Top 9 NYC Cafes of 2009

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In 2008, as Neil and I started TampTamp Inc., we published a tour and map of shops we thought were worth visiting in Manhattan, South Brooklyn and North Brooklyn. That map has been viewed over 20,000 times and has become a resource for all sorts of people looking for a place to get good coffee in their neighborhood. We have now updated the site with our most current listings (additional suggestions are always welcome in the comments), and the list of shops has grown from under 40 to over 60. While this map is something we update as part of our “free time,” and so very often goes neglected for a few months at a time (cost of owning your own business), we do try to keep it relatively up to-date so it remains a useful tool to all New Yorkers.

This year, Neil and I have decided to write the “Top 9″ of 2009. These cafes, simply put, are our favorites of 2009 at TampTamp. They are the shops that we believe set the standards of achievement for cafe-owners to be, and we frequently recommend them as examples to watch and learn from. These are the shops we want to visit even after we’ve visited ten other shops in a week, the shops we consider must-see for those coming from out of town. They are the ones we find to be the most innovative and adaptive as the once tiny NYC specialty coffee market expands and grows, year after year. Another key consideration we made when curating this list was the customer experience – these places all provide knowledgeable, quick, and courteous service, which we strongly believe is key to a truly successful coffee business. Some really interesting growth and change has taken place this year – especially with Stumptown as the newest big player on the scene – and we at TampTamp can’t wait to revisit this list again next year to see how much has changed. So please, enjoy this list, share it with your friends, and we wish you the best coffee experiences for you in 2010. Happy New Year!

The Short Tour:

  1. Southside Coffee
    652 6th Avenue at 19th St. Brooklyn
  2. Cafe Grumpy
    383 7th Avenue btw 11th and 12th St. Brooklyn
  3. Abraço Espresso
    86 East 7th Street, New York, NY btw. 1st and 2nd Aves
  4. Ost Cafe
    441 East 12th Street at corner of Ave A
  5. Everyman Espresso
    136 East 13th Street btw. 3rd and 4th Aves.
  6. Third Rail Coffee
    240 Sullivan Street btw W. 3rd St and Bleecker St.
  7. Ground Support
    399 West Broadway btw. Spring St and Broome St.
  8. Stumptown Coffee
    18 W 29th St btw Broadway and 5th Ave.
  9. Joe Upper West Side
    514 Columbus Ave btw 84th and 85th Sts.
  10. The Full Descriptions:


    Southside Coffee
    652 6th Avenue at 19th St.
    Since the moment Southside Coffee in South Park Slope first opened in Mid-2008, Neil & I have been smitten with the place, and so it’s very fitting that it’s the first shop on our list because it might even actually be our very favorite shop in New York City. The three owners – Ramin, Ben and Josh – are three friends that decided to open a neighborhood shop in an underserved location and provide a great space and great coffee to their community. They have taken that task and made a friendly, warm, comfortable atmosphere with friendly baristas that know your name and make delicious coffee from Intelligentsia. The beauty of Southside lies in its simplicity and the owners’ ability to grow and sustain their business based on that very simple premise. And guess what? It works.

    Turn left out of the shop and walk to 15th st. Turn right and walk to 7th Ave. Turn left and enter Cafe Grumpy on the right, between 11th and 12th st.

    Cafe Grumpy
    383 7th Avenue btw 11th and 12th st
    2009 marked a very big year at Cafe Grumpy: finally, after much anticipation, hard work, and stressful nights, Chris and Caroline at Cafe Grumpy began roasting their own coffee at their Greenpoint location. Although that may seem like enough of a handful for the pair of entrepreneurs, they were not to be outdone. In June 2009, Cafe Grumpy opened its third retail location in Park Slope, complete with the same set of toys they’ve got at the other two locations: 2Clovers & a Synesso; phenomenal baristas, including being the home of this year’s Northeast Regional Barista Champion Amber Sather, and of course, great coffee sourced not only in-house but also from great roasters throughout the country, like Novo, Ritual, and Verve.

    Turn right out of Cafe Grumpy and take the F Train towards Manhattan. Get out at the 2nd Ave stop near the back of the train and walk North on 1st Ave to 7th St. Turn Left, Abraço is the first store on the left.


    Abraço Espresso
    86 East 7th Street, New York, NY btw. 1st and 2nd Aves.
    Since Abraço Espresso showed up on the coffee scene in 2007, it’s been inspiring foodies, bloggers, food writers, coffee geeks and cafe owners-to-be with its charming atmosphere and simple but robust menu. The tiny, standing-room-only shop is constantly packed with all those in the aforementioned group – or anybody in the neighborhood looking for a cup of coffee and Jamie McCormack’s smiling face. Abraço Espresso is a culinary experience, challenging your perspectives on “what is a New York cup of coffee?” and on the kinds of foods you expect from a coffee shop. Not only is your astoundingly delicious almond-milk latte made in a We Are Happy to Serve you Cup, you can also pair it with the most amazing olive cookie you’ve ever had. Yeah, I said “amazing olive cookie”. We often tell people to visit Abraco because it stands the idea of the coffee shop on its head – challenging premises such as you need a big space to create community (you actually talk more to people standing in line and drinking coffee there than anywhere else in the city – just by being in such a tight space), or coffee shops’ food selections as the sad neglected afterthought (Abraço has an in-house chef and has much press about its great food.). This spot certainly set a standard for NYC and has raised the bar for the best shops in the city.

    Walk East on 7th St. to Ave. A. Walk North on Ave. A to 12th St. Ost Cafe is at the Northwest corner of 12th St. and Ave. A.


    Ost Cafe
    441 East 12th Street at corner of Ave A
    Ost Cafe is a new gem from 2009 located at the corner of 12th Street and Avenue A in the east village. Owners Kat, Aaron, and Alex, decided to take a loose theme of the Austrian/Viennese coffee bar at the shop – a look that has produced one of the most pleasant atmospheres in the city. Since they opened on December 20th, 2008, they’ve been consistently providing a great comfortable vibe, free wi-fi and of course lovely coffee from Intelligentsia. Their extra special bonus feature? Hungarian pastries from the Hungarian Pastry Shop. Theirs is a great place to have a seat at the bar and chat up the baristas while making friends with the East-Village neighbors.

    Walk West on 12th to 3rd Ave. Walk North on 3rd Ave to 12th St. Walk West on 13th St., Everyman Espresso is the first place on the left.


    Everyman Espresso
    136 East 13th Street btw. 3rd and 4th Aves.
    Oh, Everyman Espresso – how far you have come since we wrote about you in 2008! While certainly still a bit “odd” on the atmosphere front (I know they’re working on it!), they now have greatly expanded their menu and continue to serve some of the best shots of Espresso Toscano from Counter Culture Coffee in town. And now, you can also have tea! And a cookie! Everyman is probably the single shop we visit most, if only because of its proximity to Union Square and because it has one of the cleanest public restrooms in town (please don’t ruin it for me!). Still, we love to check in with our friend and owner Sam Penix to see what new tricks she has up her sleeves.

    Walk back to 3rd Ave and North to 14th St. Take the L train towards 8th Ave. Transfer at 6th Ave to the downtown B,D,F,or V train to W. 4th St. Walk west on 3rd St. to Sullivan. Turn right on Sullivan. 3rd Rail is on the right.

    Alternatively, Walk South on 3rd Ave. to 4th St. Walk West on 4th St. to Sullivan St. and then turn South on Sullivan. Third Rail is on the Right.

    Third Rail Coffee

    Third Rail Coffee
    240 Sullivan Street btw W. 3rd St and Bleecker St.
    Third Rail Coffee is another shop that hit the ground running in the late summer of 2009. We knew it would, since Humberto, the owner, had been working on the project for several years and made every effort to make his cafe exactly to his liking – and so it is. Third Rail’s personality is usually best represented in its amusing sidewalk signs (the second day, the sign read, “Third Rail, curing caffiene headaches since 5 o’clock yesterday”), super friendly baristas, and jovial atmosphere in a tight space that still functions very well. Also, Third Rail started serving Intelligentsia’s coffee on the Chemex to order, which is one of the more innovative approaches to coffee-prep in New York City. Also, since Third Rail is the closest shop on the list to our training lab at Think Coffee on Mercer St, you may run into us there if you go in to check it out. Such a treat! We will most likely talk about coffee.

    Walk South on Sullivan to Spring St. Turn Left on Spring and then Right after 2 blocks on W. Broadway. Ground Support is on the left.


    Ground Support
    399 West Broadway btw. Spring St and Broome St.
    Ground Support is a shop that opened in SoHo in August 2009, and has had quick success from opening in a relatively coffee-starved area. However, Ground Support takes lunch orders too, serving up a pretty tasty menu of sandwiches and other bites. Another claim to fame is their furniture, which the owner Steven made by hand out of salvaged barn wood. I agree with Kathy Chan at Serious Eats when she says she’s surprised Ground Support hasn’t received much press considering how good it is. Ground Support is certainly on a path to become a hit on many “best of” lists in 2010.

    Turn Right out of the cafe and turn right on Spring. Walk to Broadway and turn left. Enter uptown R Train entrance at Prince St. Take R or W train to 28th St. and then walk North to 29th St. Turn left on 29th, Stumptown is on the right.

    Ace Hotel

    Stumptown Coffee
    18 W 29th St btw Broadway and 5th Ave.
    Finally, we get to Stumptown at the Ace Hotel. Neil and I had been excited to see what owner Duane Sorensen would do at his eighth location at the Ace Hotel in NYC. We’d been to all the other ones so we’d need to check it off the list! The newest espresso bar has once again taken the Stumptown image to the next level, with everything from marble floors to vintage lighting and two gorgeous custom-built La Marzocco Mistrals. The neighborhood, of course, took to the shop right away and the place has been packed since just about day one. Not only is the espresso bar great, but the adjacent lobby of the Ace Hotel is a beautiful room that’s great for meetings, has free wifi, and even has table service for espresso, the bar, and food from the excellent Breslin.

    Turn Left out of the cafe and turn right on Broadway. Walk North on Broadway until 33rd St. Take the B train at 33rd St. to 86th St. Walk west on 86th St. to Columbus then turn left on Columbus. Joe is between 84th and 85th St, on the right.

    Joe the Art of UWS

    Joe – Upper West Side
    514 Columbus Ave btw 84th and 85th Sts.
    The owner of Joe, Jonathan Rubinstein, took coffee to the next level this year: he opened the first specialty cafe of its caliber on the Upper West Side. Jonathan had previously gone where no other coffee retailers had gone before heading above 23rd st., and now continued his pilgrimage north. The Columbus Avenue Joe is a gorgeous space that’s a little reminiscent of Seattle’s Cafe Fiore, due to its dark wood paneling and blown-glass light fixtures. The shop still remains fixed firmly in Joe’s overall personality: friendly and bustling. The really big news took place this fall when Joe switched its coffee in all of its locations to Ecco Caffe. This switch was in response to the growing movement inside the coffee industry to serve the freshest agricultural product available, a term that is refered to as “In-Season” or “Seasonal” coffee. I still recommend Joe as an excellent place to get flavored lattes served with no judgement – a key customer service feature that keeps Joe on our frequently-visited list year after year.


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