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31 October 2016

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: 2016 Manhattan Update

Since my first trip to New York City in 1995, I've been lucky enough to visit at least once or twice per year and I expect to do so for the foreseeable future. This means that unlike most of the other places I travel to, I know I don't have to do *everything* on my coffee to-do list in one go; there is always next time. The New York coffee scene has developed alongside my own coffee tastes: I first visited Jack's Stir Brew in 2003 and then discovered Joe (now a mini-empire) in 2007, but the speciality coffee openings have increased exponentially since then and it's hard to keep up. I am in the process of updating my New York coffee guide and map, as the 2013 edition is starting to get a little out of date, but in the meantime you can find all of my posts featuring New York coffee shops since 2007 right here.

Although I stay around SoHo when I come by myself or for work, when I'm with my family, we usually stay in Midtown — an area I've covered a lot on this blog, mainly because historically, it has been one of the toughest areas to find good speciality coffee, although the times are a-changin' on that front, happily. On my most recent trip, however, I persuaded my parents to stay downtown and our hotel, The SoHo Grand, was very convenient for exploring many of the new coffee shops on my list. I ended up visiting 15 new coffee spots, plus a couple of old favourites; I've decided to split them into Manhattan (today) and Brooklyn (Wednesday's post). I took many more photos than I could include but you can find more of my New York coffee photos on Flickr.

Bluestone Lane (West Village)

I've been meaning to visit this Aussie coffee shop and café mini-chain for several years to try the coffee and the brunch, but despite their wide-ranging NYC locations, I have never managed it until now. After a very brisk and windy walk along the Hudson River Greenway, I navigated my family to the Carmine Street café for coffee and warmth. The staff were as warm as the café itself and they made me a mean piccolo (and a proper piccolo at that). The décor is lovely too with accents of light blue and mint, and plenty of greenery. Next time, I want to try the brunch.



Bluestone Lane is located at 30 Carmine Street nr Bleecker. Twitter. Instagram.


Box Kite (Upper West Side)

I've been to the East Village Box Kite a couple of times but it has now closed, sadly (although it may be back in some form; stay tuned!), so while my mum got her manicure near Columbus Circle, I decided to walk through the pouring rain to 72nd Street, where Box Kite's tiny Upper West Side coffee bar is located. They serve coffee from a range of cult roasters from across North America and beyond. While I was there, they had beans from Washington (state)-based Camber Coffee, Michigan-based Madcap Coffee, Swedish Drop Coffee, and Vancouver-based 49th Parallel.


I should have tried a new roaster, but I couldn't resist the 49th Parallel coffee I loved so much. They usually serve pourovers, but one of the grinders was broken, so I had a Kenyan coffee served as a cortado, which was very nicely prepared. The barista apologised for the wonky latte art but assured me that it would taste great and it did. There are only a handful of seats and not much food but Box Kite is still well worth the trip up Columbus Avenue.

Box Kite is located at 128 W 72nd St nr Columbus. Twitter. Instagram.


Café Integral (Nolita)

The original Café Integral location is inside the funky American Two Shot store. I've stopped by a couple of times before, but I was really pleased when Brian of Brian's Coffee Spot reminded me of the new stand-alone café in Elizabeth Street. The new café is gorgeous with beautiful tiling and lighting and a choice of seating between the high table near the bar and the comfy, plush benches. Much as I like American Two Shot, it can feel very hectic whereas Elizabeth Street is much more relaxed.



I went to the new café twice and ended up trying the Casa Blanca variety both times, once as a cortado and once as a pourover. I think the coffee's subtle notes came out more clearly in the latter but the former was brewed excellently too (and I was suffering a little from the previous night). All of Integral's coffees are from Nicaragua and you can see the care that goes into every cup.


Café Integral is located at 149 Elizabeth St nr Kenmare. Twitter. Instagram.


City of Saints (East Village)

City of Saints was my last stop on a busy and chilly day, but the incredibly friendly and peppy barista soon cheered me up. They roast their own coffee in Brooklyn and the gorgeous artwork on the retail boxes of beans was created by a local artist. The café itself is pretty too: long and airy with plenty of seating along the windows that allow for excellent people-watching. I tried a fruity Kenyan Ruarai coffee brewed through the Kalita Wave, which I liked so much that I bought a bag of beans to take home.



City of Saints is located at 79 E 10th St nr 4th Ave. TwitterInstagram.


Dante (Greenwich Village)

Dante wasn't on my list of places to hit for good coffee — not least because it's more of a bar-restaurant than a coffee shop — but my dad had been a few times before and spoke highly of it, so we headed over there on our first afternoon. My parents went for a glass of rosé but I spotted the nitro cold brew from Lower East Side-based Rise Coffee on the menu and ordered that (it was a grey but very warm day). I'm sometimes skeptical of nitro cold brews, but this tasted good and the view from the pavement tables of the colourful buildings of Macdougal Street is great. Don't forget to go back at happy hour for a kick-ass negroni.


Dante is located at 79–81 Macdougal St nr Bleecker. Instagram.


El Rey (Lower East Side)

Another place that has been on my list for a while, the teeny El Rey is coffee shop and 'luncheonette' by day and restaurant by night. My brother and I stopped for breakfast on the way back from our morning run. My cortado and his cold brew were both very good. I particularly liked the cold brew taps behind the bar. The décor is minimalist — a neon sign, a couple of paintings and some plants — and there are only a few seats, but if you're in the LES, this is a good all-day option.


El Rey is located at 100 Stanton St nr Ludlow. Instagram.



Everyman Espresso (SoHo)

I have been frequenting the funky original Everyman Espresso in the East Village for at least five years and its SoHo spin-off for almost as long. My company's former New York office was located less than a block from the West Broadway coffee bar so I've been there many times over the years and it's been very rare that the coffee has been anything less than stellar. This trip I had a cortado and a couple of Aeropress brews, the latter of which (using Counter Culture coffee) were particularly excellent. I love the vintage mugs and the colourful tiled walls, and their Halloween decorations even included a coffee ouija board. Nice!


Everyman Espresso is located at 301 West Broadway @ Canal. Twitter. Instagram.


Ground Support (SoHo)

Just a few blocks north of Everyman on West Broadway is another old favourite of mine, Ground Support, which is a lovely, relaxed neighbourhood café. The coffee and food are always great and when the weather's nice, you can sit at a sunny communal table in the courtyard.


Ground Support is located at 399 West Broadway @ Spring. TwitterInstagram.


Happy Bones (Nolita)

It's taken me several years to make it to Happy Bones and I wish I'd visited sooner. Small and slim, the interiors are minimalist and gorgeous: white walls and a matching La Marzocco, and a unique coffee bar designed by François Chambord of UM Project. The café faces south and it was incredibly sunny on the afternoon when I visited. I ordered a piccolo (a relief to see it on the menu after so many cortados), which was brewed using Counter Culture's Hologram blend, whose complex flavours worked really well as a piccolo. Although I drank my coffee in (there are only a few seats inside, as well as a bench on the pavement), I thought the monochrome, bone-themed take-out cups were really cool.



Happy Bones is located at 394 Broome St bet. Centre Market Pl & Mulberry. TwitterInstagram.


Jack's Wife Freda (Nolita)

Jack's Wife Freda has become something of a cult brunch spot: I've tried to go for brunch on a couple of occasions but have always been foiled by the queue. My mum and I went for breakfast on a Monday morning though and arrived just after it opened at 8:30, nabbing a corner table. Within 20 minutes, the place was completely full so do go early (and don't bring too many friends) if you don't want to wait. The Middle East-influenced brunch classics were creative (my rosewater waffle with a side of duck bacon was delicious) and the coffee was very good too. They use Stumptown Coffee and although my cortado was a little on the long side, it was well prepared and tasted great.


Jack's Wife Freda is located at 224 Lafayette St nr Spring. TwitterInstagram.


Ludlow Coffee Supply (Lower East Side)

I dropped into Ludlow Coffee Supply — a hip coffee bar with an adjoining barber's (a growing trend in NYC) — on the way back from running about 10k in under 45 minutes, which I think is probably why none of my photos of this café turned out very well. Ludlow Coffee Supply is small but lively, and the coffee, which they roast themselves, is very good. Although I was tempted by the avocado toast (shocker), I was in a bit of a rush and had a cortado and a yummy banana-walnut muffin.


Ludlow Coffee Supply is located at 176 Ludlow St bet. Stanton & East Houston. Instagram.


Two Hands Restaurant and Bar (Tribeca)

Two Hands has two locations in downtown Manhattan: a more casual café in Nolita, and the slightly more restauranty branch in Tribeca. I took my parents to the latter for breakfast after our early walk over Brooklyn Bridge. As soon as you walk in to Two Hands, you feel as though you could be in Sydney (or, at least, so I imagine). The restaurant is light, although not particularly bright, and with pops of blue-themed artwork amid the light-wood interiors. The La Marzocco itself is custom-decorated in two shades of blue and the barista used it to produce a very fine cortado. My dad was a little disappointed to find chocolate on the top of his cappuccino, but the flat white went down very well. Two Hands also has an excellent breakfast and brunch menu. I had avocado toast with chilli, lime, bacon and a poached egg, which was delicious.



Two Hands is located at 251 Church St bet. Leonard & Franklin. Instagram.


Underline Coffee (Chelsea)

Last, but most certainly not least, is Underline Coffee, which, as its name may suggest, is located almost underneath the High Line. Like many of the coffee bars I visited, Underline is long and slim — anyone would think space came at a premium in Manhattan — and dark and sleek. They roast their own coffee under the name Apes and Peacocks, a reference to a Duke Ellington song, which itself draws from a Biblical reference.




I ordered a pourover from the 'slow bar', selecting a Guatemalan coffee that was chocolatey with hints of cherry. It tasted delicious (I wish I'd bought a bag of the beans) and came beautifully presented in a gorgeous mug on a vintage tray. There are only a few seats and on a Saturday afternoon, most were taken, but I found a space at the raised table along the wall. This also meant that I could peruse a few old copies of Barista magazine while I enjoyed my coffee. With knowledgeable and talented baristas, great coffee and a wonderfully relaxed vibe, Underline has jumped way up in my New York coffee rankings.

Underline Coffee is located at 511 W 20th St nr 10th Ave. Twitter. Instagram.

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