04 May 2018

New York Speciality Coffee Update — Spring 2018

Just over a year ago, I created a comprehensive guide to all of my favourite speciality coffee shops in New York City. Since then, a couple have sadly closed, but on my recent visit to New York, I managed to visit 11 new-to-me coffee shops. The two themes of this trip turned out to be: beautiful design and coffee spots that serve more than coffee. I've posted more coffee photos from this, and other, NYC trip on Flickr.

I was staying in Midtown this time, close to Central Park, and took the opportunity to explore some of the coffee shops in the neighbourhood — once a speciality coffee desert, but now not a bad location for a coffee lover to stay. I have also put together a separate Midtown Manhattan coffee guide, but here are the coffee spots I visited last month.

Birch Coffee
The original branch of Birch Coffee in the Flatiron District has been a favourite of mine for years now. I hadn't quite realised how much the company had grown, though, and its New York coffee shops have now reached double figures. The Ninth Avenue branch near Columbus Circle was conveniently located for me to get a coffee to keep me going on my subway ride down to Brooklyn. The coffee shop is small with just a trio of seats in the window but the coffee menu punches above its weight, with a variety of espresso-based drinks and four single-origin coffees available as a V60 pourover. The coffees are roasted in small batches in Long Island City.

I ordered a macchiato to go and whipped out the mini KeepCup I bought at London Coffee Festival for precisely this purpose. The coffee tasted great, the barista was friendly and I always love the tip-jar trivia questions all of the Birch Coffees offer.

884 Ninth Avenue bet. W. 57th & 58th St. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Blue Bottle Coffee
Another of the speciality coffee 'mini-chains' that has expanded deeper into Midtown is Blue Bottle Coffee. I first discovered the Chelsea location in 2012, and have also visited the Rockfeller branch a number of times, as well as their Bushwick roastery. The Midtown East branch (the address is on 53rd Street between Fifth and Madison, but it's part of the ground floor of an office building and located closer to the 52nd Street entrance). As it was so close to my hotel, I went a couple of times, taking a post-run macchiato each time. There is, of course, a brew bar too for single-origin pourovers. Sadly, they were long since sold out of Port of Mokha coffee.

10 E. 53rd Street bet. Fifth & Madison Ave. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

The Jolly Goat
I sometimes forget how wide the east–west blocks in Hell's Kitchen — the Midtown neighbourhood that spans 34th to 59th Street, west of Eighth Avenue — until I desperately in need of coffee and have to walk all the way over to Eleventh Avenue from Sixth. The Jolly Goat is worth the walk, however, with well-brewed Stumptown coffees that will soon make even the grumpiest customer as jolly as the animals tended by Kaldi the goatherd. Located on a quiet stretch of 47th Street, the coffee shop has a trio of seats in the window that make for some excellent people-watching. They also serve bagels from H&H and a few other breakfast items too.

515 W. 47th Street bet. Tenth & Eleventh Ave. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Further north into Hell's Kitchen is REX, a coffee bar located on Tenth Avenue, a couple of blocks west of Columbus Circle. We went on a busy Friday morning and although there is some seating, the coffee shop was completely full. We decided to get our pourovers to go — between us sampling both the Colombian Cueva de los Llanos and the Ethiopian Micheta from Counter Culture. I thought the former was particularly good, and making three good pourovers at once while also dealing with a queue of customers is no mean feat. There seemed to be lots of regulars there, making it a wonderful little neighbourhood spot.

864 Tenth Avenue nr W. 57th St. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen
I've always loved the Flatiron district (parts of which — those North of Madison Square Park — are now sometimes dubbed NoMad) and it is also an exciting neighbourhood for speciality coffee. I had several coffee shops in the area on my list and made it to three. Blank Slate, a spacious and attractively decorated coffee shop and all-day eatery, lies a few blocks north of Madison Square Park. Etch-a-Sketches adorn the walls, in case you really do need to find a way to return to the titular blank slate.

Although the brunch menu looked excellent — and late morning on a Sunday, there were very few free seats — I had a date with an Impossible Burger and so stuck to the coffee, which comes from Colombia-via-Brooklyn roaster Devoción. Espresso shots are pulled on the Faema E61. I ordered a cortado, which I promised to drink at the counter until a server found me a seat in the window — kudos to the barista who managed to find me again! The coffee tasted great and I loved the Madison Avenue people-watching. And if you're more of a tea drinker, Blank Slate also have a stylish speciality tea café right next door.

121 Madison Avenue nr E. 30th St. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Paper Coffee
It's not bad going to land at JFK at 1 pm and be drinking an excellent Camber Coffee pourover at Paper Coffee, a cool but relaxed coffee bar in the lobby of the MADE Hotel, by 4:30 pm. After a transatlantic flight, I was in urgent need of caffeination and after checking into my (less cool) hotel, marched down Sixth Avenue to 29th Street. Most of the seating is around a large wooden table that backs onto the coffee bar, and I was keenly eyeing up the Kinto ceramics.

The espresso comes from Devoción — they must have some kind of Flatiron connection! — and they also serve two single-origin pourovers from the guest roaster of the month. I tried the Rwandan Shyira from Camber Coffee, which had really sweet, juicy pomegranate notes. The friendly barista also let me smell the next month's guest roaster — an Ethiopian from Slate Coffee (based, like Camber, in Washington State) — which wasn't quite dialled in yet. He brewed me a sample anyway and it smelled fantastic, and tasted very nice too. Unfortunately, I didn't get chance to go back to try the fully dialled-in brew. Finally, if you're at Paper in the evening, they have some lovely-sounding barista cocktails — and I don't just mean your average espresso martini.

44 W. 29th Street bet 6th Ave. & Broadway. Website. Instagram.

Patent Coffee
Speaking of coffee bars that also serve cocktails, the newly opened Patent Coffee, two blocks south from Paper Coffee on 27th Street, was an excellent find. With minimalist decor accented with orange flowers throughout the shop, including in Chemex 'vases', and a few seats at the edge, Patent looks like a fairly typical — if beautifully designed — coffee shop. Their coffee is roasted in Brooklyn and there were three single-origins on offer when I visited: a Colombian for espresso, a different Colombian on batch-brew and a Lugmapata from Ecuador available as a Kalita Wave pourover.

The coffee was really well-brewed and I couldn't resist picking up a white chocolate cookie too. The friendly baristas also gave me a sample of the batch brew while I waited, which was great. I'm not sure how much longer they will be doing this, but during my visit, there was a daily $2 cappuccino happy hour from 10:30 to 11:30 am — a nice touch! Late in the afternoon, though, the coffee shop closes and the cocktail bar hidden through a door behind the coffee menu opens up. I did not have time to visit the speakeasy but hope to do so next time.

49 W. 27th Street nr 6th Ave. Website. Instagram.

Just as soon as I managed to visit Chicago-based roaster Intelligentsia's second New York City location, inside in the Herald Square Urban Outfitters, they closed it down. And somehow, despite my frequent visits to the High Line, it has taken me another three years to make it to the original — and only remaining — NYC location inside the super-cool High Line Hotel. It was a sunny, and sometimes even warm, day and after clocking up many miles walking around Manhattan on my last day, I ended up in the cool, calm lobby of the High Line Hotel.

I ordered a cortado from the barista working at the beautiful, tiled coffee bar, and took a seat on one of the comfy sofas. The drink was well-brewed and looked rather nice next to the vintage typewriter on the marble coffee table. Although it is a *few* minutes' walk from the High Line, it's definitely worth the short detour, especially if you're an Intelligentsia aficionado.

180 10th Avenue bet. W. 20th & 21st St. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Little Italy
Nickel & Diner
When you think of the words 'New York diner', what comes to mind? I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be Nickel & Diner, an ultra-modern, ultra-stylish take on the concept. From the building's facade, to the Kees van der Westen espresso machine on the counter, to the highly Instagrammable booths, a lot of thought has gone into design at Nickel & Diner.

I arrived too late for lunch (a menu filled with contemporary twists on classic diner fare) and too early for dinner, but just in time for coffee. The coffee comes from Brooklyn-based roaster Nobletree (read on for more information) and my cortado was well prepared. And after a hectic day of walking tours and shopping, I welcomed the peaceful respite in such a beautiful spot. The food and cocktail menus are such that I'm sure I will be making a return visit during a mealtime next time I'm in the city.

1 Howard Street nr Center St. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Well worth the long-ish subway ride from Midtown (hence the need for the Birch coffee I mentioned above), Golda is a small but beautifully designed café and coffee spot in the Bed-Stuy neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Currently open until 5:00 pm every day, they will soon start serving dinner too, but the Middle-Eastern-influenced all-day food menu is tempting enough as it is. Worried about having to queue, I arrived relatively early on a Saturday morning to find sun streaming in through the windows and several empty seats at the counter.

The coffee is from Brooklyn-based Parlor Coffee and after I had taken a moment to admire (and photograph) the coffee menu, I ordered a cortado. It looked great and tasted even better — bravo to the barista. The locally produced Calyer Ceramics cups lovely too. Although the pastries looked excellent, I decided to treat myself to a big breakfast, ordering the chicken-sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, with kashkaval cheese, mast-o-khiar (a yoghurt and cucumber dip) and pickled chilis. This was both tasty and filling. Combined with the warm welcome I received from the friendly staff, this made for a thoroughly enjoyable visit. Unfortunately, it was a little too early in the day to visit the cherry blossoms in the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

504 Franklin Avenue nr Fulton St. Website. Instagram.

Last but not least, comes Nobletree. After sampling their coffee at Nickel & Diner, I wanted to visit one of their own locations and happened upon the newly opened DeKalb Market Hall on my way from Golda to Brooklyn Heights. Nobletree have a concession inside the large, subterranean food market, which I visited, although they will soon be opening a cafe on the ground floor (they also have a location in the Financial District).

There was a big queue at Nobletree on the Saturday I visited — it was the only speciality coffee vendor I found within the market hall. They serve espresso-based drinks from the Modbar unit on the counter and batch-brew filter coffee. As I'd reached my milk quotient for the day, I ordered the day's single-origin espresso, which was a fruity Brazilian. My mini KeepCup caused a bit of confusion in the line-up (mainly because I hadn't realised only single-use cups were available), but the espresso tasted good, even if the poor lighting and neon colours of the cup rendered it unphotographable.

DeKalb Market Hall, 445 Albee Square West. Website.

For more New York speciality coffee recommendations, please see my guide; I've also included below an updated version of my New York speciality coffee map:



  1. Very good post!, I will visit them all on my next trip to New York, Thanks!

    1. Thanks! Hope you enjoy your trip and find the suggestions useful.