NYC Starbucks: Canal & Centre

17 Feb


Today  I thought I would have a pleasant visit to the Starbucks in Chinatown — I was only half right. I made it there fine, but found the Starbucks to be anything but pleasant. But before I get into the gory details, let us first examine this unique neighborhood.

Chinatown contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia. Walking through this neighborhood, one can easily imagine they are walking through a busy street in China. The billboards and storefronts are written in Mandarin, and odd looking meats and fishes hang in store front windows. This particular location is on the corner of Canal and Centre — and if you’re thinking Canal Street sounds familiar, just think counterfeit Rolex and fake Gucci. That’s right! Canal Street –once an actual canal — is now infamous for its backroom shops brimming with knockoffs of electronics and handbags. So needless to say, this neighborhood attracts a crowd that rivals Times Square.

Speaking of crowds…

This Starbucks is like a mosh pit in purgatory. I walked in and all I could see was a mass of standing people with no discernible lines – just random shuffling. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of mosh pits in my younger days but I’d prefer them a part from my Starbucks visits. By examining who already had drinks in their hands,  I was able to find the beginning of the line and there I stood — swaying lightly with the crowd.

While I stood waiting in the line I was able to take in a few key facts. There are so few chairs that people are literally huddled together in groups — either waiting for a seat to open up or having given up completely and resigned to standing. There was no restroom available —  I don’t think the small space could have held the extra bodies that a public restroom would have brought anyway. And the two entrances on opposing walls kept the temperature nice and chilly — so chilly that I’m actually regretting ordering my iced beverage.

After 10 minutes of standing in place — adamant about writing this blog entry on site — I was able to score a seat lining the window. And unfortunately this tight environment isn’t conducive to any kind of reading, writing, or thinking. My only recommendation for this location is to go very early in the morning or late-late night. Perhaps the crowd will be less intense.

The Good:

The Location… Steps away  from the 6-Train and a block from the B/D/F/M, N/Q/R stops.

The Bad:

The Crowd… Mosh pit may be slightly hyperbolic, but still — very, very crowded.

The Space… Very few chairs/tables.

The Restroom… as in there was none.

The Temperature… Keep your jacket on.

Barista Friendliness:

They did their best and worked with the crowd.


Drink of Choice: 

Grande-Iced Red-Eye


Overall Starbucks Rating:

All I can say is thank God there are 200 other Starbucks in the city.



3 Responses to “NYC Starbucks: Canal & Centre”

  1. Katie February 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM #

    I guess every Starbucks can’t be a winner. Sad for your bad experience 😦

  2. alinawtsui November 4, 2014 at 10:44 AM #

    Nice blog. I know of this location and this neighborhood deserves better. By the way, the billboards and storefronts are not written in Mandarin, which is a dialect. They’re written in Chinese. Different parts of asian enclaves tend to speak different dialects. In this part of Chinatown, the people speak Cantonese not Mandarin.


  1. Reflection: February | Starbucks and the City - March 1, 2013

    […] and Fashion District shops deserve honorable mention. As for my least favorite location — Chinatown — all I can say is go to Chinatown for the culture, cuisine, and knockoff handbags — […]

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