Now Brewing in NY: Everyman Espresso SoHo
Though the continually expanding New York City coffee scene is often made up of newcomers (including infiltrators from faraway lands), it's also natural for existing shops to replicate themselves in other parts of town. What's not always natural is for them to outdo themselves tenfold: Union Square's Everyman Espresso has been a solid, convenient, quality option for years in an unfortunately awkward space. (They're a somewhat-coffee-afterthought in the lobby of the Classic Stage Company theater, previously a few-months-long home to Ninth Street Espresso's second location.) But the opportunity to build their own dream cafe from scratch, along with new input from passionate (this actually seems like an insufficient word to describe him) baristas like Sam Lewontin, has led the owner Sam Penix and the Everyman crew into handsome new territory, this time in SoHo.
The shop, a wedge of West Broadway below Canal Street, takes cues from Scandinavian design and offers no real seats, but instead a bench-and-window-seat kind of vibe. Most defining, though, is the approach to coffee. There's no menu board hung here, simply a constantly refreshed printed card hung quietly in the window. Coffees, in this case furnished by Counter Culture Coffee, and their prices, of course, are subject to change.
"We're really into the personal interaction between barista and customer," said Lewontin. "The whole idea is he's the menu," he said, gesturing at a fellow barista. "I'm the menu. Whoever is standing here is the menu."
Everyman SoHo importantly takes another swing at the barista-as-concierge idea originally tried out by Intelligentsia on the West coast. For customers who prefer a more complex coffee exploration, perhaps beyond the two espressos on the fancy la Marzocco Strada, they're invited to wander with their barista a few feet over to the left, and discuss what they might enjoy as a filter-brewed coffee. The mainstays of the manual brew program are Chemex and Aeropress, "because they're great examples of extremely different ways to express a cup of coffee," says Lewontin, though we also spied a Woodneck dripper in the manual brewing zone. (Whether this kind of slow-motion, one-on-one attention will be sustainable at a cafe busy enough to pay the rent is the burning question that haunts the entire industry, of course.)
Alongside the coffee program is a small line of artisanal, fizzed-to-order sodas from Brooklyn's P&H Soda Company, as well as cookies from Downtown Cookie Co. And try a shot of the featured espresso—currently an Ethiopian Haru full of lemon-drop syrup sweetness at the bottom of the cup. And don't mind the name—though all the staff we saw were bookishly bespectacled, bearded boys, women and children are welcome as well.
Everyman Espresso SoHo
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.