By Taylor Griffin
NEW York – In a world where there’s a Starbucks on basically every corner, one caffeine junkie will make it her mission to find New York’s celebrated coffee joints, proving nobody has to settle for $5 sweetened burnt espresso.
Maybe it’s not the best voiceover for a trailer (unless read by James Earle Jones), but such has been my quest this semester.
It’s a right—and a rite—for all journalists to have an unhealthy addiction to coffee, considering the late nights, tough deadlines and oft-edgy editors. As a young journalist myself, I’ve obliged and obliged again my obsession, each time wishing someone invented a Folgers I.V. bag.
A good hole-in-the-wall coffee shop is a rarity in my hometown, so I was stoked to indulge myself once I got to New York. I began my obsession with coffee last summer in Washington, D.C., and I’ve gone through withdrawals ever since for my favorite Eastern Market stumble-upon, Peregrine—the smoothest French press cappuccino I’ve ever had.
Officially reaching the halfway mark in my NYC semester, I’ve come to learn that in the company of New York connoisseurs, it’s best to avoid muttering the dreaded “S” word: Starbucks. You pay for the chestnut-hued ambiance and green-aproned casual friendliness while Instagramming your comically misspelled name on the cup. But you’re also giving in to those smug baristas’ ploy to make you feel more special than the 100+ customers for which they just threw together the same drink. Try to enjoy that tall soy double mocha latte now.
At work last week, I had the privilege of meeting one of my “Saturday Night Live” heroes, Bill Hader, before he hosted last Saturday and have since hit replay on all of his visits to Weekend Update as Stefon, the bizarre city correspondent. Taking inspiration from his signature phrase, in this blog I’ve briefly outlined six of my favorite and “New York’s hottest” coffee shops (in no particular order).
307 East 9th St., East Village
For a massive throwback to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix’s coffeehouse days, this place holds credence in the rich history of the Village. While it borders the actual Greenwich Village, the striking colors and lazy atmosphere give reason to the out-the-door line. On Sunday, I made the trek via a recommendation from a coworker and stayed for its brunch, which is served all day. I got a perfect sampling of their black coffee in a bright orange cup almost as big as a soup bowl.
200 West 39th St., Fashion District
I chose this shop on a whim as a common area to meet another professional in my field. Of course, its name is what attracted me initially, but their baristas are anything but unwelcoming. They seem to thrive on dishing about their favorite brews or mixed teas and love when they can make a recommendation. Next time I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll be back for the Flat White, a delicacy for their Australian owners.
30 Rockefeller Center, Rockefeller Plaza
In the micro-metropolis in the basement of the famed 30 Rock, I discovered a hidden gem tucked away that I frequent much more than the Starbucks right beside it. I love to end my lunch break or sneak away to go downstairs for a New Orleans Iced, a savory blend of milk, cane sugar, coffee and chicory, all organic. It’s become my East Coast substitution for my Common Grounds staple, Rodeo Clown.
155 East 52nd St., Midtown East
Though the coffee delicious, this place will have me coming back for the atmosphere. It’s the closest thing to Common Grounds that I’ve found in New York, minus the “y’all.” At the front of the house, a bar with stools faces a floor-to-ceiling window that’s kept open to the sidewalk. A hallway to the back reveals a cozy lounge with wall-to-wall shelved books. Whether or not its true, I like to think their soundtrack comes from a record player, but one could only wish.
136 East 13th St., SoHo
Nerdy yet down-to-earth, this joint is basically at the ambiguous separating line between the ultra-artsy SoHo and the eccentric Chinatown. I joined a friend/former editor/fellow coffee fanatic here to catch up, and needless to say, if you follow someone whose job revolves around coffee culture, you know you’re in for a fantastic experience. Just a plain brew is all I got, but it’s well worth the hype.
Le Pain Quotidien
70 West 40th St., Bryant Park
922 7th Ave., Columbus Circle by Central Park
While it’s not uniquely New York, Le Pain is certainly a treat when I come out east. I frequented one particular shop by my internship in D.C. quite a bit and was excited to return to its communal-style atmosphere once I got here. There are countless locations around the city, but my two haunts by Bryant Park and Central Park make finding a bench on a chilly day with a café au lait, a chocolate croissant and a good magazine absolutely euphoric.
In all seriousness, I do enjoy a good Starbucks iced white mocha on occasion, but it’s my cup o’ Joe to venture off the beaten path for quality coffee, expert recommendations and unbeatable customer service, in any city. On the plus side, these one-of-a-kind joints will rarely spell my name incorrectly.