Cooper Goes Exploring… in NYC
Cooper himself is actually having a whale of a time in Poole with his aunt so this is actually me, his dad, doing the travelling. I know I’m not the star of show of course, but I do have the opposing thumbs and can type (just)…
New York City was calling so a little trip across the pond was in order. Lots of research was done, so here is a round up for anyone who might be heading there and will need a coffee stop.
NYC is a brilliant city. Vibrant with lots of different feeling areas. I could babble on about it for hours but this is about coffee stops and where I tested this time and what I think about them. Throughout this trip I ordered cortados in order to have a good comparison. It is my morning drink of choice and often head to a filter later in the day but for this I suffered missing this in order not to get too much of the shakes. It was very difficult enjoying the delights.
I have put this in chronological order but at the bottom have put them in order of my top 10 - which is actually 9 but sounds odd...
After settling into the mini heatwave my first stop was:
** Kobrick Coffee Co.**
4 generations of operation, this little outfit is a stylish place. While visually it was classic and old fashioned it feels timeless, and they have moved with the times.
There is a pour-over section with a siphon, cold brew and V60's, along with the great choices of espresso based drinks.
Local milk is advertised as used and to me this makes the final difference. Everything about the perfect cup is important from the quality of the coffee bean, to how it’s roasted, the care of the barista, the water used and the milk and its texturing. So many places use a basic cheap milk which to me tastes synthetic compared to great quality milk – hence why we use Lacey’s just up the road from Marlow. A whole other story – see, I’m babbling.
Back to Kobrick, the cortado was delicious. A good rounded taste which is on the bitter side but they have managed to get some great flavour out of the coffee. Balanced, and with the milk tasted smooth with some red fruit taste in the background. The milk was stretched beautifully with a neat pattern on it. Definite care and attention was taken here to get the shot and the milk right.
The food is also outstanding – a very small but perfect menu. The ‘kitchen’ in the shop was tiny, so it’s amazing what was produced. I had truffled mushrooms on toast. Ideal in the morning, looked tasty, beautifully presented and flavour was amazing. This was all rounded off with really friendly and helpful staff. Definitely a place to visit maybe even go out of your way to try – though being near the awesome Chelsea Market in the Meat Packing District you should find yourself nearby anyway.
Unsure what time food starts – I came here a second time and the breakfast hadn’t quite started. Sad times. So I forced an almond croissant. Happy times. Also tasty but maybe a little sugary. Think it is baked with sugar or finished somehow – yummy but maybe not quite how we’re used to them in the UK.
24 Ninth Ave., New York, NY 10014
Second stop was:
** Merriweather **
An “Australian café culture boldly mixes the best of these cuisines into innovative breakfasts and lunches” Not too far from Kobricks Coffee Co. and located on Hudson Street in the historic West Village.
A lovely bright, well planned and laid out café. It was very welcoming (initially, see below) – the girl on the till was brilliant. Patient with a very indecisive couple of people before me. I went straight to the cortado and try bliss ball – a berry one. Raw including nuts and red berries. I took my drink and sat on the ‘sidewalk’. A couple of benches with some nice plants and watched people passing by. A favourite past time.
Now to the coffee – not the best bit about it. They use Counter Culture coffee which I normally find to be delicious, therefore I have to put it down the barista and maybe the milk. The coffee had that synthetic taste which was falsely sweet, with strange almond edge, and the shot seemed it could be under-extracted with an acidic taste. And the no-so-great barista skills killed this coffee for me.
I had high hopes as the place looks great. When I returned the glass near the barista I was going to do a little digging but decided to sidle away as the barista definitely gave the impression he did not want to talk to anyone. So I will leave it there and probably not return.
428 Hudson Street (btw Leroy and Morton St.)
From here I needed lunch of course so headed to...
** Two Hands Restaurant & Bar **
It’s a busy location which focuses on creating nutritious, simple and delicious food, great quality coffee and creative bar selection.
The chap, Dalton, who served me was a gem. Really friendly and what I go to places in New York for. Sitting at the bar getting friendly service with some great knowledge. Definitely worth tipping.
Being a restaurant and trying to make the most of the time to myself I chose their cocktail special. House infused spiced rum, ginger beer, lime and sherry. Perfectly made and in a funny and unusual ‘cup’. I also convinced myself it was ok to drink so early as it would have been just before 5pm in the UK!
This was followed up with a really tasty cauliflower couscous salad, roasted cauliflower, golden raisins, feta, capers, toasted almonds and pickled shallots. Perfectly seasoned and balanced with flavours and a decent price. I finished with a coffee, which was kindly on the house, possibly after talking so much about what I do, and a little test for them using Toby’s Estate which I was told is not what they usually use. So I can’t comment on their usual coffee but this was well prepared. The barista has clearly had decent training and well-practiced using the La Marzocco Strada, pulling good shots and stretching the milk nicely. Maybe this step taken a tad far, ideally less foam on top makes for a better Cortado, however it was a nice clean flavour which was not too bitter and topped off with a nice bit of latte art, however it was slightly unnaturally sweet again. Not so extreme as Merriweather and may suit most people but not 100% to my liking, I would not want this to put people off trying the place whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
They are small but well put together menus and drinks lists which are well executed with a well-drilled team providing a relaxing, casual atmosphere. I did not sit at the tables but noticed they looked pretty close together so be prepared to have conversation overheard – would not bother me personally but I know all too well how unrealistically fussy people can be.
251 Church St, TriBeCa NYC, 10013
The next, and forth stop was
** Happy Bones **
This was a funky hipster place. The decor is unique and very modern New York with painted brick wall, graffiti type feel and mellow staff. Get your coffee and kick back in a little haven of light and airy solitude.
The counter is a brilliant design where the hatch rolls back and the ceiling is really interesting above the coffee machine area with a lovely skylight feature, helping add to the bright feeling of the place. On this stands the La Marzocco FB80 and a dinky cute cookie/pastries cabinet. I didn’t sample any of the sweet treats but it looked great. Also for sale in the shop are t-shirts and a few little coffee related items.
For the coffee, they use Counter Culture also. The Piccolo I ordered was lovingly prepared. A great punchy, chocolatey base with some bright nectarine notes. The stretched milk was a beautiful micro-foam as seen in the picture with a cute little bit of latte art. This is how Counter Culture coffee should taste.
Overall it wouldn’t be somewhere to while away the hours due to limited food but a lovely place to grab a coffee and sweet treat.
happybonesnyc.com - Doesn’t do much except take you to the Instagram site
394 Broome St, New York, NY 10013,
Next, and the fifth stop on this trip was...
** Frisson Espresso **
A buzzing little place not too far off Times Square but seems not close enough to be a tourist trap. There was a constant stream of people stopping in to grab a coffee, which was great to see. This also made it a fairly hot spot, literally, coupled with the mini heatwave.
This was an early morning stop just after 07:30am. The coffee, which I think they roast or have labelled themselves (trying to research is difficult with no visible website and little info on the social sites) and just using my poor memory, was very tasty. Crafted with a Synesso espresso machine, they took great care making the coffee and texturing the milk. Some beautiful latte art was being poured for the final touch. The main thing was a great tasting coffee. A lovely cherry chocolate base with brightness but part way through a slight hit of bitterness that, for me personally, stopped it hitting the same heights as other coffees so far. But the better quality local milk also helped keep it up there amongst the top spots. Alongside this I had a little raspberry scone which was a great morning snack.
This little stop has a really simple interior with some fun pictures and an assortment of goodies that can be purchased – mugs, caps, reuse coffee cup etc
I did also get a takeaway coffee – the cups are pretty large with no smaller ones so asking for a Cortado meant I got more milk than normally after. And there is something about having milky espresso based coffee in a takeaway cup that doesn’t work. It didn’t last well, the milk micro-foam separates and the cup flavour seemed to be absorbed into the coffee. It was not really drinkable by the time I got to the hotel room.
Anyway, I would definitely come back here again for a little coffee break. The two staff really made the place vibrant and friendly with the smiles and efficient service.
326 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036
From here we head to...
** Bluestone Lane **
Being a small chain with 8 coffee shops and 4 cafes I went to the neat little Bryant Park coffee shop on 6th Avenue on 43rd.
It was bustling but with people coming and going. The staff were friendly and really seemed to be enjoying working there. A great team dynamic.
The coffee was very good and quite fruity but the initial hit was a bitter edge. Sadly, I would put this down to the barista and maybe the issue and failings of nearly every chain. While there is often great consistency, it waters down the atmosphere of places making it become more rigid. Also I think better training would benefit this coffee shop – though I know how hard it is to find baristas or people passionate to pay attention to the skilled details.
I say this because the coffee was good but with more care and a properly created espresso and more importantly mixing on this occasion, in simply mixing the milk into the espresso, this bitter crema would not have been an issue. Past this top, the temperature was good and flavour nicely balanced. I may not rush back with so many other choices in this city but at least it’s an option if unsure of where to go and you see one. The food looked simple but tasty so I am sure people won’t be disappointed here. I guess the café sites would be the best places to test this side of their abilities.
1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036,Corner of W 43rd & 6th Ave
The seventh stop was...
** Ninth Street Espresso **
This is the one for coffee lovers. They roast their own coffee and here just coffee is served. This dedication shows.
While not many can survive on this because of a need to have people stay and eat and increase turnover, this place is small, gets a lot of foot traffic and customers grab and go. Being in Chelsea market it is surrounded by lots of different food choice so customers are not short of choice. The shot was beautifully timed and milk was textured to a lovely smooth micro-foam. The pattern – not so pretty (again tricky as a large cup needed as I only wanted a Cortado) but taste completely made up for this.
They have a few locations but this is the first and one of the original coffee bars in the city which really pushed the bar high for other coffee venues. Still being so focussed even with the so far small expansion, quality has not been lost. This is definitely brewed with care and attention – I am sure the barista put the first coffee made for me aside as not up to exacting standards. It’s quite a chocolate based coffee, with hazelnut flavours and little else but smooth and overall, being with the milk, velvety.
This is for sure a stop not to be missed and the buzz of the Market is great with plenty of goings on to keep you entertained. Here also is an ideal place to grab some interesting, mostly food related, goodies or presents to bring home.
In Chelsea Market - 700 E 9th St
My eigth stop was
** Maialino **
A great breakfast and coffee stop but at a price.
I think I preferred this place more on a previous visit, and this is the only one I have visited previously, but the new ‘hospitality included’ route they have gone down has inflated prices more than anywhere else I have stopped in. Meaning the Cortado was $5.50 compared to nearly everywhere else being $3.75/$4 and the scrambled egg, as rich and delicious as it was, came in at $19.
The location is great so when sitting at the bar you can look onto Gramercy Park. The staff are good here too, very attentive and welcoming. The coffee is great, Counter Culture as well interestingly (these travels seems to have uncovered a lot of this coffee) and this is served very nicely. It’s a nicely pulled shot, great flavour, notes of nectarine and nougat. The milk stretched nicely with the finishing touch of pretty latte art.
I would still come back here as the location and place are great, I just feel it’s not the good value it was previously. While always on the slightly more expensive side for high quality but casual dining it was not a problem due to the excellent standards but maybe with Danny Meyer expanding the amount of restaurants the standards are hard to keep.
Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010
The ninth and final coffee stop was...
** Blue Bottle Coffee **
This is now fast becoming a large chain with huge investment from the tech industry – namely from Silicon Valley.
I stopped in the location near Chelsea Market when I noticed it walking around. It’s also a small location, like so many in the city, with a few pastries. It had a great feel and friendly staff. The coffee was well made and fairly well presented. Again, like Bluestone (strangely, maybe it’s the blue in the name) this was also not so well mixed like before in Bluestone Lane regarding the espresso and the milk. The flavour was pretty punchy with a lot of crema. So Yes, this coffee is fresh as they say – they ship it out and use within 48 hours they say, and it seemed pretty fresh but my personal take is a bit longer to rest, lose some of the gas built up through roasting and the crema will settle a bit to make a smoother coffee. While having coffee over three weeks for us is never done and I personally think a maximum, at least for quality purposes in the shop, too soon also does not quite work. You can see in the picture the finish is not clean and it tasted that way. A combination of Barista skill and freshness of the coffee. I brought some back to test out over time. It is good coffee though and was enjoyable to drink. A great Nutella base with some cherry flavours coming through just not top of the list.
450 W 15th St, New York, NY 10014
Now – I needed a tenth stop to make a good number but didn’t make a another coffee stop so luckily, I really looked at lots of donut places on Instagram and found
** Underwest Donuts **
It’s by the Hudson and I really wanted a donut that was interesting. They were fresh and the more classic Cinnamon was still warm and melt in the mouth. The maple waffle donut. I was ready for this but marginally underwhelmed – but I might have to blame myself here. I had been thinking about donuts for weeks then this last minute trip got me so excited. I wanted to find the best, but couldn’t really fit it all in, so searched hard for these. The more classic Cinnamon was my fave and one I would return to, possibly worth the walk, but I also really wanted to try something different hence the Maple Waffle. Looks great but not so fresh as the warm donut choice as this obviously needs to be made ahead of time to a certain degree.
I hyped it up too much in my head.
I had just two bites of each.
But they were very good donuts and freshly made. Plus if you happen to be needing a car washed there is quite a car washing operation going on in the same place which very much confused me when I first approached the place. It was quite something to watch while waiting for my donuts...
638 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036
So as a recap and in order of my preference from the coffee stops I managed to visit – There are more I just couldn’t make that would likely change this list (including Blackfox coffee, The Jolly Goat, Cafe Grumpy to name just a few) but here you have it:
Ninth Street Espresso
Kobrick Coffee Co.
Two Hands Restaurant & Bar (go here for a full lunch/dinner/cocktails experience though!!)
Blue Bottle Coffee
So if you ever go to New York and need a little guide, remember this. I hope it helps! There is plenty of good coffee you just need to know where to go to get it and find the one for you.
Over & Out, finally.