Oh, where to start with Abraco. This is that place that you can never be too sure how to pronounce the name of. It is also the place that every other barista recommends to you when they know that you are into espresso. And it has standing room for maybe 4 people. And it lived up to everything people said. The two times I went here in East Village the espresso was pretty much perfection (they use Counter Culture). Their food was tiny, simple, and tasty. Everything about this place is simple, refined, and executed very well. Abraco means "hug" or "embrace" in Portuguese and I felt just that. The baristas are super down to earth and know what they are doing and the small spaces embraces you (especially on a snowy NYC day).
Recommend: EVERYTHING. I guarantee you every pastry is homemade and tastes like heaven. I've heard the best reviews on their olive oil cake!
Note: Very tiny space but is lovely on a nice day when they open up the seating out front. No public restroom. Just plain and simple coffee, pastries and company!
Vibe: European, small
Espresso rating: 9.5/10
Overall rating: 9/10- I LOVE it but it's just too tiny to be comfortable
Hours: CLOSED MONDAY, Tues-Sat 8am-4pm, Sun 9am-4pm
Bluebird Coffee Shop (CLOSED)
Close to the corner of 1st St. and 1st Ave. is NYC's finest hidden gem: Bluebird Coffee Shop. I came here a few weeks ago because I saw they had WiFi and wanted to work on a paper, but I had no idea what I would actually encounter. First of all, on a sunny day, the windows and doors were open, naturally lighting the cozy interior. Second, the barista pulled a great shot on their La Marzocco FB/80 AND they use Counter Culture (yum!). Thirdly, the friendly barista recommended I order the Fried Egg Biscuit which turned out to be heavenly (seriously one of the best breakfast sandwiches I've tried). And to top it all off, they were playing some great 50's tunes and after an hour or so that I had stayed there, they switched to Daft Punk. All in all my favorite coffee shop experience in NYC.
Recommend (other than espresso): Breakfast- In-house made biscuit, spicy mayo, fried egg, swiss cheese, and applewood smoked bacon.
Note: Credit card charge minimum $10, WiFi available, no public restroom
I originally found out about Cafe Grumpy (embarrassingly enough) from the TV show Girls. Turns out, it is a real place and even better, it has some of the best espresso in NYC. They roast their own coffee and their most recent espresso blend--Heartbreaker espresso--is heartbreakingly amazing. Also, the people that work there are far from grumpy. In fact, every barista that I have encountered at two of their four locations that I visited was spot on in friendliness and coffee knowledge. And in pulling a dank espresso. Their Heartbreaker espresso is a blend of Colombian and Ethiopian and is sweet and somewhat fruity (their description is "honeysuckle, tangerine, brown sugar"). Although I haven't visited their original location in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (where Girls was filmed), the locations in Chelsea and the Lower East Side were fantastic. Side note: The Lower East Side location is great if you are wandering around Chinatown and need a pick-me-up but this location is very small and only has standing room or a window seat. The Chelsea location would be more ideal for studying (although no WiFi) and has a great back garden area when the weather is nice.
Note: No WiFi at any location (except at Greenpoint, Brooklyn). No public bathroom at the LES location. The roastery is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn location.
Recommend: The bakery is located at the Lower East Side location and their pastries are pretty darn good.
Vibe: Very focused on the coffee, traditional coffee shop vibe (hence the no WiFi)
I had been recommended this place by a friend who had stumbled upon Kaffe 1668 and was pleasantly surprised. I walked in around 10:30 am and got the strange feeling that I was in a New York Club but I kind of liked it. However, the next time I went back, I almost thought I had lost my mind because it was Kaffe 1668 on Greenwich St. but it looked completely different! Not to be too confusing, there are actually 2 locations of Kaffe 1668, both on Greenwich St. in TriBeCa. Kaffe 1668 serves a decent shot of Black Cat Espresso by Intelligentsia in very beautiful cups in a great atmosphere with (I suppose) good food. The selection of juices and breakfast and lunch items was great at the location further north on Greenwich St. but was much more limited at the other location. The vibe is really unlike any coffee shop I've been to before. Very dim lighting in a long, dark, hallway with nice wooden tables and mason-jar lamps. The espresso at the further north location (see? this is so confusing!) was a much more flavorful, fruitier pull than the other. The south location is much smaller, has a very creative seating arrangement (picnic tables, etc.), and didn't have much food. Overall, great vibe, friendly people, and pretty good (most of the time) espresso.
Recommend: Fresh-pressed Juices
Notes: If you were to choose one, go to the North one. WiFi available,
Vibe: North: Almost-clubby but cozy atmosphere; South: Small, intimate atmosphere
Locations: 401 Greenwich Street (North), 275 Greenwich Street (South)
Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso
La Colombe Torrefaction
The first time I stumbled upon La Colombe Torrefaction, I felt like I had stumbled upon the finest espresso bar in Italy. The espresso was served as a ristretto with a traditional darker, earthy Italian flavor and there was even sparkling water on tap (at the NoHo location). After learning more about La Colombe, I found out that they had two other locations-- one in SoHo and one in TriBeCa. My favorite is probably the one in SoHo because of the large sun-lit windows in a great shopping area. The espresso (as seen in the picture) had a consistent flavor from what I remembered at the NoHo location--dark and earthy. Their trademark dove decorated the inside of my espresso cup and could have almost gone unnoticed. The TriBeCa location had more seating and pulled a similarly good shot but with no sparkling water. Overall, La Colombe Torrefaction's locations are a good go-to when in need of more traditional-tasting espresso.
Note: No public restrooms at any location. Their coffee beans are used a lot in restaurants (that I noticed) around NYC. La Colombe is also located in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seoul!
Vibe: Traditional coffeeshop feel, like you are in Italy
Espresso Rating: 8.5/10
Overall Rating: 8/10
Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:30-6:30, Sat-Sun: 8:30-6:30
Stumptown Coffee (8th St)
Totally unassuming, Stumptown opened this new location on the corner of W 8th St and Washington Square West (at the time I happened to be staying off of Washington Square West as well). After arriving in New York City, I must've walked past it the first three days I was there and had no idea what I was walking past (it wasn't even on Google maps). Finally, after reading online coffee news (probably sprudge.com) I found out that this was the latest and greatest Stumptown location! Needless to say, the interior was much more exciting than the nameless exterior. In fact, the long wooden bar and bookshelves have the look of an old library and the customized espresso machine, cold-brew on tap, and pastry case of Momofuku milk bar goods left me jittery with excitement. Even the cups are delicately branded with the Stumptown logo! However, I had a few problems with this place. It is super intimidating to have the espresso bar slightly elevated, where you feel like the baristas are looking down on you. Also, there is rarely seating because people have taken over every table with their laptops. In addition, the branding of Stumptown is simply over the top. Everything is labeled with their brand and ready to be sold. All in all, the espresso wasn't even the best Hairbender espresso that I've had-- and the location slightly made up for that.
Recommend: Try the Momofuku milkbar pastries! Donuts and cakeballs are unreal.
Vibe: Library, pretentious
Espresso Rating: 7.5/10
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Note: WiFi available (for lack of seating), pour-over bar next door that I didn't get a chance to check out, and also they have a location in the Ace Hotel that is worth seeing- if not just the Ace Hotel itself
Hours: Espresso Bar-7 am to 8 pm; Brew Bar- 9 am to 5 pm
Blue Bottle (Brooklyn)
Toby's Estate Coffee
Intelligentsia High Line Hotel
I had been highly anticipating the opening of the High Line Hotel not for their location or whatever else they have to offer, but solely for the Intelligentsia Coffee bar, the first in this big city. I've had Intelligentsia Coffee many times in their three different locations in Los Angeles, with hit or miss results, as well as a location in Chicago, and at various cafes around the US that use their beans. Like the other bigger specialty coffee names around the US, i.e. Stumptown, Four Barrel, Blue Bottle, I am frequently annoyed at the excessive branding that their shops are drowning in. I'll save that rant for another time though. The Intelligentsia at the High Line Hotel is very impressive looking. I finally visited on a nice, crisp day in October and got to sit outside with the coffee truck but ordered espresso from the bar inside. The coffee truck, although stationary, is impressive and a fully refurbished 1963 Citroen truck. Inside is a La Marzocco machine, pastry selection and everything your heart could desire. In the lobby of the hotel is relatively small bar with a La Marzocco and pour-over bar. Unfortunately the stress level behind the bar (or something) made for extremely rude service--and I'm not even one of those Yelp complainers! Either the bad vibes or a poor job on a high-tech machine resulted in some funky, sour espresso. Alas, Intelligentsia! Perhaps next time I should just brave the line for the truck for some friendlier service and better coffee.
Recommend: Try the espresso from the Coffee Truck and on a lovely day sit outside! Nearby is Chelsea Market and TONS of great Chelsea galleries! I'm partial to Gagosian Gallery on W 21st and W 24th Streets between 10 and 11th Avenues.
Note: Beware of brutal baristas inside the hotel. However, there's some pretty rare Single Origins that pop up around here, for something along the lines of 8 dollars a cup--possibly worth it if done right.
Espresso Rating: 6/10
Overall Rating: 6/10-- Props to the awesome coffee truck
Location: 180 10th Ave at 20th St, New York, New York10011
Almost a year ago, on my first official visit to NYC I studied up and knew that Ninth Street Espresso was some of the best espresso in the city. Although the specialty coffee scene has certainly exploded all over the city and even more since then, I decided to make Ninth Street Espresso my first stop. Their original location is located in Alphabet City on the Lower East Side between Avenue C and D on, whaddya know, 9th Street (it would've been hard not to find that one). On a weekend morning the cafe was packed with people reading newspapers and leisurely sipping on coffee drinks. At the espresso bar, I could immediately sense the professional quality of the baristas and have been impressed at every location at which I've visited since. If it's one thing I can appreciate in good baristas, its their freakish precision with every step of the process. If you haven't before, watch a good barista make just one espresso. It could take ten minutes and when the machine's right, its a graceful little dance from machine to grinder to portafilter and back to machine. As for the locations--the one in Chelsea Market is usually tucked away enough from the headache of swarming crowds that are mainly waiting in line for the bathroom. If you are trying to find it amidst the mayhem, just listen for the fountain. Unfortunately because I am writing this review well after I have tasted the espresso, I do not recall the specific flavors or even the origin of the beans--I beg of you, forgive me! However, after having visited two of the now four locations of Ninth Street Espresso multiple times, I can give Ninth Street my Princesspresso crown of approval (damn I'm feeling punny).
Recommend: Their espresso. Also, if you are in Chelsea Market I highly recommend stopping there for lunch (maybe during an off hour though) in almost any of the shops (almost every one that I've tried has been good). On a sunny day, obviously visit the High Line right above you!
Note: There are two locations in East Village, one in Chelsea Market, and one now in Midtown in the Lombardy Hotel. Lucky you, you New Yorkers.
Espresso Rating: 9/10
Overall Rating: 9/10
Locations: Lombardy Hotel, 109 East 56th Street; Chelsea Market; Tompkins Square, 341 East 10th St.; Alphabet City, 700 East 9th Street
Hours: Open around 7am (varies) to 8pm everyday!
Happy Bones NYC
Although I only spent a short moment in the sky-lit tiny shop of Happy Bones in the Lower East Side, I couldn't help but immediately fall in love with, well, every decision of this coffee shop. Mainly the following three things:
#1: Counter Culture.
#2: Tom Sachs.
#3: VLC (Very Large Crema)
Now, how about that! I could guess maybe two things on this list might be found together, but all three? A place of dreams. #1. Counter Culture Coffee. Yes, I know it is everywhere on the East Coast, but I can't seem to find it anywhere in Los Angeles and I am usually very pleased with their espresso! #2. Tom Sachs. If you notice the spaceship drawings in the background of my photos, that is him. The contemporary artist is one of my dear favorites, as he is for my sister. In fact, most of our organizing in our apartment has followed his motto, "Always Be Knolling". Look up the video on his artist studio - you will (maybe) be pleased! And #3. VLC. I just coined that term and I'm crossing my fingers that it is not something awful that I would find on Urban Dictionary or some weird STD. So for now, I will claim it as "Very Large Crema". Just look at that thing! And the color of it! Yes, it was as tasty as it looks. Good job, Happy Bones. Keep it up.
Recommend: Espresso, duh.
Note: Very small space, so it might be hard to find a table. But who cares, this is expected in New Yawk!