Category Archives: New York

Cafe Hounding: Cafe Grumpy – New York, NY (Chelsea)

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) West 20th
224 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212 255 5511

Best coffee in New York; possibly the entire Atlantic Seaboard.

They began roasting their own beans in September 2009 (at Greenpoint roastery in BK, New York). Before that, that only bought wholesale from the best roasters in the United States (including Novo Coffee, Intelligentsia, Ritual Roasters, Blue Bottle, Counter Culture).  Both Kris and Maher visited Cafe Grumpy in October 2009, their initial visit to this location.  The clean and bright interior of the locale is very appealing and it becomes immediately apparent that Grumpy is very serious about coffee and about great customer service.  The baristas all are very well trained and coffee knowledgeable.  The machines are all of excellent caliber and the cleanliness is very impressive.

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) from the front.

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) from the entrance. Old friends catching up inside.

There is no wi-fi here and the philosophy of the management is that people come to Grumpy to socialize, drink coffee, and NOT get lost in their electronic equipment.  Given the popularity of iPads and smartphones these days, I’m not entirely sure that the management is completely batting back the gadget-aholics.  That said, the quantity and volume of conversations here is noticeably more than in many other shops visited in DC and elsewhere.  Without a much surprise, during this October trip Kris and Maher visited at least five shops – including Abraço, Everyman Espresso, Mud (East Village), Juan Valdez – and Grumpy easily bested the rest.

Cafe Grumpy cappuccino with latte art included 🙂

Coffee here was plentifully available in retail whole bean variety and drinks were made carefully and wonderfully.  UPDATE:  In November 2010 a friend recently brought me a pound of ‘Heartbreaker’ from New York.  This is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to try their self-roasted blend (formerly custom blended by outsourced roasters).  It rocks as espresso.  Not bad for drip coffee but wouldn’t recommend it.

Blue Bottle has recently opened its own location in New York and now Grumpy is roasting its own beans.  As the top of the specialty coffee segment broadens its customer base, competition among the best is increasing.  Following the increase in market size and competition among the major players, there has been a very interesting diversity of business strategies employed by the big names. More to come on this…

– Maher Hound


Cafe Hounding: Mud Coffee – New York, NY

Mud Coffee – New York

307 East 9th Street #GRDN
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212.529.876

It was 9:30pm on a Saturday night in the East Village and all of the spots we had heard so much hype about were already closed — (i.e. Abraço and Ninth Street Espresso).

Mud Coffee on a Saturday night.

Mud Coffee on a Saturday night.

After a quick Yelp search we found ourselves at the steps of Mud Coffeehouse.  Immediately upon arrival in this hipster neighborhood of the East Village we knew had found a special place with a very unique ambiance.  The first thing to catch our eye was the nicely packaged Rainforest Alliance coffee sitting at the front counter of the store.  One particular part of their motto that stuck out was “Take a Hit and Pass it On” — referring to their coffee, of course.

Heading Back...

Heading Back...

The front has a nice window seat that is comfortable for two people to lounge around in with the plush pillows and street view.  There is bar seating as you walk back into the restaurant.  The lighting is dim and the decor is about as vintage hipster as you can get.  The music selection matches the decor with reggae, Beatles and blues all finding their way onto the track list.  The servers are very attentive and welcoming.  In spite of their branding as a coffee place that is “anti-establishment”, their cappuccino wasn’t what really put this place on the map for us.

The garden room in the deep back of the establishment had ceiling fans, industrial/vintage decor and simple lighting. Furthermore, the crowd was young — probably partially NYU students — and attractive.  Besides the fact that we encountered people tipping back beers at the bar, cramming out papers in the indoor lounge, and having wine & cheese in the ‘garden area’ reflects how effectively Mud has created a community within a community.  The food menu seemed simple but elegant and the more common drink on a Saturday night around 10 was Cab Sav… not coffee.

Gateway from Garden to Bar

Gateway from Garden to Bar

All in all, this is the type of place that is 100% worth stopping through.  You may not find that they know everything there is to know about brewing and/or roasting coffee but, they know how to carve out a slice of genuine identity in a part of NY that often tries too hard to rage against the machine.

Looking Out from Entrance

Looking Out from Entrance