Blue Bottle: Coffee as Crack

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The sole output from Blue Bottle's downstairs is pour-overs -- no espressos! [Correction: There are espressos.]


When San Francisco's Blue Bottle Coffee hit town two years ago in the Williamsburg outback, it changed the paradigm of the coffee bar. As a friend said to me, peering into the place's expansive premises, "Hey, where's the seating?"


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The original Williamsburg location of Blue Bottle


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The new Manhattan digs of Blue Bottle. With Googlers down the street, and the Apple Store around the corner, and temps in the 50s -- is New York becoming California?


And indeed, there was none. Coffee drinkers approached the counter, garnered their joe, and then had to stand as they drank it or -- preferable to the management, one assumes -- got the hell out of there. Indeed, in the ensuing months, coffee drinkers could be seen up and down the street, sitting on whatever they could find, including curbs and planters. I wondered at the time: Are coffee and comfort antithetical to Blue Bottle? Some seating was later added, probably in response to the grumbles of the laid-back locals. But really, the place always seemed more like a pharmacy than a coffee bar.

In the interim, I had the chance to cruise San Francisco's wonderful coffee bars, including Ritual, Blue Bottle, and, my hands-down favorite, Four Barrel. All the places I visited or simply looked at (including Blue Bottle's newish Mint Plaza establishment) had seating.

It was with both excitement and trepidation that I went to BB's much-ballyhooed second location, on West 15th just south of Chelsea Market. I've got to concede one point -- it's now the most pretentious coffee bar in town, handily knocking Stumptown into a cocked hat. The baristas stand like priests, doing their pour-overs like it was holy water. The reverence in the air is palpable. There's no place to sit, and when the lines of supplicants snake around the room, no place to stand and drink your coffee, either.


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Waiting for the last drip to drop (this is a great picture; please click on image to enlarge)


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23 comments
EMBrooks
EMBrooks

have to check out the new location as trooping to billyburg for (whole) beans is more than any self-respecting brooklynite should endure for good coffee....also, glad to see the park slope food coop sells Bb beans (and luv tea in clinton hill does the pour).

Sara Rosenberg
Sara Rosenberg

Wow, such negativity on the comment board! Looks like James and the rest of his corporate hacks from Blue Bottle don't want to hear the truth from our man Robert. Hats off to Robert for having the guts to tell it like it is! Blue Bottle is an overhyped, overpriced coffee shop full of people who take themselves way too seriously. I'll take my coffee money elsewhere, thank you very much.

Bertnine
Bertnine

Not to worry NY will never become California!

ps
ps

I like how the author complains of pretentiousness and then uses "cognoscenti" in his review of a coffee place.

Corridor Kitchen
Corridor Kitchen

Is it so hard to admit that maybe, just maybe, there could be something New York doesn't do very well? Like coffee? It's really not outside the realm of possibility...

Ben Graham
Ben Graham

Good to see the US has equally ignorant food and drink writers as Australia! Gday from Oz!

Fredly
Fredly

Is this the place that's just a yak turd's throw from the old chelsea hotel?

df
df

Yowsers, this is some pretty ignorant journalism.  This is like an article straight out of the metro! I would expect more from the village voice, actually, this seems about right. I would imagine a journalist doing a little research on the subject first, seems like he already had an agenda for this article before he went, assuming he went. Robert says, "Ah, pour-overs! It might be one thing if they dumped the water in all at once, and allowed it to drip quickly, but process becomes spectacle as the hot water is poured over the grounds in artistic dribbles, the baristas work the grounds as if they were panning Sutter Creek for gold."I'm no coffee expert, but I do use this method at home and can tell you that dumping all the water in at once is not going to give you a good result flavor wise. Thank you blue bottle baristas for taking the time to prepare great drinks!  Love the new spot!

Sewbed
Sewbed

Robert, I enlarged your picture like you said and I see a girl steaming milk on an ESPRESSO MACHINE. Perhaps you should enlarge it too.  

Faut Manger
Faut Manger

You can literally see someone making an espresso based beverage in one of your photos, Robert. THIS IS NOT FOOD JOURNALISM. I do not know what this is.

swagv
swagv

You guys really ought to stop importing all your decent coffee culture.

The last time I saw New York export decent coffee culture somewhere else was, oh, never.

James
James

hi robert! it's james from blue bottle. thanks for coming in on our third day of business. i was a little surprised to read your review, as i thought that food writers customarily waited a few weeks to review new establishments, but it's nice of you to stop by. it sounds like you didn't have a very good time, and i'm really sorry for that, but i'm not commenting on the internet to try to change your mind. we take full responsibility for your experience and only hope to do a better job of getting you a drink you enjoy the next time you are in. i am however, writing to have you hopefully correct a rather large and surprisingly glaring (for a journalist of your stature) factual error. you write:​"The sole output from Blue Bottle's downstairs is pour-overs -- no espressos!"and that is just not the case. we have a three group la marzocco strada mp proudly standing to the left of the cash register. it is about three feet wide and weighs almost 200 pounds, so i'm surprised that it slipped by you. we also have a large printed menu over the drip bar that announces the types of espresso drinks that you can buy. the letters on the menu are almost two inches tall printed on  dark brown ink on light brown kraft paper with a light trained on the menu. the typeface is futura, which in addition to looking modern and approachable, is known for its readability. so i'm very surprised you didn't notice we had espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, caffe latte and caffe mocha all printed on the menu directly over the drip bar. so i do hope you can mention to your many readers that we do, in fact, serve many espresso-based drinks downstairs at our chelsea shop. there should be something that pleases almost anyone. perhaps even you! sincerely,james

Howdini
Howdini

Thanks for confirming my thoughts, RS: pour-over coffee *always* tastes thin to me. Gimme French pressed Brazillian any day.

Inverness
Inverness

Have noticed that those places don't offer seating, another reminder that New York is all about real estate. 

Geendatz
Geendatz

Ha-maybe they should open up in an abandoned building and lower the coffee down on ropes...but gotta admit,I buy their Africano roast and brew in my little stove top espresso pot at home,and the beans do rock.

nycmilklover
nycmilklover

Wow, such negativity on the comment board James. Your post is literally dripping with condescension. Aren't you the owner of Blue Bottle? Looks like you and the rest of your corporate hacks from Blue Bottle don't want to hear the truth from our man Robert. Blue Bottle is an overhyped, overpriced coffee shop full of people who take themselves way too seriously. I'll take my coffee money elsewhere, thank you very much.

Sara Rosenberg
Sara Rosenberg

Wow, such negativity on the comment board James - your post is literally dripping with condescension. Aren't you the owner of Blue Bottle? Looks like you and the rest of your corporate hacks from Blue Bottle don't want to hear the truth from our man Robert. Blue Bottle is an overhyped, overpriced coffee shop full of people who take themselves way too seriously. I'll take my coffee money elsewhere, thank you very much.

Sara Rosenberg
Sara Rosenberg

Wow, such negativity on the comment board! Looks like James and the rest of his corporate hacks from Blue Bottle don't want to hear the truth from our man Robert. Hats off to Robert for having the guts to tell it like it is! Blue Bottle is an overhyped, overpriced coffee shop full of people who take themselves way too seriously. I'll take my coffee money elsewhere, thank you very much.

Sara R
Sara R

Wow, such negativity on the comment board! Looks like James and the rest of his corporate hacks from Blue Bottle don't want to hear the truth from our man Robert. Hats off to Robert for having the guts to tell it like it is. Blue Bottle is an overhyped, overpriced coffee shop full of people who take themselves way too seriously. I'll take my coffee money elsewhere, thank you very much.

ORcoffee
ORcoffee

It looks like James is even in the picture he took...funny

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