Masa, the alkalized corn dough that can make or break a good tortilla, is an indigenous Mexican art with centuries of culinary expertise, and Sobre Masa founders Zack and Diana Wangeman are making sure Brooklyn knows all about it.
After meeting as high schoolers in Oaxaca, the Bushwick couple co-created Sobre Masa last year as a love letter to the city of their youth — falling in love themselves in the process.
Now, the newly-ish-weds have opened a new coffee and retail shop in the Bushwick that aims to promote conversation around Mexican culture, the rich history of heirloom corn, and the producers and growers of Mexico through its offerings of artisanal Mexican grocery items, Oaxacan coffee shop fare and tortillas by the dozen.
“It’s important to showcase these specialty Mexican products because they are endangered,” Zack Wangeman said, adding the couple wanted to share, with confidence, that the products were high quality and there was a story behind them, “there’s a producer behind them.”
“We want to empower Mexican producers, especially with corn — our farmers have been working with this corn for over 200 generations. But the corn industry is difficult. Producers keep getting overtaken by mass-production.”
Located steps away from the Morgan L-train stop, the shop will open on January 4 and serve cafe drinks with house-roasted Oaxacan coffee and Mexican hot chocolate, along with Sobre Masa’s house-made tortillas, chips and masa.
The shop will carry a line of the company’s salsas, including its Chile Morita, Verde, Fried Arbol Chile and Garlic Salsa, and specialty Mexican products like Oaxacan coffee beans, corn husks and vanilla extract.
For those in need of a quick pick-me-up snack, the eatery will also carry Mexican pastries like orejas, corn cookies and conchas, in flavors including chocolate, almond and vanilla. Sobre Masa also has a rotating tamale menu, including mole negro with chicken, pork in salsa verde, rajas and queso fresco, and mushrooms in salsa roja.
Wangeman said that the name of the restaurant, Sobre Masa, translates to ‘about masa,’ but it’s also a play on the phrase ‘sobre mesa,’ which can be loosely translated to mean the mealtime conversation.
The new Bushwick outpost is the third brick-and-mortar the Wangemans — who were recently named in Forbes 30 Under 30 for their work with Sobre Masa — have, after they opened a restaurant and bar in Williamsburg and then the Sobre Masa Taqueria in Bushwick. The taqueria has a variety of traditional taco styles and cocktails highlighting Mexican spirits — all with a focus on high quality products from Mexican growers.
“I could probably go to five different supermarkets in New York and buy the same parmesan cheese the Pope eats,” Wangeman said. “But Mexico, which is our neighboring country… it’s just so difficult to get high-quality ingredients.”
One of his favorite ingredients now stocked in the retail space is the oregano, which is specially foraged from the Oaxacan desert. He said there were nearly varietals of 60 heirloom corn specifically from Mexico, and the one the Wangemans used most was the Bolita varietal, which is from Oaxaca.
“It’s important to know your ingredients and know who makes it,” Wangeman said. “They all cook a bit differently and have an identity of their own.”
Sobre Masa’s new coffee shop and retail space will be open at 52 Harrison Place from 7:00am to 3:00pm Tuesday through Saturday.