Midtown East Coffee Nightmare Finally Over: Where to Get a Good Brew
Sitting in an office chair all day is bad for your health. That's why the coffee break is a necessary, potentially life-extending, recess in one's workday -- that, and the chance to procrastinate on that Powerpoint presentation a little longer. Last winter, if you wanted to break for java in Midtown East, up north in the Plaza District, or a dozen blocks south near Grand Central, there were hardly any cafes worthy of a trek -- the area was a Mad Max-esque dystopic coffee wasteland.
Within the last nine months, however, enterprising, independent coffee shops have opened to fill the void and bring quality caffeine to the hundreds of thousands of suffering commuters who work there and previously had to rely on stale and burnt corner deli brew, the fresh and burnt (or blond) corporate green mermaid-monster, or, if desperate enough -- and many were -- the office k-cup dispenser. These new cafes are worth the slog through winter slush in your Hunter boots or L.L. Beans to escape the shackles of coffee drudgery so that your future may once again hold a better, brighter brew.
As Fifi said, "They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them!" Here are five:
Ninth Street Espresso,109 East 56th Street, 646-559-4793
Certain locales in the city reflect the understated elegance of old New York, and the most recent location of Ninth Street Espresso does just that. Firmly entrenched in the East Village and well-trafficked in Chelsea Market, Ninth Street opened its fourth location in Manhattan in this seemingly unusual spot, and it's almost undetectable to those not in the know. Occupying part of the ground floor of the Lombardy Hotel, an interior door connecting the two funnels cappuccino seekers past the sumptuous décor of the hotel bar and restaurant Harlow and into the more modest -- but equally evocative of classic Gotham -- coffee shop, complete with pre-war moldings, black-and-white marble checkerboard floor, and gold leaf script on the glass. Also, it's truly a standup espresso bar; there are just a few chairs ringing the perimeter, so don't expect to come here and work with a laptop.
Little Collins, 667 Lexington Avenue, 212-308-1969
I devoted an article to this slice of Melbournian coffee culture in midtown a few weeks ago. The bustling cafe opened late last summer, bringing some Aussie influence to the city. After half a dozen visits at all hours of the day, I've found it consistently packed, testament to the need for such a place; it's also one of the few cafés to bother pairing fresh, thoughtful food with its brews. With a menu offering breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and a coffee program that features the under-the-counter Modbar installation, Little Collins is a great spot to visit before, during, and even after the office hours, should you happen to live where you work.