NYC’s Top 10 of 2010

This is TampTamp proprietors Anne & Neil’s 3rd annual installment of our NYC best-of. It began in 2008 with a simple premise: let folks in NYC find out where they could go to get a decent cup of coffee. In its third year, I think the top 10 spots are much more competitive to get to, and the shops that remain here 3 years in a row speak to their continued focus on quality and innovation.

This year, we opened our ranking to our readers and friends, who provided us with a top ten I am happy to endorse. Below, you’ll find each shop’s information and a review of why I think they made the list. Congratulations again to the winners. To those planning to use the list – please enjoy the coffee, and tell them TampTamp sent you!

- Anne

The short list:

1.3rd Rail. Score: 12.65
240 Sullivan Street, Manhattan btw W. 3rd St and Bleecker St.

2. Abraco: Score: 12.47
86 East 7th Street, Manhattan. btw. 1st and 2nd Aves

3. Oslo. Score: 12.38
2 locations: 133-B Roebling Brooklyn & 328 Bedford Ave Brooklyn, and S. 2nd St.

4. Grumpy. Score: 12.05
3 locations (4th coming soon): 193 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn (Greenpoint); 224 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 383 7th Avenue, Brooklyn. btw 11th and 12th St.

5. Joe. Score: 11.23
5 locations (all Manhattan): 514 Columbus Avenue; 141 Waverly Place; 9 East 13th Street; 44 Grand Central Terminal; 405 West 23rd street

6. Stumptown. Score: 11
2 locations: 18 W 29th St, Manhattan. btw Broadway and 5th Ave., Manhattan; Brew-bar 219 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn (open weekends only).

7. Blue Bottle. Score: 9.81
1 NYC location, several more in San Francisco: 160 Berry Street, Brooklyn.

8. Everyman. Score: 8.76
136 East 13th Street, Manhattan btw. 3rd and 4th Aves.

9. Gimme. Score: 8.72
2 locations (3rd coming soon): 228 Mott St, Manhattan; 495 Lorimer St, Brooklyn.

10. Bluebird. Score: 8.38
72 East 1st Street, Manhattan

The full descriptions:

1.3rd Rail. Score: 12.65
240 Sullivan Street, Manhattan btw W. 3rd St and Bleecker St.

Humberto at Third Rail.

Third Rail has had so many reviews this year, maybe they’d like a haiku from TampTamp.

Third Rail Coffee bar
You are so nice and tasty
Everyone loves you

If you can only visit one shop in NYC, this is the one in 2011.

2. Abraco: Score: 12.47
86 East 7th Street, Manhattan. btw. 1st and 2nd Aves

Abraco Espresso

Abraco is a notable number 2 on this list – and in the Food category, Abraco rightly took the prize from the rest of the coffee shop pack. I don’t have too much to say about Abraco since we wrote about it last year, except that it keeps providing an amazing culinary and coffee experience to New Yorkers and visitors alike, and the prix-fixe lunch is still one of the best deals around NYC. And – this is the third time I’m telling you now – do not miss the cured olive cookie!

3. Oslo. Score: 12.38
2 locations: 133-B Roebling Brooklyn & 328 Bedford Ave Brooklyn, and S. 2nd St.

Oslo Coffee

Oslo Coffee. I personally am very glad Oslo made it back onto the list in 2010 (they were on the original Brooklyn list in 2008) – they probably only were knocked off due to Neil & Anne’s inability to visit Williamsburg on a regular basis. However, Oslo continues to produce some delicious espresso, particularly at their Bedford Avenue location, and have begun roasting their own coffee. A strong, steady, and hardworking cafe. Living up to its Norwegian heritage (I can say that because I’m a Norwegian, right?). Skål!

4. Grumpy. Score: 12.05
3 locations (4th coming soon): 193 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn (Greenpoint); 224 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 383 7th Avenue, Brooklyn. btw 11th and 12th St.

Clover Coffee Brewers at Cafe Grumpy Chelsea

Cafe Grumpy: The infamous $12 cup of coffee. 5 years in business. And these adorable plush coffee beans – any coffee lover’s new best friend. Yeah, Grumpy rightly remains in the ranks of the top 10 – for the 3rd year in a row. Last year, we’d mentioned that Grumpy was home to the 2009 barista champion, and indeed, in 2010 they scooped up the 2010 NERBC champ Danielle Glasky as well (Jordan Barber competed for Grumpy and ended with a 3rd place finish – a feat in and of itself). Grumpy also celebrated its 5th anniversary this year, and owners Chris and Caroline seem content to keep chugging along on the quality train by opening their 4th retail location on the Lower East Side next year. Keep it comin’, Grumpy!

5. Joe. Score: 11.23
5 locations (all Manhattan): 514 Columbus Avenue; 141 Waverly Place; 9 East 13th Street; 44 Grand Central Terminal; 405 West 23rd street

Joe on 23rd St in Chelsea.

Joe. Joe! My Alma Mater! 7-year-old Joe! It speaks to me that Joe is another 3-year member of this list, despite the tendency of coffee professionals to make it out to be an underdog. But here it stands, year after year, making great coffee for thousands of customers every day in 5 extremely busy locations (maybe does the new coffee-only bar at grand central count as the sixth?). Maybe that means some of us professionals should stop, revisit and learn a thing or two from Joe (my instincts tell me to look particularly at Joe’s hospitality training). And I’ve even heard a rumor that 2011 will be the first year a barista from joe will be entering the NERBC… Something I will be very excited to see! So keep it up Joe, and I’ll be back for a seasonal v60 the next time I’m in NYC.

6. Stumptown. Score: 11
2 locations: 18 W 29th St, Manhattan. btw Broadway and 5th Ave., Manhattan; Brew-bar 219 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn (open weekends only).

Our lone TampTamp photo of the Ace Stumptown.

Stumptown certainly made a splash when they hit the NYC retail coffee scene in late 2009, and their location at the Ace Hotel on 29th street continues to be one of the most sought-after cups of coffee in town. In addition, their collaboration with the Ace makes their lobby space perhaps one of the most hospitable “coffices” in Manhattan. A notable new feature this year include the addition of Brooklyn-local Mast Brother’s chocolate for mochas (and for eating!), which is now available in all their stores (I still think it’s kind of weird to see it here in Seattle!). Their whole bean offerings still stand out as some of the very best in the world, so when you want to treat yourself to an amazing coffee at home, visiting Stumptown (and I’d even encourage you to head down to their new spot, the brew bar at their Red Hook Roastery) to get some expert advice is highly recommended.

7. Blue Bottle. Score: 9.81
1 NYC location, several more in San Francisco: 160 Berry Street, Brooklyn.

Blue Bottle's signature coffee bags. Photo by Man Seeking Coffee.

It seems hard to believe that it was only this summer that Blue Bottle opened in Williamsburg. With its reputation preceding Blue Bottle’s move east, they had a lot to live up to in NYC. I think there have been some notable adjustments since they opened (I know I talk a lot about public restrooms, but I think any New Yorker understands how critical they are – Blue Bottle, thanks for sharing yours!), and have continued to serve some of the most consistently delicious single origin espresso offerings I’ve had anywhere this year. Seating is minimal, and owner James Freeman is pretty famously anti wi-fi (I just looked for a link to an article using a quote from him about it, but I found one of his tweets that was even better: “the worst thing about wifi on planes is that knowing if there’s a crash, you died writing email.”), so leave your computer on the desk at home and come in with a friend prepared to have an animated conversation. And let us not forget the New-Orleans style iced coffee. It will change your life.

8. Everyman. Score: 8.76
136 East 13th Street, Manhattan btw. 3rd and 4th Aves.

Well, Everyman. The secret is getting out about you. Now when I visit, the shops is usually filled and bustling with regulars happy to enjoy the encounter with the folks behind the counter. This shop is filled with some dedicated espresso all-stars, and is even home to the NY Times’ famous “I Coffee NY” knuckles. 2010 was a big year for Everyman, from remodeling the customer seating areas, to being one of Counter Culture Coffee’s first accounts to serve espresso apollo, and even seeing the return of beloved TampTamp alumni Eric Jesus Grimm to the barista lineup. Despite all these developments, you can still hunker down and get your work done, and use the (very clean!) public restroom. Hooray for Everyman!

9. Gimme. Score: 8.72
2 locations (3rd coming soon): 228 Mott St, Manhattan; 495 Lorimer St, Brooklyn.

This photo is from the first cupping I hosted at Gimme in 2008!

Gimme Coffee is perhaps an anchor for what people think of when “New York” and “Specialty Coffee” are on their minds. In fact, I remember a time when Lorimer Gimme was perfectly situated between two destinations I frequented regularly, and so it was the place where I stopped and got my vanilla lattes and buy my whole bean coffee to use at home. I think Gimme may be one of the very best places in the city to buy whole bean coffee – the staff is knowledgeable and balances that with discovering your preferences and making recommendations based on those preferences. Gimme coffee is where I first learned about Cup of Excellence, where I co-hosted my first cupping, and where I found some of the first real-serious coffee people in NYC. And while this review has turned ridiculously autobiographical, it’s definitely worth stopping by and making some coffee memories of your own.

10. Bluebird. Score: 8.38
72 East 1st Street, Manhattan

Photo by Man Seeking Coffee.

Bluebird is a great new addition to the coffee scene in 2010.The shop opened right at the tail end of 2009, and shortly thereafter got on everybody’s favorite shop list. Another gem for Counter Culture Coffee, this spot caters to an artisanal but speedy crowd – the quick macchiato and a chat at a miniature table. It’s a perfect place for the afternoon pick-me-up, or, if you’re like me, the last stop on your NYC coffee tour. The baristas there are sweet and friendly, and hail from all over the world. And on some days when you are really lucky, you may run into champion baristas just hanging out, wanting to talk coffee.

Want to see a full breakdown of the survey and its results? Click here to view the pdf.

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