Saturday, September 19, 2009

West Coast Coffee in an East Coast City

I've complained often, in a very nasal-y high-pitched voice, that I don't get to eat well when I'm in New York for business. I visit one of the greatest dining cities in our country and somehow end up with only enough time for an "Old Timer" (that's "hamburger" to those of us who speak plain English) at Chili's in La Guardia's claustrophobic Delta terminal.

My most recent trip started no differently. Stranded outside of my hotel until check-in at three, I set up a make-shift office at a Starbucks on West 31st. I picked up a New York Times, because when else would it be more appropriate to read the New York Times?

It was the Chili's syndrome again. I found myself reading a rave review of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a recently opened outlet of a Portland-based chain just a few blocks away, while I was sitting in a Starbucks.

I resolved to put a stop to that nonsense. The next day, I marched myself right past Starbucks and found the Ace Hotel that houses Stumptown after circling the block once.

The baristas are outfitted in newsies hats, tattooed and pierced and pouring frothed milk into little wiggly leaf patterns.

Not surprisingly, the NY Times was right on the mark. A plain, no-frills latte from Stumptown was hands-down the best coffee drink I've ever had. Maybe I don't have enough street cred to say that, being a kid from the Midwest who's never set foot in a west coast coffee house. Maybe it's really just an average latte, and it only shines in comparison to the sub-par, over-roasted espresso I've been drinking all my life.

I find that hard to believe. It was just so damn good. A beautifully pitched balance between slightly sweet espresso and perfect frothed milk. Well worth seeking out if you're in Manhattan or Portland. I guarantee you won't find one at La Guardia.


jeff said...

Yay Update!

I have very happy food memories of New York City... even the street food was eyes-roll-back-into-the-skull.

Anonymous said...

try out Rohs Street Cafe or Brutopia in Clifton

Talia Linn said...

I am from WA state and I guess when it comes to coffee, we have quite a few choices over here.

Starbucks if definitely down at the bottom of my list, but seeing as how they are everywhere, it's hard to avoid if I want my americano.

Stumptown really is excellent. That's cool that you went there and enjoyed it.

I did try and order coffee from different places when I was in LasVegas and no matter what, it sucked. I guess knowing how to mix a good drink has to be higher on the priority list than knowing how to pull a good espresso shot in a town like that.