In the far galaxy of the East Village, you’ll find one of the pioneering voices of independent coffee in New York City… Ninth Street Espresso!
Six words or less: Single Roast, Quality Beans, Many Conversations
700 E. 9th Street (Between Avenues C &D)–the original location, profiled here
75 9th Ave (Inside Chelsea Market)-the roastery
241 E. 10th Street (Between Avenue A &B)
109 East 56th Street–Inside the Lombardy Hotel
333 Douglass Street-Gowanus, Brooklyn
Open Since: 2001 (original location in the East Village)
Amenities: wifi, bathroom, seating for 20, small porch, 3 bar seats
Must Try: In-house baked Maple Shortbread Cookie and Coffee as you like it, one roast is prepared as you specify to your barista
Owner: Kenneth Nye
Roaster: They roast their own inside the Chelsea Market!
I met with Rob and Trey two long-time Ninth Street Espresso coffee geeks-in-residence at the original Ninth Street Espresso on the edge of the East Village where Ninth Street has been pioneering and communicated the art of quality coffee since 2001. In 2001, there wasn’t much in the way of specialty coffee in New York City. Starbucks first came to town in 1994 on the Upper West Side (87th and Broadway–a location since closed), but people still hadn’t really begun to understand the art of coffee, preferring to think of it as the necessary drug to boost their productivity through the daily hustle.
In a city full of bodega coffee and super-sweetened Starbucks, Ninth Street spent many of its early years trying to break New Yorkers of their coffee habits. The place said no to syrups, alternative milks, and much of the Starbucks-taught way of drinking coffee. Instead, they talked to people. They discussed with folks what they liked, what coffee could do, how coffee could sing–as long as it wasn’t muffled by mocha.
Their simplified menu has four options: drip, cold, espresso and espresso with milk. How much milk? Let’s chat. This may seem overly simplified, but recently people have begun to really disagree about how much milk is really even in a cappuccino. If the experts can’t agree and a different ratio of espresso to milk occurs almost every time you order a cappuccino, it makes sense for you to chat with your well-trained barista about how much milk you like rather than rely upon a mystery order of “cappuccino” or “cortado.”
Another way they are simplifying? One roast. In a city of single-origins, pour-overs, V60s, Kalitta waves, geishas, Aero-presses, etc. if can be tough to know what the best combo is. Ninth Street creates one roast and remains confident that their roast can create a high-quality coffee experience for its customers. They roast it right in our faces in the middle of the Chelsea Market.
But the ultimate proof is in their staying power. They’ve expanded—as the location list above demonstrates–but they’ve remained one of the pioneering voices of New York City coffee, long before the West coast imports reverse Manifest Destiny-ed their way to our shores or Australian entrepenuears brought the Flat White.
Ninth Street Espresso is a place that prefers depth over width; they aren’t the place to cover all of your bases, but when you’ve covered one base as well and as long as they have, you don’t have to.