dash of salt, the sweetness of a life well lived. And then, they said with a smile, you must release the mixture into the universe, lest you overwork the dough. The words echoed off the walls of The Lunarium, its patrons entranced. With a wave of their hand, The Magician’s empty cup exploded in light, the vibrant colors swirling and condensing to a single, celestial point.”

That was crafted by Dorian, who graduated with Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Eastern Washington University. It’s a sampling of the microfiction vignettes he’s creating around a “parallel-ish universe coffee lounge called The Lunarium, which might be dipping into magical realism or fabulism at some point.”

Aimee and Dorian hope to gather any artists who prefer a late-night setting for a variety of expression, including knitters and stitchers. They want you to find their shop “unique and full of surprises, but still cozy, comfortable, and safe.”

“We want customers to be able to leave their cares at the door and be able to breathe a sigh of relief,” Dorian said.

So grab your journal, sketchpad, or yarn, and head to 1220 S. Grand Blvd, 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Saturday.

Favorite Drinks

  • Aimee: a good cold brew with a splash of coconut milk, or an Ethiopian coffee for its fruitiness
  • Dorian: iced Vietnamese coffee, a hemp milk latte or a French press roast with chocolate flavors

Follow: @lunarium.spokane on Instagram

Visit: 1220 S. Grand Blvd.

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