24 June 2022

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: Manhattan Speciality Coffee Update

Earlier this week, I wrote about three of the excellent new-to-me speciality coffee shops I visited in Brooklyn during my recent visit. But I had the opportunity to stop by a fair few coffee spots in Manhattan too. I was staying near Bryant Park, which meant that Midtown coffee shops feature quite prominently on this list. There used to be a real dearth of speciality coffee in this part of town, but there are now dozens of places to get a great cup of coffee. I did find, however, that many of the Midtown coffee shops I visited had a real focus on takeaway and served coffee in disposable cups even if you are drinking in (COVID has been a driver, of course). This isn't that surprising, given the high proportion of tourists and office workers in that part of town, but it is worth noting.

Several of the coffee shops I visited were part of (very) mini-chains from coffee companies with three to five locations in the city. Some (like Felix Roasting Co, pictured above) have also benefitted from the cabin-like sidewalk seating areas that popped up in the wake of COVID restrictions, especially downtown. For coffee shops (and restaurants) with limited seating options inside, this has been a real boon and has helped many small businesses to stay operating during these difficult times.

Black Fox Coffee (Midtown)

Black Fox's original Pine Street location in the Financial District was always my first port of call when I was visiting my former company's New York office. I was excited to hear that they were opening a new location in Midtown and almost visited during my last trip in February 2020 — but as I was returning three months later and staying nearby, I thought I'd save it for then. Then, of course, COVID happened, but when I finally returned to NYC this month, I was staying a couple of blocks from Black Fox's West 45th Street coffee bar (they also have a location on West 33rd Street).

Smaller than the original and with more of a takeaway focus, the sleek West 45th Street café is still a great place to grab a cup of coffee. There are espresso-based drinks on offer as well as filter coffee, brewed in small batches. I've always enjoyed getting to discover interesting roasters from around the world at Black Fox and this time enjoyed a filter coffee brewed with a deliciously fruity coffee from Honduras, roasted by Luna. Excitingly, Black Fox is also now roasting their own coffee and there were some great varieties available on the retail shelf. There are breakfast options available too, from pastries (I had a scone with 'everything' seasoning) to more filling choices.

Black Fox is located at 45 E. 45th Street bet. Madison & Vanderbilt (and other locations: FiDi and Midtown South). Website. Instagram.

Felix Roasting Co. (SoHo)

At the beginning of my trip, the theme seemed to be visits to new locations of New York coffee shops I already know and love. This was the case with Felix Roasting Co, whose beautiful, Wes Anderson-esque NoMad location I checked out a few years ago. Their second spot, on SoHo's Greene Street, is lovely too with teal interiors and a cosy mezzanine level at the back. If it's busy inside, you can also head out to the pavement seating area, pictured at the top of this post.

I didn't have time to stop for long so I got a macchiato to go in my smallest KeepCup, which I feel coordinated perfectly with the Felix aesthetics. Kudos to the barista, whose latte art was particularly impressive for such a small drink and especially as it was their first pour of the day!

Felix Roasting Co. is located at 104 Greene Street bet. Prince & Spring (and another location in NoMad). Website. Instagram.

For Five Coffee (Midtown)

Outside For Five Coffee's Times Square coffee bar, there's a sign announcing that: "the coffee you're about to enjoy was roasted 4.6 miles away." That would be at the roastery in Queens, although I'm not sure of the exact route taken! For Five has a growing presence across the US, with more than 20 coffee shops in cities like Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and Los Angeles.

The busy Times Square coffee shop opened in 2016 and the coffee shop is geared towards takeaway, although there are a few tables at the back. They serve espresso-based drinks and batch-brew and hand-brewed filter coffee. There are also some seriously deliciously looking cookies on offer, but as it was still early, I stuck to a croissant to accompany my macchiato.

For Five Coffee is located at 117 W. 46th Street bet. Sixth & Seventh Ave (and other locations). Website. TwitterInstagram.

Frisson Espresso (Hell's Kitchen)

At this point, my NYC Google Map is almost unusably overloaded with saved locations — including coffee shops — I've pinned over the past 15 years or so. But it still helps me out when I don't have a lot of time to get to a good coffee shop before starting my day. So it was that I visited Frisson Espresso on the way back from picking up breakfast at Hudson Bagel in Hell's Kitchen. 

The tiny coffee bar was very busy inside — I managed to time my visit for the delivery of both the whole milk and the oat milk! — but the friendly staff kept things moving very efficiently. There were a few small tables inside but I got my macchiato to go in my KeepCup, and very well brewed it was too. Frisson does accept credit card payments but cash is preferred and so it was one of only two places all trip where I pulled some dollar bills out of my wallet.

Frisson Espresso is located at 326 W. 47th Street bet. Eighth & Ninth Ave. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Gumption Coffee (Midtown)

Although it's not that surprising for New York coffee shops to open new locations in the city, I wasn't expecting to see a sister location of a coffee shop I'd last visited in Sydney! But Gumption Coffee now has three coffee bars in New York, including the one near Times Square that I visited. Small inside but big in character and with interiors that are very well coordinated with my own usual colour scheme, Gumption is a bright and fun spot with a real focus on quality coffee.

There are a couple of small tables inside, and I sat at one to drink my cortado, which was very well brewed. On the counter, there's a small selection of pastries and I went for an 'everything seasoning' croissant ('everything' baked goods beyond bagels is clearly a current trend!), which was delicious, although was shaped more like a pain au chocolat. Several other customers had their eyes on my breakfast but I'd ordered the last one — so go early if you don't want to miss out on everything!

Gumption Coffee is located at 106 W. 45th Street nr Sixth Ave (and other locations — the Sydney original is featured in my Sydney coffee guide). Website. Instagram.

Librae Bakery (NoHo)

Speaking of baked goods, the pastry offering at Librae Bakery, a new Middle Eastern-influenced café in Cooper Square is really superb. I had a rose pistachio croissant to accompany my cortado, both of which were delicious.

The design and interiors at Librae are beautiful too; it's a great place to linger over a bite and a cup of coffee before heading back into the hustle and bustle of NoHo.

Librae Bakery is located at 35 Cooper Square nr E. 6th St. Website. Instagram.

Partners Coffee (Midtown)

I've enjoyed Partners Coffee's coffee on a few occasions in the past, including at their West Village café, back in the beforetimes. Their coffee bar inside Urbanspace's Vanderbilt food hall was perfectly located for me to caffeinate after a morning run through Central Park. The coffee bar has a focus on espresso-based drinks and grab-and-go food items. Both the cups and the bags of retail beans are decked out in Partners' signature rainbow colour scheme. I had a very nice cortado and enjoyed chatting with the friendly barista about running, coffee and life!

Partners Coffee is located at 81 E. 45th Street nr Park Ave  (and other locations inc. Williamsburg & West Village). Website. Instagram.

Prodigy Coffee (West Village)

Prodigy Coffee, in the West Village, had been on my to-visit list for some time so I'm glad I finally made it. I was grateful to step out of the hot summer sun into the cool, elegant coffee shop, which has a relaxed vibe.

The coffee is roasted in Brooklyn, and their Brooklyn Blend was in the hopper when I visited. The espresso blends coffees from Nicaragua and Colombia and tasted sweet and chocolatey with a little milk in the macchiato I enjoyed. And didn't it look lovely on the marble table? They also serve hand-brewed filter coffee if that's what you're in the mood for.

Prodigy Coffee is located at 33 Carmine Street bet. Bleecker & Bedford. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Pulley Coffee Bar (Chelsea)

While roaming Chelsea Market, I was actually looking for Day Drinks when I came across the Pulley coffee bar in approximately the right location. It turns out that you actually get into Day Drinks from West 15th Street, rather than through the market, but Pulley serves Day Drinks coffee so I got to try it anyway. I had a macchiato to take away in my KeepCup, which was nicely brewed. It's a good option if you're looking for caffeination inside Chelsea Market, although hopefully I'll make it to Day Drinks next time too!

Pulley Coffee is located at 75 9th Avenue (Chelsea Market). Website.

Ten Thousand Coffee (Midtown)

I happened upon Ten Thousand Coffee (sometimes styled as 10000) while walking up Third Avenue from the East River Ferry landing at East 34th Stret to Bloomingdale's. The sleek, monochrome café has a sister in Times Square — and another in NSW, Australia. It's named for the concept that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any skill. If that's true for latte art, I must still have a huge amount of practice time ahead of me.

There's a Kees van der Westen on the counter, but I was immediately drawn to the Kalita Wave brew bar, where there were two single-origin coffees on offer. It was a hot day so I took the opportunity to order the naturally processed Ethiopian Chechele coffee as an iced pourover. It was delicious with juicy strawberry and milk chocolate notes. I also received a little piece of candied orange dipped in a single-origin chocolate from Colombia, which came with tasting notes. This was a really nice little extra! Ten Thousand also sell bags of their retail beans, which have a very cool typography.

Ten Thousand is located at 750 3rd Avenue bet. E. 46th & E. 47th St. (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

For 80+ more of my favourite coffee shops in New York, check out my NYC speciality coffee guide. My accompanying Google Map (mostly updated) is included below for reference.

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