Matt McKenna’s passion for vintage motorcycles inspired him to design the perfect meet-up spot for fellow aficionados — and that led him to create a coffee that’s quickly become the beverage everyone’s talking about in South Florida.
Imperial Moto debuted as a café in Miami’s Little River neighborhood in 2017, spawned from McKenna’s desire to develop the perfect meeting spot for fans of vintage motorcycles — specifically the bikes known as café racers, born on the streets of England in the 1950s. “I’ve always had a love of vintage motorcycle culture, and if you know anyone who shares this passion, among the most enjoyable things you can do is ride from coffee shop to coffee shop to show off your bike and check out the motorcycles of fellow enthusiasts,” he explains. “That idea quickly evolved into attracting fans of vintage automobiles — we also have a huge vintage Porsche audience as well, for example. All of us were looking for a place to call home.”
A signature coffee became a top priority once the Imperial Moto concept was established. McKenna purchases a proprietary blend of Ethiopian and Brazilian beans from fair trade and sustainable farms, and he took the idea a step further recently when he decided to roast the beans locally. Imperial Moto’s specialty coffee has been aptly titled the Café Racer Blend. “We really started to get a sense of what we wanted, and we liked the idea that we could achieve that by roasting the beans ourselves here in Miami,” McKenna says. “It’s a medium roast and really delicious; I’ve had Michelin chefs visit us and tell us it’s the best coffee they’ve ever tasted, and honestly not a day goes by in which we don’t hear that from our customers.”
The success of Imperial Moto at Little River compelled McKenna to seek an additional location to highlight both the coffee and the concept — why was Aventura the perfect fit? “I feel like we’re ready for the big leagues, and there’s no better place to experience that than at Aventura Mall,” he says. “Everyone who owns a retail business, dreams of being in one of the most successful retail destinations in the country, and thus far our expectations definitely have been exceeded. It has been fun to see both new people discovering us and the same people coming back to enjoy the experience again.”
In 2022, the Aventura café opened its doors, marking a significant expansion of Imperial Moto’s menu. Now, patrons can delight in a diverse array of offerings, ranging from refreshing smoothies to nutritious acai and fruit bowls, as well as beloved classics like avocado toast and convenient grab-and-go selections. Additionally, the café boasts an assortment of exclusive sandwiches, with one standout recommendation being “Matt’s Favorite.” This delectable creation features Boar’s Head ham, provolone cheese, Irish mustard, and a special “secret sauce” hailing from McKenna’s cherished Boston eatery from his upbringing. “We wanted to offer an experience that felt more well-rounded than stopping in for a coffee and a cookie,” he notes. “Of course, if that’s what you’re in the mood for, we welcome that as well, and we’ll make sure it’s the best coffee and cookie you’ve tasted. No matter whether you’re in the mood for lunch or you want a great coffee and to sit with your laptop, the environment has been designed to feel warm and inviting.”
Indeed, a team that’s equal parts enthusiastic and well-versed in coffee and cuisine likewise is key to Imperial Moto. “Educating our team is a big part of what we do,” McKenna says. “If you want information about how the coffee is blended or roasted, or you have questions about which of our menu items are vegan or organic, we pride ourselves in being able to explain the details with knowledge and passion. I believe our team needs to be super dialed-in on every element; when you’re open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s showtime all the time.”
And if you truly want to express your fandom, Imperial Moto T-shirts, caps, mugs and other items are also available for sale, each exuding the vintage vibe that’s integral to the brand. “Our T-shirts and hats are designed and manufactured in the United States, and a variety of designers who are also in the motorcycle community have been collaborating with us,” McKenna says. “And we just launched a line of leather gloves handcrafted in Japan. We’re selling a ton of coffee, but the ultimate goal is for the merchandise to be an equal part of what we do.”
Future plans for the Aventura café include highlighting the passion at the heart of Imperial Moto via vintage motorcycle and automobile showcases, but for now, McKenna’s focus is on what the café does best, he says: “Our tagline is, ‘Elevate your coffee experience.’ If we can make every customer believe Imperial Moto is serving them coffee they just can’t enjoy anywhere else, I’ll feel like we’ve done our jobs exceptionally well.”