The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Unity, coming soon. Allie Ginwala photo.

Unity Cafe 

Where: 3 Sundial Ave, Manchester
The cafe is scheduled to open around Jan. 20.

Growing Unity
New cafe set for Manchester’s Sundial Center

By Allie Ginwala

 On a recent Monday afternoon, Keri Laman walked through the in-progress space of her newest cafe. A team was installing wrought iron light fixtures in the dining area as Laman motioned to each corner of the room, describing her vision for the garden atmosphere of Unity Cafe, set to open later this month. 

Located in Manchester’s Sundial Center, next to the Mount Washington College entrance, it used to be home to Hesser’s “Barney purple and lemon yellow” colored cafeteria.
“There was a huge salad bar and a cafeteria line and a soda fountain,” she said. “Think of a hospital cafeteria; [it was] the same thing.”
Laman is president and owner of the Tidewater Catering family, and Unity Cafe joins her other Manchester establishments — Waterworks Cafe and Riverside Room in the millyard’s Waumbec Building and Bayona Cafe in the Jefferson Building.
Starting with a wheelbarrow full of menus when guests first walk in, Laman wants guests to feel like they’re stepping outdoors onto an upscale garden terrace when they come into the cafe.
Wrought iron window boxes that match the light fixtures will line the wall of windows, and trees wrapped with lights will reach up into concave indents in the ceiling. Interior awnings, a mounted counter with stools surrounding one of the trees, bamboo fans and a spectacular waterfall will complete the look. 
“This water feature was going to be the death of me, because my father gave me so much baloney for not having a water feature at Bayona,” Laman said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Dad, I promise you one day I’ll put in a water feature.’ Although I ‘poo poo’ his ideas on the phone, somehow he gets what he wants.”
The original plan for Unity Cafe was to have a noodle bar where patrons could assemble their own dishes, but once Laman realized the duct work and space required to pull it off properly, she decided to go another route. Instead, eight noodle bowls will be on the menu, two each of chicken, beef, seafood and vegetable. 
Culinary director Johnny Wallace wants to keep most of the menu a surprise for the cafe’s opening, so he gave Laman a list of “menu tidbits” to preview, which includes smoothies, grilled pressed sandwiches, upscale superfood salads and the mysteriously intriguing “crazy burgers.” 
“He wanted me to leave it at that,” she said, smiling. 
Over time, Laman wants to add a Tidewater favorites feature to each cafe’s menu, so folks dining at Unity could try the Waterworks hummus plate or perhaps one of Bayona’s flatbreads, while those in the mills could have a Unity noodle bowl. 
“Unity is the third child, but don’t forget about my older siblings,” she said. 
One of the quirky things coming to Unity Cafe is homemade fried chips in a brown paper bag, served instead of chips and salsa or a pasta salad side. The service style at Unity Cafe will be the same as at Bayona and Waterworks, open for weekday breakfast and lunch, but with the addition of Saturdays. 
With the majority of her establishments located in the millyard, there’s no question that Laman has a particular affection for that section of the Queen City. 
“The millyard is like a child to me, but it’s also getting crowded,” she said. “I really was very excited about being in kind of an underdog area.”
Though she’s opening less than a year after Bayona Cafe, Laman said the chance to be at Sundial couldn’t be passed up. 
“In the coming years this whole area ... this is going to be [the next big thing],” she said. “I feel it.”
No stranger to opening a cafe in an underappreciated area, she opened Waterworks in the Waumbec when it was largely vacant, and in the years since then it’s blossomed. 
“I think you need some people with a little bit of vision,” she said. “I hope I have some of that and can provide a little bit of spunk to this area.” 

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