Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hello Again

Hello coffee friends,

It's been a while! I'm just now getting back in gear from the summer. Please check out my latest film. It's called "Uncle Morty." Enjoy!

Uncle Morty

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Redundant Conclusion: Coffee at The Coffee Shop

Well folks, I'm about to graduate, which means a temporary end to the NYC Coffee Reviews. No need for tears though, what we had was real. 

For my final review, I went to a place that I have passed several times during my visits to the Lower East Side, Coffee Shop. That's right, Coffee Shop. As in, What kind of place has the audacity to call itself Coffee Shop? 

Located at 14th and 1rst Avenue, Coffee Shop is a little hole-in-the-wall between other small businesses. It's a diner with good prices and oatmeal. However, the customer service is not very strong. As I walk in, I do that dance where you try to make eye contact with an employee while pacing about. I am finally seated towards the back of the restaurant. Since it's so early in the morning, I let the waitress know that I'm in desperate need of coffee.

She brings out their Colombian blend. It's strong and bold and smells fantastic. Coffee shop truly delivers on their coffee. It's smooth, concentrated and only $1.10. That's pretty hard to beat in NYC.

The diner is definitely a local spot. Families and friends are catch up all around me. The blonde 20-something behind me rants about the sacrifices that bar-tending takes, and how she's eaten everything in her apartment. In the meantime, her very patient friend smiles, barely squeezing a word in.

I smile too, because it's been a good year and it's always easy to smile with a cup of coffee in hand.

Coffee: 8/10, Good
Location: Lower East Side (14th and 1rst) 
Atmosphere: The classic diner
Cost: Under $1.10 
Recommend: Yes

Living it Up at Laughing Man Coffee

Hugh Jackman is a lot of things. Wolverine, Jean Valjean, Van Helsing, The Boy from Oz. But who knew that coffee shop proprietor was also on his resume? Jackman is one of three founders of Laughing Man. LM has three locations, all in the Financial District. I visited the one off Reade St. and Broadway.

LM is a really cool place. In addition to 100% of their profits going to education and business in underdeveloped countries, LM has the most energetic and joyful crew. As I walk in, the two baristas and a customer are all dancing to the radio. I ask them about their famous drink, the Flat White, and they are more than happy to pitch it to me.

"It's the Australian Version of the cappuccino!" one of them shouts.

"It's like when you ask that guy to the dance in middle school and he accepts," another one of them offers.

"It's just good," the third guy adds, and they all laugh. 
I can't help but laugh too. It's a bit contagious, this effervescent energy.

Unfortunately, there's no sitting room inside. But the small venue is clean and well-organized. Black-and-white tiles decorate the store along with pictures of Hugh Jackman and Dukale, an Ethiopian Coffee Farmer. I head outside to sit on the steps with my drink.

The Flat White is slightly bitter. It tastes like a hybrid between hot chocolate and a cappuccino, which is a far less romantic description then any of the baristas provided. Overall, it's a well-blended drink and refreshing. I like it, but I think what I like even more is the crew and the altruistic message that LM represents.

Coffee: 8/10, Good
Location: Financial District (Reade and Broadway) 
Atmosphere: Tiny, but optimistic and very friendly
Cost: Under $3
Recommend: Yes

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Special: Food, Food, and More Food...

Food, Food, and More Food...

Whenever I have company in town, it's always an excellent opportunity to check restaurants off my bucket list. I realize that's not the point of having friends over, but it certainly is a wonderful benefit. It's kind of like how at Christmas, everyone says that it's not about the presents. But we all know that it really kind of is. You know what I mean. 

Anyway, I've had some lovely friends, Diane and Steve, stay with me for this last week. We've had some real fun (Central Park Zoo, Plaza Hotel, the whole tourist shtick). And, it so happens, that we've tried a lot of great a food. A lot. I mean, I have been doing extra yoga to avoid a food baby. 

Here is a portion of my food journey: 

Cafe Lalo (83rd and Amsterdam) which you might remember from the 1998 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan-Email flick, You've Got Mail. It's a love triangle between technology and humans. Spoiler alert: technology wins. 

Lalo completely lived up to all that I had dreamt it would be. It's such a stunning little cafe. 
Cafe Lalo Exterior 
Diane enjoyed Lalo as well. 
What a cool interior. 
I ordered quiche and a Mediterranean Salad. Diane got the whole-wheat Belgium Waffle!

Their dessert bar is incredible! (I borrowed this photo from

One of my go-to Greek Restaurants is Dafni Greek Taverna (42nd and 8th Avenue). It requires a reservation, but the food is reasonably priced and always first quality. I usually order a Greek salad with gyro slices over it. It runs about $14. 

They're very generous with their Dolmades. I love Dolmades, I wish they went with everyday food. Dolmades with sandwiches. Dolmades with cereal. I would do it, don't judge.
Yes, it does have Dolmades! More please!
Finally, I had the BEST Indian food I have ever tasted at this nice little restaurant, Benares. It's located near Columbus Circle (56th Street and Broadway). You MUST try their Malai Kofta. I couldn't pronounce the name, so I did the little kid thing where I point at it on the menu. Diane ordered a rice dish that tasted incredible, especially when dipped in the Kofta sauce. 

I felt food drunk. You know that thing where the food is so good it makes you drowsy. It blew me away.

Diane and I had no idea how good that was going to be!
That has been my food journey thus far. Any recommendations of new places to try?

Gregory's Coffee and Feeling "Coffeed-out"

I have a confession to make, as I arrive at Gregory's Coffee...
 I feeling slightly "coffeed-out."
I feel blasphemous just typing up the the phrase. I love coffee, right? We all know that. I have an enormous sense of guilt whenever these rare days occur.

It's like betraying a friend. I'm sorry, coffee. I don't want to be that person. We've established a strong bond and I believe in you.

Good. I just had to get that off my chest.

I like the layout in the front. So does this man who had no choice but to be immortalized in this photo. 

Gregory's Coffee is in the midst of the craziness that is Times Square. The easiest way to spot the tourists from non-tourists is by going to Times Square. 90% of those people are tourists. NYC Natives avoid that place like a death-trap. Gregory's Coffee is located at 6th Avenue and 44th Street. It's one of five locations, three of which are located within Midtown. It can be spotted by its logo, a pair of large, green glasses. F. Scott Fitzgerald would be proud, it's very Gatsby-esque. I presume Gregory watches over all of us.

What a nice set-up. There are pastries and yogurt further on the right of the counter. 

The baristas are lively and nice. The scheme is black-and-white with various splashes of color. Some classic New York photographs hang on the wall. Mellow pop music plays in the background. The clientele is mainly business people. So, lots of blazers, laptops and bags-under-the-eyes. 

The coffee itself is a smooth medium-blend. It's good, but honestly nothing about it is truly remarkable. It's strong enough to wake you up, but not to make you a regular here. I will say that it is a nice atmosphere. It's relatively quiet and very clean, but not my first choice for coffee.

Coffee: 7/10, Good
Location: Midtown (6th Avenue and 44th) 
Atmosphere: Clean and accessible, good for business 
Cost: Under $3
Recommend: Sure

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Falling in Love with Stumptown Coffee

Hey CoffeeHeads,

I think I've done it. I have found the most incredible place to enjoy coffee in New York City (at least so far)! I can't stop thinking about Stumptown Coffee. Located in Chelsea, at 29th Street and Broadway, I wish I had known about Stumptown months ago. 

Such a classy and beautiful front window
You wouldn't expect such a classy shop in this neighborhood. It's surrounded by a bunch of cheesy businesses, the kinds of places where one buys discount rubber boots from. But Stumptown is so beautiful, complete with gold curvy lighting and a chalk board with the most perfectly spaced font I have ever seen. Seriously, whoever wrote that should consider taking up calligraphy, they are unnaturally good at forming letters.

The front of the shop is this intimate space with a huge glass window overlooking the street. The decorating is simple and classic, with eccentric touches everywhere. There are a variety of random animal statues positioned along the front shelves beside vintage coffee machines. The mugs are also printed with black-and-white animal art. The highlighted colors are gold and silver. 

It's a snake-like lighting pattern. 

Every barista is skinny and wears a hat (this could be said about most NYC Baristi). 
They look like extras for a hipster MTV show with a tagline like,
 "We work in the City. We are baristas. Whatever."
 Is it required that all baristas wear a page boy hat and/or a scarf? I'm certain there must be some sort of legal obligation.

Hipster Baristas, as per usual
The lady barista who rings me up is rather unfriendly and manages to spill my decaf coffee out of the cup. She wipes it up without apologizing.  But the roast is so strong, fully-realized and bold that I quickly forget her stumble. 
This coffee is exceptional. It's exactly what I want from a cup of joe.  No grounds, no bitterness, no weird aftertaste. The Stumptown Roasters are masters at capturing the essence and flavor of coffee without the pitfalls many roasters struggle with.  

After I get my coffee, I meander into the open seating in the lobby of the Ace Hotel.
It's amazing, they actually want people to be here. This is probably one of the only times I have felt not only welcomed, but also wanted at in a NYC venue (also see Sasha's).

The entrance to the Ace Hotel Lobby

The set-up is totally posh. Marble tables, lightening-fast wifi, comfortable leather chairs, dark-stained  benches. Then there's more odd decorations like taxidermy badgers in a glass cage, old newspaper as wallpaper, and a painted American Flag on the back-
wall. It's like your uncle's creepy den that you simultaneously admire, but fear you'll get murdered in. 

Coffee: 10/10, Stellar
Location: Chelsea (29th Street and Broadway) 
Atmosphere: Classic, eccentric and comfortable 
Cost: $2.25
Recommend: Yes, absolutely!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Brooklyn Roasting Company: Stellar Scenery, Meh Coffee

I'm not one to just venture outside of Manhattan for the heck of it. You could call me a square, and I would not deny it. But Brooklyn Roasting Company came to me with the highest of recommendations. It's located in Dumbo at 25 Jay Street and is the sole BRC. 

Brooklyn Roasting Company Exterior 
The surrounding brick walls on the outside don't necessarily draw one in.  But inside, it's much larger then you'd expect.  And even though it's pretty cozy, the place still maintains its warehouse ceiling. A giant chalkboard hanging from the ceiling lists all the coffees, teas, and food items. The colorful logo bubble letters don't exactly fit the "hole-in-the-wall" vibes either. 
It's a whole slew of elements that work together surprisingly well. 

I order the Kenya Roast, which is the special of the day. A skinny barista in a tight t-shirt tells me that he personally prefers the lighter roast but that the Kenya is still good. I have to say, it's not bad, but it's also not that memorable either. It's smooth, but not bold enough for my tastes or to illicit a 40-minute trip outside my island. I do own Manhattan by the way,  so I can legally refer to it as MY island. 

The seating situation isn't awesome. There's a few wooden seats and barstools, but I recommend sitting outside because the surrounding area is incredible. My friend, Lucy, and I wander about between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge. 
I am also working on stalking Lucy as a side project 

Everyone is taking pictures: couples, friends, graduates, wedding parties.  We examine Anne Hathaway's plush penthouse and decide our next life move will be to ride the local carousel. 

Even though the coffee didn't wow me, Dumbo itself is very charming. 
And any day I get to ride a carousel is a great one. 

BRC Link: 

Coffee: 6/10, Just average
Location: Dumbo, Brooklyn (Jay Street) 
Atmosphere: Cozy warehouse for cool people 
Cost: Around $2.50 
Recommend: Yes, but mainly to see Dumbo