Though it would be going a bridge too far to say that Midtown Manhattan has become the kind of hip, cool, delicious place one might fantasize about vacationing in, the coffee landscape is improving by the minute. We've updated our midtown coffee guide from nearly two years ago to include some of the greatest new additions.
If you'd told any New York coffee aficionado five years ago there'd one day be a Cafe Grumpy just off of Times Square, they likely would have done a spit-take with their Americano. But this latest of the Cafe Grumpies is one of the nicest: spacious and convivial, two large communal tables (and a few spare benches) center this 39th-street oasis. Enjoy pastries housebaked at Cafe Grumpy's Lower East Side bakery alongside pourover coffee and espresso (prepared on a comely orange Synesso) made from coffees roasted by Grumpy as well. It's a lovely cafe that departs fully from the surrounding neighborhood vibe—there's even a public washroom!
Local coffee hero Gregory Zamfotis—we'd say wunderkind, but he's too suave looking for a name that reductive—actually has five outlets of his mainstream slash hip coffee business in midtown, but the one we like best is on 31st and Sixth. It's the geekiest of the lot—there's a custom-built Aeropress bar, to give you some perspective—and provides a great place to stop for both casual coffee lovers and curious connoisseurs alike. Gregory's beans rotate, so check in regularly for the latest offering, and for the occasional coffee-world "special event" that takes place here.
Ninth Street Espresso
Longtime Lower East Side coolholders Ninth Street have dabbled in other parts of the city than Ninth Street—Tenth Street, for instance—but their newest location in the Lombardy Hotel is their grandest departure yet. The half-underground, marble-clad space is part of this up-and-coming historic hotel's renovation towards a boutique future, and the full-service Ninth Street Cafe is spacious, classy, and has a good amount of seating if you'd like to linger before returning to your Park Avenue business of the day.
Joe (Grand Central Terminal)
The first great coffee to arrive at Grand Central Terminal is still thriving at Joe, who now roast the entirety of their own coffee for this growing local chain. Find it in the Greybar Passage, and enjoy your to-go coffee (or your to-stay espresso drinks served in ceramic—they're not barbarians) at this no-nonsense, good service, coffee's-always-great kiosk.
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters (Grand Central Terminal)
Down below the Grand Central rush in the bustling food concourse (when is that Shake Shack opening again?) is another contender in the GCT coffee scene, an outpost of Hudson Valley roaster Irving Farm, that opened earlier this year. The circular cafe often has a boggling number of people working behind its rounded marble counters, but they're all needed to serve espressos, to-go filter coffees, or iced Kalita pourovers brewed on demand—or to make those cute little baguette sandwiches.
Many have witnessed (or been) the weary urbanite, spilling out, glassy-eyed, from the steps of the New York Public Library, seeking another kind of enrichment or escape. Their sleepy call has been answered by The Shop, an innovative, startlingly welcoming hotel-foyer-cum-cafe, in the lobby of the Andaz Hotel. With arguably the city's best-stocked cookbookshelves of any cafe, The Shop positions itself (well) as a sort of gourmet microstore, featuring giftable takeaways such as pickles and chocolate along with cookbooks, whole bean coffee and prepared drinks from across-the-river-roasters Cafe Grumpy.
The Shop 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018 (map)
Culture Espresso Bar
Culture used to be the sole worthy oasis in the coffee desert above 23rd street, but they've been staying the course for several years now and continue to hold their own among the noobs crowding the landscape. A LaMarzocco Strada and a pourover bar compete for your attention with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and a rotating array of other treats, while the roaster roster rotates regularly—as of this writing, the cafe was featuring esteemed Portland, Oregon roaster Heart. Visit them on 38th Street on your next see where the Midtown scene all began.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
The first East Coast outpost of this legendary Pacific Northwest roaster is four years old now, but the new-cool sheen still hasn't worn off this brass-and-steampunk boîte emanating from the Ace Hotel's superhip lobby. Queues for the sturdy espresso and seasonal selection of Red-Hook-roasted single origin coffees (on Chemex, or from an urn if you're rushed) often reach well around the counter and into the hotel itself, where by the way you're welcome to take your cappuccino to see and be seen (there are no seats in the actual cafe) and even enjoy free wifi!
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 the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop.