I recently read an article in the New York Times regarding the availability of exquisite coffee in the city of her namesake. The article went on to say that New York City has lagged behind for years in the quality of coffee one can find within her city walls. Lagged behind places like Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, OR and Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco. Of course, just the positive mention of Portland in the article made me puff up a little bit with pride. And, it also aroused my curiosity. What were these new “coffee bars” like? Do they really measure up to places like Stumptown and Spella Caffe?
As luck would have it, I found myself in the Big Apple last week for that oh-so-quick hiatus from school and work…spring vacation. As I’ve mentioned before, when we go on vacation our children have come to expect that they will be dragged around to some sort of “food venue.” As we went “around the table” before we left on our trip and shared what we each would choose could we only choose one thing to do in New York City, I was met with only barely perceptible eye rolling when I announced that my choice was to visit Chelsea Market with a walk on The Highline afterwards. I had been dying to visit Chelsea Market which, as a bonus, just so happens to house Ninth Street Espresso. One of the esteemed coffee bars that made the top 10 list of the coffee article.
Housed in an old biscuit factory on 9th Avenue between 15th & 16th Streets, Chelsea Market is where you go to gawk and “window-shop” beautifully prepared, caught, baked, made, melted, mixed…food. You don’t go there looking for “cheap-eats.” At the risk of sounding cliche, I like to think of it as “Coffee at Chelsea” much in the same way one thinks of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Smack dab in the middle of the cavernous, brick building, you’ll find Ninth Street Espresso serving up their works of art. My sister-in-law and I bee-lined right up to the counter, ordered our respective drinks and waited to see if the hype was worth it. Upon first sip, (well, after photographing the beautiful design in my foam) both of us declared, “Wow! That is so good. Wow!” We both agreed that the foam on the top was perfectly steamed milk. Not too heavy. Not too frothy. And the taste…not a hint of bitterness. We savored our drinks as the children ran around creating a ruckus and begging for candy. After we’d thoroughly satiated our window-shopping appetite, we carefully carried our coffee outside and up. Up onto a long and narrow oasis that follows an old elevated train track through the meat-packing district. The Highline. A park for strolling. For gazing. For revitalizing. For enjoying an amazing cup of coffee.
So, I guess the question you must be wondering though is how did this New York Times Top 10 Coffee Bar stack up against a place like Spella Caffe? Well, Ninth Street Espresso was good. Excellent, even. Top notch. No, doubt about it but I’m still placing my vote with Spella Caffe. The balance of flavors in the Spella Caffe coffee is hard to beat. Besides, there’s no cross-continental flight. No jet lag. No 8am flights cancelled at 1am. No 7 hour lay-overs in SFO. Just a few things like that. But if you’re in the Big Apple and have a hankering for a taste of home, I’d definitely recommend a cup of jo from those Ninth Street baristas. Or, if that’s not working there’s always Stumptown over on Broadway. Yes, “THE” Broadway.
Oh, and speaking of Spella, have you been yet? A dear, friend of mine called today to say that she went down to Spella Caffe and she agrees….the best. So, go on. Get your little tails down there. Tell the guys Carrie sent you. They’ll be real nice to you and they may even create an extra special design on top just for you. I like those little designs. Kind of a sucker for them actually. Oh, and if you’re waiting to try Spella Caffe until I set the “coffee & chocolate” date, I haven’t forgotten. I will get that on the books just as soon as the 5-year old stops begging me over and over to watch time and time again the part where Plankton plays the piano in the Spongebob Band Geeks episode. I don’t know about you but I simply cannot conduct any type of constructive decision making with Spongebob playing in the background. So as soon as this little
nightmare “game” is over, I will get our rendezvous on the calendar.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010