CAFÉ GRUMPY (PARK SLOPE)

Perfect coffee in Park Slope

Location: 383 7th Ave, Brooklyn NY 11215

Open: 7am-7.30pm Mon-Thurs, 7am-8pm Fri, 7.30am-7.30pm Sat-Sun

Website: www.cafegrumpy.com

Price: $4.00 Cortado

I recently visited Café Grumpy on a hot and sweaty Saturday morning. I’d just had my hair cut but without a caffeine hit I felt like I was going to nod off in the chair the entire time and then who knows what strange hairstyle I’d end up with?! After managing to stay awake and avoiding a potential bowl cut I was back out in the heat and so I decided to take action. I felt better as soon as I entered Café Grumpy – it’s a bright and simple space with (fortunately for me) air conditioning!

I have now been there a couple of times and on each occasion I received friendly and efficient service. It’s not a big space: there is one large bench to sit at and then stools along the bar next to the espresso machine. I have been able to get a seat at the bar on each visit so I can’t complain. However it’s not really a place to linger with your laptop – it definitely seems more suited to the European style of sip and go.

My cortado didn’t disappoint. It was smooth and the perfect temperature. I would have had another if not for the $4 price tag – while the coffee was excellent I just couldn’t justify it at that price. Alert to any Aussies in NY: Café Grumpy serves a mean flat white as well! So if you’re in South Slope and need a caffeine hit stop by Café Grumpy for an excellent cup. (BC)

What else is in the neighborhood?

  • Goldy + Mac – Shop up a storm on 7th Avenue.
  • DUB Pies – Head to DUB Pies for traditionally Aussie meat pies, sausage rolls and sweet treats.
  • Community Bookstore – A great selection of adult and children’s books.
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BlueBird (East Village)

Another East Village Fave

Location: 72 East 1st St, NY, NY, 10003

Open: 8am-7pm Mon-Fri, 8:30am-7pm Sat-Sun

Website: www.bluebirdcoffeeshop.com

Price: $3.25 Macchiato

It is my first weekend back in New York after a sojourn in Colombia and Ecuador and I’m in desperate need of good espresso coffee that I know you can find here. Two years ago I would have never written that sentence but I’m proud of New York and its coming of age in producing excellent espresso. I had to head to Park Slope to see a friend so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to hit up my fellow reviewers new favorite, Hungry Ghost. She was not wrong – the quality of the coffee is amazing and I could not pass up the chance to try their banana choc muffin. Good decision. But I am not here to repeat a review of Hungry Ghost – while Hungry Ghost is new to the coffee scene I want to tell you about a little favorite of mine which has been around as long as I have in NY (2.6 years and counting – THAT LONG ALREADY!).

Despite the convenient location of Bluebird Coffee Shop (4 blocks from my apartment), I did not start frequenting this establishment until I returned from a trip to Rwanda in 2011 to find my favorite barista at my favorite café (who will remain nameless) had disappeared. Without the skill he offered to the café, the coffee had taken a major downturn and I was left without a local. That was when I remembered a little café nearby I had ventured to once or twice which had damn good coffee. The only reason I had not become a regular was that it only had three little tables and a bench at the window to sit at. While it is not a place to spend hours at (even if it does have Wi-Fi) which is what I like to do on weekends, I took my chances one Saturday afternoon and was surprised to find two things: 1) Their tables were empty (SCORE!) and 2) My favorite barista was behind the counter pulling better espresso thaN he ever had (DOUBLE SCORE!).

My favorite barista has since left Bluebird, however, the café has kept up the quality coffee with very skilled individuals behind the machines. Even with limited seating it’s now the place I go to every morning before work to study up on my Spanish (porque el cafe esta muy bueno) and fortunately the traffic in and out of the café is mostly for takeaway so it doesn’t feel too crowded. Bluebird does a couple of things really well: 1) Amazing baristas pulling consistently great coffee (I have never had a bad coffee there), 2) Seating along a bench both inside and outside of an open window is great for people watching, 3) Homemade fresh pastries and 4) Guest espresso beans on rotation. Oh, and did I mention they are Australian-owned and their sister cafe in Brooklyn, Milk Bar, not only makes my favorite kind of coffee just for me – a long macchiato (a Melbourne style espresso drink) – but it has the most divine brunch in the history of New York brunch (is that statement too strong?!). A visit to Bluebird is really worth it and it might just become your new favorite. (LS)

What else is in the neighborhood?

  • Abraco, Ninth Street Espresso, Prima, Bowery – I have said it before and I will say it again – the East Village is the perfect location for a coffee tour.
  • Oaxaca – If you want some decent and cheap Mexican to accompany your tour head to this joint.
  • Big Gay Ice Cream – Why not make it a day of drinking and eating? The ice cream here is worth the line which frequently stretches half way down the street.
  • Wine Bar – I do not want to leave the alcohol enthusiasts out – so here is a wine fave of mine.
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KAVE CAFE (WEST VILLAGE)

Amazing summertime courtyard


Location: 803 Washington St 
New York, NY 10014 

Open: 7am-9pm Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm Sat-Sun

Website: http://kavanyc.com/

Price: $3.75 Macchiato

In anticipation of warmer weather just around the corner, I thought it would be nice to review Kava, one of my favorite places to go for a caffeine hit during the summer months. I discovered this West Village gem last year. After living (and sipping) in the East Village almost exclusively for the past two years, I had wanted to explore the West Village for quite some time. What held me back was that no café had grabbed my attention. Yet.

Oliver Strand was spot on with his description of Kava as a “small and sexy bar that feels less 21st Century New York than 1970s Milan”. According to my research it shares the same brilliant designers who are behind the library den feel of Ace Hotel’s lobby (which serves as the seating area for popular roaster Stumptown Coffee). Although Kava is newer, with its mature look it feels a lot like Ace Hotel’s sophisticated older sister. What Strand’s review didn’t mention, and which also helped win me over, was the large airy courtyard out the back with several tables. What other café in NYC provides such a large outdoor space? But wait a minute, rewind – I haven’t even mentioned the coffee yet. I of course ordered a macchiato which went down quickly and smoothly and soon I was asking for another. The coffee and cinnamon muffin that accompanied my macchiato was even better – delicious and gooey on the inside.

Kava is not really a winter escape as there isn’t much seating inside, just a few stools by the window and side benches; but if you are in the neighborhood it’s definitely worth a visit for both its coffee and delicious paninis and muffins. I almost didn’t want to post about it so it remains my summer secret … but I did and so I will see you there soon in the courtyard of Kava. (LS)

What else is in the neighborhood?

 
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HUNGRY GHOST (PROSPECT HEIGHTS)

Airy space and friendly service

Location: 253 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Open: 7am-9pm Mon-Wed, 7am-10pm Thurs-Sun

Website: www.hungryghostbrooklyn.com

Price: $3.50 Cortado

I’ve been meaning to visit Hungry Ghost for the past few months since it popped up on Flatbush Ave on the border of Prospect Heights and Park Slope and I’m so glad I finally did. I first went on a hot summer Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to walk into a big airy space with wooden benches and tables. There was a mix of the stroller set and 20/30-somethings and their laptops. Both times I have visited it’s been busy but I’ve always been served quickly and efficiently.

The coffee is good! Hungry Ghost uses Stumptown Coffee (roasted locally in Red Hook) and my cortado was smooth and delicious. I could have easily gone back for another if I didn’t have places to go and people to see. My only criticism (and it’s a small one) is that I didn’t get a teaspoon with my cortado or a water which is always a nice touch. Hungry Ghost also has a full menu which I’m keen to try. I did have a ham and gruyere muffin on my last visit and it was rich, tasty and filling.

The space itself is also one of the factors which will make me come back. It’s large and airy with plenty of light unlike many local cafés. Even with a lot of customers there was always seating at the long bench or the beautiful wooden tables (although laptop use is restricted at some of them). Good coffee, friendly service and a great space makes Hungry Ghost worth venturing to. (BC)


What else is in the neighborhood?

  • A.Cheng – Indulge in a shopping splurge on 5th Ave
  • Purbird – Try the delicious chicken breast sandwich
  • Goorin Bros. – Pick up one of their stylish hats for summer
  • Milk Bar – Another great brunch and coffee spot in Prospect Heights
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La Colombe Torrefaction (NOHO)

No Wi-Fi but enough room to sit and hover for hours

Location: 400 Lafayette Street, NY, NY 10003

Open: 7:30am-6:30pm Mon-Fri, 8:00am-6:30pm Sat-Sun

Website: www.lacolombe.com

Price: $2 Macchiato, $2.50 Cortado

After being disappointed with the first two La Colombe Torrefaction locations in New York City, I was hesitant
to enter their newest. However with it being a five minute walk from my apartment I decided to give it another chance. I am glad I did – third time lucky it seems as if La Colombe Torrefaction at Lafayette Street has got it right! It’s a big open space with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto two sides of the busy streets of NOHO. Tables line the outside rim while in the middle there is a rather large coffee island where you can perch on stools and watch the efficient yet friendly staff whip up delicious coffee concoctions.

On my first occasion there I took up prime position by the massive windows looking out to the traffic on Lafayette and sat there for hours. Despite the lack of Wi-Fi many customers around me seemed to be doing the same thing; and why not with espresso so cheap you can loiter all day and still meet the unspoken “one coffee per hour hovering rule”. To add to the experience they have a get-it-yourself water station with sparkle, tap and cold. On the weekends it can be difficult to get a table so come early or get your coffee to go. Just don’t be put off by the long line – they work through it pretty quickly demonstrating the experience of the baristas.

The coffee itself is smooth with the milk aerated to perfection. I was surprised and quickly went back for another. It is now one of my regular spots to frequent on a weekend and not just because of the inexpensive price compared to the competition. I am now obsessed with their cortados and love the vibe which is enhanced by cool music and vibrations from the subway below. For once there is no hipster pretension from this place – just damn good coffee. (LS)

What else is in the neighborhood?

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FORTY WEIGHT at Sweet Wolfs (PARK SLOPE)

Oasis in Brooklyn

Location: 492 Sixth Ave (at 12th St), Park Slope, Brooklyn, 11215

Open: 7am-3.30pm Mon-Fri, 8am-3.30pm Sat-Sun

Website: www.fortyweightcoffee.com

I discovered Forty Weight via Mr Strand’s review on the excellent NY Times Scoop app. It was “new” and walkable from my apartment so I thought why not. I’m an early riser so I arrived at Forty Weight by 8.30am. Little did I know I would be their only customer at the time.

The two staff welcomed me warmly – while one promptly made me a cortado, the other explained the different muffins that were fresh baked from the oven each day. Forty Weight time-shares the space with the restaurant Sweet Wolfs. The interior has long wooden benches to perch on and the chilled music playing helped create a relaxed atmosphere. The best bit for me, being a sun-loving Aussie, was the outside courtyard. Go early and you get a peaceful (for Brooklyn) start to the day, with the birds tweeting while the music floats outside to you. I was joined by a young dad and his toddler briefly, but otherwise I had this great space to myself.

Now to the coffee – my cortado was on the milky side but it was still a good experience. It could have been slightly warmer for my taste. The cranberry muffin I ate was fruity but on the dry side. With Café Grumpy and Gorillas not too far away there is some solid competition to live up to but I enjoyed my time at Forty Weight and look forward to going back when I need a little oasis in Brooklyn. (BC)

What else is in the neighborhood?

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PRIMA (EAST VILLAGE)

Coffee shop by day, cute wine bar by night


Location: 58 E 1st Street , NYC, NY, 10003

Open: 8am–5pm daily (Coffee Bar)

Website: www.primanyc.net/COFFEE.html

Price: $3.75 Macchiato

From the creators of the hidden Alphabet City gem, Summit Bar, comes the cities newest hybrid coffee shop. This time the mix is coffee bar by day, cute seafood and wine bar by night. Prima, which opened in the middle of the winter, is a new place I happened to stumble upon after trying to find a seat at the tiny and always crammed Bluebird Coffee Shop (one of my all-time favorites) just a few doors up. Upon entering Prima I was surprised to find it empty despite good Yelp and New York Times reviews and more importantly because they were serving Ninth Street Espresso (caffeine addicts know that means something). After watching many people walk by, stop, take a step back in confusion and walk on, I realized that its emptiness had nothing to do with the coffee but more to do with Prima’s identity.

From the outside Prima looks more like a brunch place and from the inside a trendy wine bar! What it does not look like is a place to grab your morning coffee and sit and read a newspaper. After my second and third visit I soon learnt that’s exactly what this place is for (until they turn the coffee machine off at 5pm and change around the tables). Since then each and every time I have entered Prima it has been near empty, or perhaps with one or two others who have discovered the serenity of this place in the heart of the busy East Village (a true luxury). My favorite things about Prima are the free Wi-Fi, the long benches to spread out on and the relaxed staff that leave you alone to sit as long as you want. I began to make weekly visits to Prima to sit by the floor-to-ceiling winters on cold but beautiful winter days to watch the world go (and to work of course!).

While it has been a bit slow to start Prima has an abundance of potential. The coffee itself is delicious and continues the excellent reputation that Ninth Street Espresso has so rightfully earned. Although it not the best coffee I have consumed in New York, the key to Prima is consistency: no matter who made my Macchiato or when, it was always good. Excited by my new discovery I took a group of friends to Prima for a glass of wine. While I loved the space at night (beautiful candlelit marble tables to fit six, dark enough to feel like you’re sitting outside in the twilight as the nights stars shine through) and my wine was good, some of my friends weren’t happy about the price of the cocktails, that is until they tasted them. And now after a few months of opening, Prima is serving brunch during the day … I’ll be back! (LS)

What else is in the neighborhood?

  • Bluebird Coffee Shop – A must visit for their coffee and the cheddar chive brekkie biscuit
  • Katz’s Deli – Relive the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally
  • Economic Candy – A store filled with candy from all other the world
  • East Village – Take a stroll through this grungy maze of boutiques, vintage stores and bars.
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GORILLAS (PARK SLOPE)

Great people watching and workspace

Location: 97 Fifth Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Open: 7am-9pm Mon-Sat, 8am-9pm Sun

Website: www.gorillacoffee.com

Price: $3.50 Cortado

I first visited Gorillas not long after I moved to Park Slope and I was desperate to find good coffee. I had just lived through the “mythic” weekend of Hurricane Irene when people fled their apartments for higher ground and stocked up on canned goods and bottled water. My new roommates and I took a different approach, ducking out for Mexican and margaritas, only to return home to watch a semi-nude game of football out on our street.

The next morning a good dose of caffeine was in order to counteract last night’s margaritas, and on my roommate’s recommendation I tried Gorillas. After several false starts in Park Slope I wasn’t confident. With a skeleton staff and a loooong queue of people it took quite a while to get my coffee which turned out to be cold and pretty weak. I avoided the place for the next couple of months until I went back on the recommendation of my fellow reviewer. I did, and the coffee was GOOD. While the cortados are a bit milkier than I like it’s still very drinkable. I have discovered the weekend barrista makes a mean cappuccino too!

The space can be a little claustrophobic – great in winter but somewhat cramped in the warmer months, particularly on a busy Sunday afternoon. It’s the perfect place to get your laptop out and work or simply just people watch. After a false start (I think everyone can be excused after you’ve almost been hit with a hurricane) I’m glad I gave Gorillas a second chance. (BC)

What else is in the neighborhood?

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COFFEE BUZZ

2nd Annual Coffee/Cocktail Mash Up

On Sunday night we attended the 2nd Annual Coffee/Cocktail Mash Up at Weather Up in Tribeca. This was held to raise funds to help baristas attend the seminar Coffee: The Missing Ingredient in New Orleans in July. We all sipped on coffee cocktails (pictured left) created by Troy Sidle of Alchemy Consulting, Trevor Corlett of MadCap Coffee, and Mike Phillips of Handsome Coffee Roasters.

There were 5 teams, each featuring one barista and one bartender, and they created some spectacular coffee cocktails in under 20 minutes. Judges deemed the winners to be John deBary (PDT) and Sam Penix (Everyman Espresso) and their tiki-themed cocktail (pictured right). Congratulations to the winners! (BC)

GASOLINE ALLEY (NOLITA)

Where people watching is at its prime

 

 

 

Location: 331 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

Website: www.gasolinealleycoffee.com/

Price: $3.75 Macchiato

What I love about the espresso industry in New York is the support that many baristas give each other. One day I was sitting in Bowery Coffee – itself only a fairly new café trying to establish a reputation – when one of the customers, an Australian girl from Melbourne who usually drinks long Macchiatos (I promise it wasn’t me!), started talking to the barista about her failure to find Melbourne-quality coffee in New York. Before I knew it the barista was recommending Bluebird Coffee Shop and Abraço Espresso in the East Village, as well as a new place that just opened up above Houston called Gasoline Alley.

So eavesdropping is how I ended up at Gasoline Alley which is wedged between Lafayette and Mulberry Streets. It has made good use of the available space with a door opening onto both streets ensuring foot traffic from either side; but more striking and pleasing for the people watchers like me are the stools by large windows which allow you to watch the world go by. The interior is very modern and clean cut with funky light fixtures. The minimalist design means you can focus on the coffee of which the nutty flavor really reminded me of Cafe Grumpy’s excellent brew. The espresso (Intelligentisa) is definitely what this place is about, although drip can be found. The service was friendly enough, with a hello on entrance and water provided with my coffee. There were muffins and pastries on display but the menu itself is quite small.

I am told at least one of the owners is Australian. If so, with the coffee and design they have done me proud, but the prices are best left back home where the wages are much higher. Although the espresso was good – I would stop by if it was on my way – the cost of a macchiato ($3.75) was a cause for concern. Even though others charge a similar price, with plenty of other great cafés in the area with cheaper coffee, I’m more inclined to walk a block further to save a few pennies. For example La Colombe Torrefaction is 3 blocks away selling a macchiato for $2. I’m not sure Gasoline Alley can afford to have their prices so high with competition like that, but only time will tell.(LS)

What else is in the neighbourhood?

  • Housing Works – Explore the shelves of this fantastic bookstore
  • Little Italy and Soho – Walk the market stalls that line Prince Street or pick up some delicious walnut bread at Balthazar on Spring Street
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