20 November 2023

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: Autumn 2023 Update

Last week, I was back in New York for an epic birthday celebration. We had so many activities planned — of which more to follow soon! — that I didn't have as much time for coffee shop exploration, but with five full days in NYC, I didn't do too badly. We were staying next to Grand Central Station in Midtown East, so I was able to visit a few coffee shops there. And I also enjoyed stopping by some new-to-me speciality coffee spots further downtown, including one that has to have the most unique name ever for a coffee shop. Read on to find out more!


On a rare free morning, I decided to head down to the Flatiron District, between Madison Square Park and Union Square to indulge in a little shopping. Like my entire stay, it was cold but beautifully sunny, which made for a lovely walk down Fifth Avenue. While I waited for the shops to open, I popped into Colombian coffee company Devoción's cafe on East 20th Street. I've been to the Williamsburg location, with its signature yellow cups, comfy seating and excellent Colombian coffees, several times. And the Manhattan coffee shop is just as lovely. 

There is a lot of seating, across small tables and sofas in the airy cafe, although it was so busy I had to wait for a seat. The décor combines exposed-brick walls with a leafy ceiling hanging, and, of course, plenty of pops of yellow. My cortado was very well brewed and tasted delicious. They also serve single-origin pourovers, as well as a selection of cakes and pastries.

Devoción is located at 25 E 20th Street bet. 5th & Park Aves (and another location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn). WebsiteXInstagram.

Do Not Feed Alligators (West Village)

I hinted earlier that I had come across the most uniquely named coffee shop on this trip — can anyone better Do Not Feed Alligators? It takes its name from the travel book of owner David Shama, also a photographer. Fortunately, I did not encounter any Crocodilians during my visit to the petite but beautifully designed West Village coffee shop. But I did find an exceptional coffee menu, featuring superb coffees from roasters including Colorado-based Prodigal and Arkansas-based Onyx.

I had a pourover brewed with an anaerobic natural coffee from Finca Bettel in Colombia, roasted by Prodigal, which had gorgeous juicy strawberry notes. I also got an Onyx Costa Rican Las Lajas espresso to go, which hit all the right spots. DNFA is one of those great all-day spots that also serves cocktails, wines and food, as well as hosting various events. It's the kind of neighbourhood cafe that every neighbourhood needs.

Do Not Feed Alligators is located at 337 Bleecker Street nr Christopher St. Website. X. Instagram.

Drip Coffee Makers (SoHo)

When I was in NYC last year, I visited the original Bushwick location of pourouver specialists Drip Coffee Makers. And I discovered that they also had a coffee bar in SoHo, whose address was very familiar to me because my former company's New York office used to be located on the ninth floor of the same building. Back when I spent time at 75 Varick Street (long ago now), I used to get my coffee at Ground Support and Everyman, but now, I would only have to head down to the lobby to find Drip.

When at Drip, I had to have a pourover, and there was an impressive choice of coffees from four roasters: Fritz (Korea), Manhattan (Netherlands), Onyx (Arkansas, USA) and Resident (Florida, USA). Although the Colombian Gesha from Onyx sounded incredible, I wanted to try a new-to-me roaster, so opted for the Resident coffee, a naturally processed Demeka Becha from Ethiopia. The tasting notes promised tropical fruit, gin fizz and Luxardo cherries and did not disappoint! As soon as the coffee was ground, the juicy aromas hit my nose. It tasted just as good, especially as it cooled. The staff are all super-friendly and I enjoyed hanging out in my old lobby while I waited for my brew.

Drip Coffee Makers is located at 75 Varick Street nr Canal St. (and other locations). Website. X. Instagram.

The Lost Draft (SoHo)

Where might you come up with the idea for a book called Do Not Feed Alligators? Well, probably somewhere like The Lost Draft, a SoHo cafe where storytelling and coffee share top billing. Indeed, when I arrived on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, most of the seats were taken and there was plenty of scribbling (and typing) going on. You can even rent the room at the back if you need to hold a writers' meeting.

Alas, I wasn't there long enough to make much progress on the edits of my novel. But I did enjoy an excellent cortado, sitting at the beautiful, curving counter, while I caught up on my NYC to-do list. Pourovers are also on the cards — there were two single origins, from Ethiopia and Nicaragua — and you can buy bags of beans to take home. Creative inspiration most definitely included.

The Lost Draft is located at 398 Broome Street nr Cleveland Pl. Website. Instagram.

Ninth Street Espresso (Alphabet City)

On a chilly but sunny Sunday morning, I took my family on a walking tour around the East Village. We took in sights from Eliza Hamilton's former house to the filming location for Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti album cover (Wolves fans will appreciate the Robert Plant connection). We'd just crossed through Tompkins Square Park and were in need of caffeine and warmth when I spotted the original location of Ninth Street Espresso on, well, East 9th Street. I've been to this location before but not for many years. It was bustling and we only just about found enough perching room while we enjoyed our coffees. I had an excellent macchiato — and, as a fan of The National, enjoyed the fact that the espresso was called Alphabet City — a Brazilian coffee that tasted smooth and sweet brewed with a little milk.

Ninth Street Espresso is located at 700 E 9th Street nr Ave. C (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

Grand Central

Cafe Grumpy

I walked past this branch of the whimsical, orange-accented Cafe Grumpy several times a day during my trip. It's located on the Lexington Avenue side of Grand Central, at the end of Lexington Passage. The small, busy coffee shop has a little bit of perching room but it is, understandably, most popular with commuters in search of takeaway drinks. It still looks rather stylish, however, with its chequerboard flooring, wooden counter and orange espresso machine.

I stopped by a couple of times and my macchiato and cortado were very good on both occasions. I was also sad I didn't get to try their Hadestown special after enjoying the musical so much last year. 'Way Down Under the Grounds' is a great name! 

Cafe Grumpy is located at 89 E. 42nd Street, Lexington Passage, Grand Central (and other locations). Website. X. Instagram.


As I've written many times before, I've been visiting Joe since 2007 and my first ever photo of a speciality coffee with latte art was at the original Greenwich Village location in October of that year. Joe has thrived since then, with many more locations and some very cool merch. The Waverly Place cafe remains my favourite but the other Joes remain reliable places for a good cup of joe. This one is tucked inside Grand Central Station near the main concourse. It's a tiny, elbow-room-only spot, which does a fine line in espresso-based drinks and cold brew. I went there a couple of times for a macchiato before hopping on the 4-5-6 trains at Grand Central, and the coffee was always good.

Joe is located at 105 E. 42nd Street, Grand Central (and other locations). Website. X. Instagram.

Little Collins

The original Little Collins (named after a street in Melbourne) has been one of my favourite speciality coffee shops in Midtown since 2013. It's where I first had a pourover that was quite unlike any filter coffee I'd tried before — light, clear and...tea-like (yes, it was an Ethiopian variety). They do great Aussie brunch and sweet treats too. I thought that Little Collins' second location, a couple of blocks from Grand Central on Third Avenue, wouldn't be too busy at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, but, in fact, there was a 45-minute wait for a table. Word has clearly spread! 

Luckily, I was looking for a coffee to go, in any case, but I had to scale back my order from a pourover (for old times' sake) to a macchiato in my little KeepCup. The macchiato, brewed with Collin's Blend (a collaboration with Counter Culture), was excellent, with sweet caramel notes and latte art that lasted all the way down to the bottom. Next time, I just need to remember to make a reservation for brunch!

Little Collins is located at 708 Third Avenue nr E. 44th St (and another Midtown location). Website. X. Instagram.

For 80+ more of my favourite coffee shops in New York, check out my NYC speciality coffee guide. My accompanying Google Map (updated in November 2023) is included below for reference.

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