Archive | June, 2013

NYC Starbucks: 35th & 8th

13 Jun

35th and 8th Starbucks

I’m only going to blog about the Starbucks on 35th & 8th for as long as I can stand it. No, quite literally, I’m standing as I type this. Welcome to Midtown! Right?

It’s actually not too inconvenient to stand, because this location provides a long high bar to do so as you people watch those jumping in and out of the subway entrance to Penn Station. If there were bar stools here I have a feeling this place would just be a little to cramped as the barista bar is directly behind me. There is some seating in the place (a row in the front) but it probably gets gobbled up once  seat is vacated. Like I said, welcome to Midtown.

This is NYC congestion at its best. And in the hour after 5pm on a weekday all the commuters are heading this way to escape Manhattan simultaneously. In Times Square the crowds are touristy so they’re mostly wandering like sheep looking up at the lights. But here… people have places to be. Lolly-gag in front of someone trying to get home from a long day at work and you’re going to get a mouth full.

Luckily I’ve tucked myself into a tiny corner of this Starbucks to simply observe for the moment. Taking a moment to escape that (even if I’m standing) is the closest I get to a zen moment before I’m back out there pushing and shoving with the best of them.

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NYC Starbucks: 15th & 3rd

12 Jun

15th and 3rd Starbucks

Pint-sized Starbucks are like a double edged sword. On the one-hand, they’re small so seating is limited and they can resemble a cramped elevator during rush hours. But one thing they have going for them is that most people tend to get their caffeine fix then move on. Perhaps it’s a case of claustrophobia, but most people don’t linger in the smaller Starbucks whether there’s seating available or not. This opens those empty seats up for those looking to read, write, work or just surf the web with some added background noise.

At least that is the case at this mini-Starbucks in Gramercy on 15th & 3rd. It’s so small that it doesn’t have a restroom available to the public, yet there is still myself and 3 others using this space to take care of some business. Others are coming and going, but no more than half the seats are ever taken. The only foreseeable problem I see is what happens when this iced red eye I’m drinking makes me need a restroom… So basically this is a Starbucks with a limited visitation time.

I strongly considered giving this Starbucks a 1-cup rating, but it has a certain character that made me hesitate. The seating is limited, true, but it is organized in all the right places — pushed toward the front and away from the line and milk station. Also the fact that their is barely a crowd to speak of helps out. Although, I can’t say what this location is like during the morning rush.

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NYC Starbucks: 58th & Madison

11 Jun

58th and Madison Starbucks

It’s been over 3 months of dedicated Starbucks blogging, but I’ve finally stumbled across another 5-Cup location. The 58th & Madison Starbucks  (b/w Madison and 5th Ave) caught my eye earlier last month. Unfortunately I was in no shape to bang-out a blog at the time but I made a special note to return here another time.

I walked in this morning and was once again impressed by the overall size, style and accommodations provided by this Starbucks. But something else struck me as well — a heat wave. Apparently the AC was on the fritz. Although today’s high 79 degrees, it felt more like 90 degrees inside. Okay, I thought, a minor setback. Luckily the baristas were super apologetic to every guest that complained, and the AC problem was fixed shortly after I arrived.

So what makes this location so special? It’s the impressive styling put into it combined with the size and location. When you walk in, you first enter a decent sized entranceway separated by glass panes. There’s even a tiny bit a seating here. Then as you walk into the main area you can immediately see this Starbucks is larger than most. To your right you’ll spot a seating area composed only of a large ottoman and tree trunk stools. Straight ahead is the monstrous barista bar which counters another large seating area equipped with a communal table and a raised sofa with high tables attached. There are two restrooms in the corner, and the walls are decorated throughout with shelving, mirrors, and Starbucks merchandise (of course).

I can’t say that this is the best one I’ve seen in New York City so far. But I will admit that it was a pleasure to stumble upon a top-notch location such as this one. The fact that it’s technically in Midtown makes this Starbucks even more impressive.

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NYC Starbucks: 49th & 9th

9 Jun

49th and 9th Starbucks

If I had to choose right now, then I would say this location is my “Go-To” Starbucks. Perhaps the purpose of this entire blog is to find my Go-To Starbucks in NYC?

Having a Go-To Starbucks is an important thing. Back in Orlando, my go-to was in a little nook of Downtown Orlando called Thornton Park. It was biking distance from my house and had an inviting inside as well as a splash of outdoor seating that overlooked the cobblestone road. I spent countless hours there doing coursework, studying for the GREs, meeting with friends, reading on astrology, or even just people watching. A good friend and I actually coined the term “Go-To Starbucks” when we new that was where we needed to go to either catch up or talk about something a little more serious.

This Starbucks is actually directly between 8th and 9th avenues, but since there is another Starbucks on 49th & 8th, I figured this one can occupy the 9th avenue side for clarity’s sake. By distance alone, this is the closest Starbucks to my apartment. Proximity is very important when determining your Go-To. Also, since this Starbucks is not directly on an avenue, it gets less of a crowd than most, so seating is never hard to find (another important factor). But this Starbucks’ greatest asset is the amazing outdoor plaza that cuts between 49th and 50th streets. Equipped with public seating, a gorgeous fountain, and plenty of greenery, it makes for a perfect sunny afternoon hangout. If only the Starbucks WiFi reached there!

There is one threat to this Starbucks’ grand status, and that is the fact that tour buses tend to line up on 49th right outside the courtyard. Weekends or weekdays, they don’t discriminate. When there’s a tour bus outside, the tourists invade this Starbucks like a scene from Mars Attacks. Lengthening all the lines and consuming all the seating.  Luckily, if a tour bus is outside I know to go to one of the 3 other locations within a 2-block radius.

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NYC Starbucks: 50th & 2nd

8 Jun

50th and 2nd

I’m sticking to the east side of Manhattan for the moment. And today I discovered a new neighborhood: Turtle Bay.

Turtle Bay spans Midtown-East from 43rd to 53rd street. It encompasses the UN Headquarters, and from what I observed, a lot of nail salons, obscure restaurants and grocers. I look up and I see much more apartment complexes than office buildings. And there’s a good amount more greenery here as well.

The Starbucks on 50th & 2nd has a cute (and clean) exterior. In fact, the whole location is much cleaner than most Manhattan Starbucks. The crimson red sofa looks like new and the wooden bars shine (how exactly is wood shining?). Unfortunately, cleanliness doesn’t help the fact that it’s a teeny-tiny location. There’s maybe 15 seats in the whole place. And a lot of them are directly across from the bar where the line builds up.

I’ve come to expect Midtown locations to be pint-sized. But usually when they are pushed so far east into the residential areas (as this one is) I tend to expect a little more room.

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NYC Starbucks: 75th & 1st

7 Jun

75th and 1st

Today I decided to continue my trend of  thoroughly exploring the surrounding neighborhood before diving into my destination (aka Starbucks). Unfortunately, an umbrella was a necessary companion on my journey through the Upper East Side since it started raining late last night and still has yet to show any sign of stopping.

But I was adamant about my decision. Sure, it’s only the Upper East Side and I’ve probably walked through this 10 block radius before, but this time I wanted to take notice of the little things. And what did I notice? Well for starters, there’s a lack of delis — appealing delis that is. There was a cute bagel place on 78th that I stopped in. There was an Indian place that should some potential, and for some reason there was at least 2 hardware stores that caught my eye. All in all, everything this far east seems very pedestrian. It’s all the essentials, but nothing to wow the eye.

The Starbucks on 75th and 1st Ave was yet again surrounded by construction shielding (the third this week!). Luckily, the interior was much more appealing then the view from outside. I found it to be full of seating (mostly wooden, but at least one cushioned sofa) and not too crowded. I stayed for several hours to get some work done, and it never quite filled up nor did the line become too long. Perhaps the rain was keeping people out? If this location were easier to access through public transportation,  I probably would have ranked it higher, but until then we wait for that elusive 2nd Avenue train system.

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NYC Starbucks: 17th & 1st

6 Jun

17th and 1st

Sometimes  I need to remind myself that when I conceived the idea for this blog, I didn’t imagine a relentless race through the 200+ Starbucks of Manhattan just to say “I did it!”. The reason I am doing this is so that I can explore this daunting and monstrous island through a familiar setting. If I take a train to a Starbucks in an yet-to-be discovered neighborhood, walk directly into the place and leave 30 minutes to an hour later… what did I discover?

The balance between quality and quantity is hard to achieve. Especially since I can feel my time constrained tighter than a 17th century corset (not that I know what one of those feels like). Sure a lot of the Midtown locations are monotonous and tend to repeat, and I’ve probably tromped through every inch of Chelsea by now. But I need to remind myself to slow down and explore when I come to a neighborhood that’s a little off my beaten path. Like today…

I’m in one of the most unique neighborhoods in Manhattan — if you can even call it a neighborhood. I sit at a Starbucks on the border of Stuyvesant Town, aka Stuytown. This neighborhood is actually a giant private housing community that spans from 14th – 20th street on the east side and holds over 8000 apartment units. It’s privacy is debatable though, considering I was free to roam around at my own leisure. Nevertheless — it’s beautiful, and full of large trees and fenced off grass. Just above Stuytown is Peter Cooper Village, which is basically a continuation of the development, consisting of the same architecture and greenery. Taking a few moments to walk through this neighborhood (even as rain threatened overhead) gave me a pinch more of appreciation of the diversity that NYC offers.

And those Stuytown residents are very fortunate to have an excellent Starbucks on the border of their neighborhood. The Starbucks on the corner of 17th and 1st is both spacious and unique. Hanging on one wall (and pictured above) are spring themed drawings from the 2nd grade students at PS 40. I love seeing such a local presence in a huge corporation like Starbucks. Other features include a long comfy bench (polka-dotted, in fact), window seating, a code-access restroom (sorry passers-by), and an expansive wall mural consisting of coffee cups, a guitar, a globe, and other randomness.

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NYC Starbucks: 43rd & 9th

5 Jun

43rd and 9th

The Starbucks on 43rd and 9th is another victim of construction shielding draped around the exterior. That’s two in a row! I know NYC is forever changing — updating, evolving, improving (maybe?) — but at times it seems like the entire city is covered by one monumental construction awning.

Earlier this year, my street was being torn up in order to get new piping — or at least that’s what I assumed. For at least 2 weeks we would find a notice on our building’s door saying that we would be without water for an 8 hour period starting at 8am. No showers — no flushing toilets — just bottled water to brush your teeth with. Thankfully my gym membership allowed me to maintain a normal schedule.

I was reminded of this when I entered this Starbucks and noticed a sign on the door that stated the Starbucks will be closing at 8pm tonight and would resume operating hours tomorrow. Then, on top of that, the 1 restroom has an out of order sign on the door. Strike 2, I think. Then as I take in my surroundings a bit further, I spot the covers on the power outlets. Strike 3.

Since 2 of these things could just be happenstance flaws, I’m reserving some judgement. After all, I was able to grab a seat right away, and the environment is welcoming enough to keep me here while I write. And one of the best things about Starbucks in NYC… There’s surely another one around the corner.

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NYC Starbucks: 34th & Park

4 Jun

34th and Park

The Starbucks on 34th & Park Avenue is massive and defintely has 5-cup potential, unfortunately there are just a few factors holding it back.

One of those factors is that when standing on the street corner, you can barely tell it is there. Not only is it well removed from the street (tucked into what I believe to be an office building) but it is also completely surrounded by construction webbing. I may have passed it up completely if it weren’t for my trusty Starbucks app reassuring me that it was there. Also, when entering the location, you immediately see a blocked off staircase to what would be a really cute balcony — I think it’s a break room now.

But all that negativity aside, this really is an impressive Starbucks. There’s enough seating to warrant 2 restrooms, and there are three divided seating areas to choose from. Outlets are also strategically placed near most seats, so those doing computer work (or with a dying cell phone) can rest assured.

Oh — and I tried the Starbucks cheesecake brownie (a moment of weakness!) during my visit. Delicious!

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NYC Starbucks: 118th & Frederick Douglas Blvd

3 Jun

118th and 8th

Fresh back from a weekend visit to Florida, I was wanting to visit a less frequented NYC neighborhood. Ironically, on the 4am (an ungodly hour!) shuttle to the airport, I found an iPhone that had been left by a previous passenger. Anyone who has lost a smartphone (iPhone or otherwise) knows the helpless feeling it can bring. Low and behold, the owner of the cell happened to be taking an earlier flight to NYC and staying in Harlem. Why not — I figured — kill two birds with one stone and return this girl’s phone while knocking out another Harlem Starbucks. The girl was so relieved that a fellow New Yorker happened to stumble across her phone, and we arranged to meet at the Starbucks on 118th and 8th Ave — or Frederick Douglass Blvd, as it is known up here.

So here I sit. The iPhone is safely back in its owner’s possession, and I’m enjoying my iced latte.

This Starbucks is close to both the B and C trains and is also just a few blocks from the northwest corner of Central Park. It’s average in size but accommodating in seating. There is a large padded bench (equipped with power outlets) with four tables lining one wall. Its most distinctive trait is the artwork hanging on the wall that are excellent depictions of the great sounds to come out of Harlem. I love a Starbucks that really makes an effort to be a representation of its neighborhood. Even the music playing in the background was mainly jazz, blues, and soul.

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