08 October 2013

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: Downtown Discoveries

Of all of the new espresso bars I visited in downtown Manhattan, my favourite is Stumptown's New York flagship café, which opened on the corner of West 8th Street and MacDougal in May. Its racing green storefront blends perfectly with its Greenwich Village neighbours and the high-ceilinged interiors offer a combination of old-school stylings with high-tech modern coffee-making. On my first visit, I ordered an espresso, which was chocolatey and rich. Then, when I came back, I went for a cold brew, which was surprisingly smooth and tasty.

Next door, they have a brew bar, which serves Aeropress, Chemex, siphon and all the other cool coffees. They also do a nitro-cold brew, which means you get cold coffee without the melting-ice dilution problem. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to enjoy the brew bar the first time I went, and the second, they had already closed. But there's also next time. I also bought a bag of Colombian coffee beans and a chunky Stumptown mug to take back with me. They also do great gift packs for the coffee lover in your life.

One block further south and quite a few to the east lies Abraço, a tiny espresso bar in the East Village. It's been on a number of best-NYC-coffee lists but somehow, I only got round to visiting on this trip. Inside, there is only room for about two people to perch at the window and they also put a (slim) table on the pavement, but this isn't the place to come with a big group of friends to hang out. My macchiato was very good, though, and it worked well accompanied by a thick slab of chocolate and almond pound cake. Throughout the day they also serve a range of sweet and savoury light bites.

On the other side of Houston Street, occupying a lively corner of Orchard and Broome, is Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, another mini-empire that seems to have sprung up since my last visit. I was disappointed that I'd already had a bagel when I rocked up to find a delicious-looking breakfast and brunch menu. I ordered a pourover, which arrived in a giant mug and which I took to one of the tables in the window. Slightly more spacious than some of the other Manhattan espresso bars, the café is light and airy and made me which I was a freelancer who lived nearby and who could make it her base.

The final stop on my downtown coffee tour is Café Grumpy, two blocks south of Irving Farm, on Essex Street. I've been to Grumpy's Chelsea branch before and thus was aware of the no-ordering-espresso-to-go rule. I ordered a single-origin espresso and sipped it from a bright green and orange cup while I waited for my partner in caffeine's coffee and our banana bread (yum!) to be ready. With barely any seats, this isn't a place for lingering, but the coffee is really good and there's a nice park just across the street. Oh, and good news for midtown coffee-seekers: they have a new branch on West 39th Street.

Stumptown. 30 West 8th Street @ MacDougal (Greenwich Village). Website. Twitter.
Abraço. 86 East 7th Street nr 1st Ave (East Village). Website. Twitter.
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. 88 Orchard Street @ Broome (Lower East Side). Website.
Café Grumpy. 13 Essex Street bet. Hester & Canal (Lower East Side). Website. Twitter.

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