The Lowdown: Coffee Bars

There is an urgent need for me to write an article on coffee bars, simply because the proliferation of bad coffee has led too many good people astray to Starbucks. Far from comprehensive, this snappy listing aims at nothing but to show you the right direction to caffeine redemption. This article is the result of months and months of research and meditation on coffee’s luring aroma, its foamy, multi-hued crema and its sweet aftertaste that has come to define me as a person.

For those of you who aren’t willing to go the distance for coffee, there’s no better place to start the day than Joe the Art of Coffee. Located in commuter’s heaven, Grand Central Station, Joe is a small coffee counter tucked between Lexington Avenue and the Graybar where the impatient commuters line up as quickly as they leave. The espresso is balanced and delicious, always in the right temperature. For a similar smoky, dark house roast, try Café Grumpy in Chelsea. Originally from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Café Grumpy takes its craft seriously and serves one of the largest collections of single-origins in town. The place is cozy and with its fair share of obscure music now and then. Consider yourself lucky if you get to sit by the window.

Bay Area export Blue Bottle Coffee has been known for its innovative exploration of coffee whether using Nel Drip or the three-foot-tall vacuum powered Siphons. They recently opened a kiosk at the High Line Park in the Meatpacking District, after marking its territory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and soon enough, another counter in Rockefeller Center. Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Ace Hotel is another one that is proud to make it to the Big Apple. From nutty, herbal Indonesian beans to the exquisite French Grand Cru, Stumptown never fail to inspire with their prodigious blends. While they don’t provide seating in the coffee bar, you can take your warm cup to the swank Ace Hotel lobby and lounge.

Ella Riley-Adams at Blue Bottle Coffee

Offering top-notch artisanal roasts, Ninth Street Espresso is reliable and gets the job done. Since Ken Nye opened this cafe back in 2000, Ninth Street have helped introduce New York City citizens to both quality coffees and a sensibility about what shops focusing on coffee should be like. The shops have that indie-punk feel with industrial white bricks and heavy black paint. On St. Marks, Mud Coffee remains a precious remnant of the Beat generation where the City’s hippies make their morning pilgrimage. Suffocating with coffee aroma and brimming with sunshine, Mud is just as spartan as Ninth Street Espresso in its approach to coffee, but with the welcome addition of spot-on old school music. Another neighborhood institution is Abraço on 7th St. While New York Times wrote that “it’s smaller that a Starbucks bathroom”, the miniscule coffee bar serves mighty strong espresso that will sure deliver the right kick on a drowsy afternoon. Abraco is a coffee bar anomaly that brags a chef and a baker, serving seasonal offerings from artful frittatas to roasted pear tarts to persimmon tortas. Check out upstate-based Gimme! Coffee on Mott St for a sublime cup of coffee in the SoHo area.

In downtown TriBeCa, RBC NYC is a specialty coffee shop featuring multiple brewing methods and seasonal coffees. The place won a lot of attention from the $18,000 purchase of the city’s first Slayer espresso machine. My all-time favorite café is also in the same neighborhood. Kaffe 1668 is beautiful, charming and utilitarian in a way that transports you to a left-bank café on Saint-Germain. You’ll be greeted by hardy corrugated metal, weather-washed dark wood, dynamic white walls and an incredibly versatile menu of coffee and tea. For coffee, the shop works with two American indie roasters – Counter Culture Coffee and Intelligentsia. For tea, the shop makes its own blend of green, black, herbal and white tea. So if you’re ever looking for pear peppercorn or red raspberry rooibos, this is your place. The place can get noisy with crowds from Wall Street and nearby universities during busy hours, but otherwise the café’s gentle acoustic will lull you to a meditative afternoon.

There are definitely other cafes you can visit if you want to study or meet with a friend. Think Coffee, Newsbar and The Grey Dog in Greenwich Village faithfully attend to NYU students with spacious places, comfy seating and free Wi-Fi. The Grey Dog is a cool spot: rustic, artsy, everything a hipster would dream of. The only bad thing is that they don’t allow you to use laptops or study during busy hours. Think Coffee has a number of shops that mushroomed all over the NYU area. Finding a seat can be a chore during busy hours because people who come tend to stay for hours in their seats. While students and writers in deadline crunch favor Think Coffee, I personally prefer Newsbar for its quietude and soft jazz. Newsbar offers an ambitious selection of wraps, sandwiches and cookies, that are as enjoyable as the Java-esque coffee. Any of these places would do you more good than the Starbucks on Washington Square.



Photo Credit: Priscilla Liu

Priscilla Liu is a multifaceted writer who complains and criticizes because deep down she believes in the good of mankind and the world can do better. She reads voraciously because she did not fit in well in high school nor was she particularly good at math. A sentient being who enjoys traveling and eating, Priscilla is from Jakarta, Indonesia, and continues to be an observant outsider in New York City. She is studying Economics to figure out why writers can’t do their jobs and afford housing at the same time.

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