JP’s Food Adventures: Best Espresso on the L.E.S.
For decades my home coffee setup was the Latina grandmother-approved aluminum moka pot and can of Cafe Bustelo – perfect for making a good, strong cafe con leche. Far from perfect for espresso, though.
A couple years ago I picked up a Gaggia Classic espresso machine from a neighbor who found it at a garage sale. Got it for a song. For a while I was pulling ethereal shots in my own kitchen, with crema rippling through them like foam through a properly poured pint of Guiness. Eventually the Gaggia required servicing, which requires a trip to the Bronx. So out came the moka pot and the yellow can. That was months ago. Until I make it up to the Bronx I’ll be going out when I have a taste for a proper espresso. Fortunately I have plenty of good options in the neighborhood.
I’ll admit my favorite espresso in town is a little to the north, at Everyman Espresso (136 E13th Street). They’re pulling Counter Culture coffee, which I consider the top roaster on the East Coast. Closer to home I can get Counter Culture espresso at Roots and Vines (409 Grand Street) – rich, mild, with perfect crema and hints of caramel. For a place that prides itself on serving Mexican and Vietnamese “street food” their espresso is very, very Italian.
Those who prefer a darker roast will find satisfaction at Pushcart Coffee (221 E. Broadway), formerly Dora. They pull Stumptown coffee, and their espresso is bold and intense, with good, viscous crema.
Splitting the difference between mild and bold is 88 Orchard, pulling Irving Farm Coffee. I had an espresso there a couple weeks ago that was correct in every way, nuanced in flavor, with generous, lasting crema.
Prefer a lighter roast? There’s Roasting Plant at 81 Orchard. I find light roasts tend to be sour, the way very dark roasts tend toward bitterness. Not so here. Their espresso is mild, even a bit simple. I prefer a little more nuance, but those who like their espresso on the less bitter side would do well to check it out. They also have a novel brewing/grinding system involving pneumatic tubes, which gives the place a little bit of a steampunk vibe. This automated system pulled a shot that arrived with over half an inch of thin crema, most of which dissipated within seconds.
Got a favorite neighborhood espresso I failed to mention? Hit me up in the comments section!
JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well, consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.
Here we are in the dead of winter, and I still find myself drinking one of my favorite white wines of summer: Marques de Riscal, Rueda ($10 at Seward Park Liquors). The crisp acidity and very slight residual sugar make it easy to pair with food. I even have it with some Chinese and Viet meals. Of course it goes exceedingly well with Iberian style seafood dishes. And it’s a value.