May 3, 2016

Coffee in the Big Apple: 5 NYC Specialty Cafés


Coffee’s been New York’s drink of choice ever since the Boston Tea Party in 1773 (take that, Brits!) and, today, you’ll find a coffee shop within a three-block radius of you, no matter where you are in this city.

While many of these shops focus on commercial-grade beans, there are a lot of third wave gems hidden within this megacity. So if you’re on the hunt for specialty in the Big Apple, read on for our shortlist of five must-visit coffee houses. (Just don’t forget to tip your talented and hardworking barista.)

SEE ALSO: The Flat White & The Big Apple: Australian Specialty Coffee Hits NYC

Why These Five?

In 2013, New York’s independent coffee shops made up 57% of the city’s cafés. With such a wealth of coffee shops to choose from, it’s impossible to objectively pick the top five.

Instead, I’m providing you with five of my personal favorites. If you’re on a flying visit to  city, these are great places from which to grab a cortado in between visiting the Statue of Liberty and heading to a show on Broadway.

When you have a bit more time, I fully encourage you to try some more New York coffee houses. The variety of coffee styles and cultures will astound you. But for now, I believe these five make a great starting place.

1. Everyman Espresso

This colourful café in West Broadway should be your first stop. They promise talented baristas and damn fine coffee, and they’re not lying. You’ll see a lot of barista trophies behind the bar; winning these trophies take dedication and many hours of preparing and drinking coffee to earn. Seeing one of these is a much better guarantee of good coffee than any five-star review on a social media app.

As for the coffee, they have Counter Culture Coffee and no less than three Mythos one Climas Pro grinders. They’ll serve you coffee cocktails and add milk and sugar to your drink without a grimace. And, while not coffee, they also have freaking good homemade lemonade.

everyman coffee shop

“Talented Baristas. Damn Fine Coffee. Everyman Espresso.”

Where 301 West Broadway
Style Hip and cozy – perfect for hanging out with friends
Espresso Machine La Marzocco Strada three group head
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Mythos One
Coffee Offerings Espresso-based drinks, AeroPress, Chemex, Fetco, and coffee cocktails
Roaster Counter Culture
Food Pastries
Retail Offerings Counter Culture coffee, hand grinders, and scales

interior of Everyman Espresso.

The cozy but small interior of Everyman Espresso.

2. Marlow & Sons

Variety is the name of the game here at Marlow & Sons. They serve some excellent coffee from a range of (predominantly US American) roasters, rotating between George Howell Coffee, Variety Coffee Roasters, Kuma Coffee, Luft Coffee, and more.

Yet it’s not just a good place to try different American roasts. Curl up with a fresh book in this relaxing spot, try one of their pastries or some food from their restaurant, and even do a bit of souvenir shopping – Marlow & Sons is a great spot in which to spend an hour or three.

Marlow & Sons coffee shop

Hidden behind the green doors of Marlow & Sons is some great coffee.

Where 81 Broadway, Brooklyn
Style Rustic, relaxing, and slightly hipster
Espresso Machine La Marzocco GB5 two group head
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Mythos One
Coffee Offerings Espresso-based drinks and Fetco
Roaster Rotating
Food Muffins, cookies, croissants, and sandwiches
Retail Offerings Coffee: George Howell, Variety, Kuma, Luft

Other: Coffee equipment, notebooks, cookbooks, poetry, shirts, toga bags, gloves, and more!

sales shelves with retail offerings

Your souvenir shopping all sorted.

3. Joe Pro Shop

Joe Pro Shop is arguably the best of an independent chain of specialty coffee shops run by Joe Coffee. That’s not to say the other nine or so aren’t a good choice; they’re doing a fantastic job of maintaining consistency and quality throughout the brand. However, just like the name suggests, this is their flagship “pro” shop designed to meet the needs of baristas and coffee addicts.

So what makes this particular one so special? Well, they serve their own coffee espresso and drip coffee blends, but also offer coffee from other national and international roasters. I particularly enjoy their offerings from Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters in Canada and The Barn Coffee Roasters in Berlin. As for their retail selection, it would satisfy any coffee geek. You’ll find Bonavita 8-Cup Brewers, V60 filters, hand grinders, scales, and everything in between.

Joe Pro Shop

Joe Pro Shop, the most impressive of the Joe Coffee specialty chain.

Where 131 West 21st Street
Style A coffee geek’s heaven
Espresso Machine La Marzocco Strada two group head
Grinder Mazzer, Mahlkönig EK 43
Coffee Offerings Espresso-based drinks, V60, and Fetco
Roaster Joe Coffee and guest single origin espresso
Food Pastries, cookies, and croissants
Retail Offerings Coffee: Joe Coffee, Neat, George Howell, The Barn, and Phil & Sebastian

Other: Coffee equipment including tampers, V60 drippers, Kalita drippers, and Baratza grinders

selection of retail coffees

A superb selection of retail coffees at Joe Pro Shop.

4. Cafe Grumpy

Cafe Grumpy is a bit of a misnomer; the baristas really aren’t grumpy at all. So why the name? Well, the story is that when the owners first set up, they thought it described New York baristas pretty well. And while that’s fortunately changed over time, the name remains.

But it isn’t just the name that’s interesting at Cafe Grumpy. Despite having multiple locations, their quality remains high and the shops still feel like indie cafés. They roast their own coffee and their Chelsea location even has a Poursteady robot, an automated brewing machine that can brew five pour-over coffees simultaneously. The barista can control each coffee individually via an HTML5 app, giving the coffees their own brew time, pouring patterns, and amount of water in each pour. In other words, welcome to the future.

Cafe Grumpy

Cafe Grumpy, where the baristas are anything but grumpy.

Where 224 West 20th Street
Style Not grumpy!
Espresso Machine Synesso 3 group head
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Mythos One, Mazzer
Coffee Offerings Poursteady, Fetco, and espresso-based drinks
Roaster Grumpy
Food Pastries, cookies, and pop tarts (definitely try the raspberry pop tart)
Retail Offerings Grumpy coffee, shirts, cups, bags, and grinders

Cafe Grumpy’s Poursteady coffee maker

Cafe Grumpy’s Poursteady, a specialty-grade robot coffee maker.

5. Box Kite Coffee

You’ll find this small coffee shop in the hip East Village, next to the famous cocktail bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell). A multi-roaster café, they serve some great coffee from Madcap Coffee, Heart Coffee Roasters, George Howell Coffee, and Berlin’s Five Elephants – along with beers, ciders, and some small dishes and sweet snacks.

My favorite thing about this café, however, is their wooden bar counter with its awesome soda fountain stools. Not only does it look great, but it allows you to talk to your barista and watch them work. Of course, if you don’t want to sit at the bar, you can also sit at the tables next to their huge windows and people-watch.

Box Kite Coffee

Box Kite Coffee offers style and good coffee.

Where 115 St Marks Place
Style Intimate – a chance to really get to know your barista
Espresso Machine Synesso two group head
Grinder Mazzer, EK 43
Coffee Offerings Kalita, coffee cocktails, Fetco, espresso-based drinks, and “the unicorn” – a surprise drink option
Roaster Madcap Coffee, Heart Coffee, George Howell Coffee, Five Elephants, and more
Food Small dishes, donuts, and cookies
Retail Offerings Coffee: Madcap Coffee, Heart Coffee, George Howell Coffee, and Five Elephants

Other: Kalita dripper, filters, and AeroPress

Box Kite Coffee barista at work

Sit at the bar to get watch the barista work.

New York City’s a great place to be for any coffee lover, whether you’re visiting or living here. These five cafés will give you a glimpse of our coffee scene, and form the perfect start to an in-depth exploration of our hundreds of specialty cafés.

Edited by T. Newton.

Feature Photo Credit:

All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance. Perfect Daily Grind believes in furthering debate over topical issues within the industry, and so seeks to represent the views of all sides.

Perfect Daily Grind.