As a native New Yorker, there is much we natives take for granted. A visit to New York is much coveted by the world and yet we, as residents, are always too busy to take it in. So I decided to put on my tourist hat and visit the heart of New York, the borough of Manhattan, in search of the best coffee experiences.
First stop on my coffee tour was Joe The Art of Coffee at 141 Waverly Place. Joe’s was recently featured in a video clip about latte art. While tea leaf readings are fun, art in your coffee can be truly amazing. As with all things New York, latte art is done quickly but definitely takes skill.
Joe’s is a tiny shop that has no less than 11 tables crammed into a tiny space. The word that kept coming to mind while I was there was ‘Busy’ with a capital B. Everyone there is very friendly and great at multi-tasking, continuing to work while talking if you need some questions answered. If you are lucky enough to grab one of the tables, you will see a microcosm of all that is New York. In fact, while I was there, a man with a huge parrot on his shoulder strolled in to get coffee. No one was particularly amazed. Ces't la Vie, such is life in New York.
If you are on a diet, I must warn you that delicious-looking pastries will try to lure you while you are getting your coffee, but there are healthy choices available that are low-fat and multi-grain as well. I had the cappuccino, which was good, and had the added bonus of viewing Latte Art first-hand, but as with most things in NY, it’s crowded and fast-paced, not really an atmosphere for lounging so I moved on.
Another stop on my own personal coffee tour of New York was the Balthazar Bakery. Located at 80 Spring Street, here was another tiny, tiny spot in New York located directly next door to the famous Balthazar Restaurant. Be prepared to order and go--quickly. This is a place that’s probably a lot smaller than a walk in closet. Real estate is at a premium here so everyone is making the best of it.
There are a zillion breads and pastries here and with the reputation of the restaurant, I am sure the pastries are to-die-for. But I stayed focused on my mission and opted for cappuccino. The cappuccino here was also good. However aside from good taste and my very lovely paper cup complete with a tiny lever to open or close the top, my cup felt truly light--empty in fact. At $3.75 per cup I would have liked to have had more. Outside there are benches to sit and watch the world go by if you are fortunate enough to land a seat and dodge the smokers.
My last and favorite stop was Ceci Cela. A small and cute French coffee shop, located at 55 Spring Street. While it is also tiny, it is well laid out and has a bit more of a loungy (or as close as you can get in NY) feel to it. In fact, I truly felt I could have been having coffee in Paris. And lo and behold my cappucino was served with a saucer! (Mommy--What's a Saucer?)
Take out is located in the front, but in the back there is an area to enjoy the delicious coffee and pastries complete with great service. My table was located in a corridor between the takeout and dining area (did I tell you real estate is at a premium here?) but it was still very nice. While there is no latte art here, the cappuccino is excellent, best of the day in fact, and the pastries divine. I had a fresh berry pastry tart with blueberries and raspberries. Where they found such flavorful berries is beyond me and the crust and filling were equally as tasty.
If you are looking to get the flavor of NYC then look no further than its coffee. It is here you can get a great view of the cross section of NYC but as with everything New York, you’d better move fast. These places are small and crowded.