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Archive | October, 2013

NYC Starbucks: Carlisle & Washington

30 Oct

Carlisle and Washington Starbucks

I found it! I’ve been waiting to come across this Starbucks since I started this blog. No… the Starbucks on Carlisle and Washington is nothing spectacular — quite the opposite actually — but it holds a special place in my memory as it is one of the Starbucks I came to when I first visited NYC. Actually — I don’t even think I purchased anything at this location, I just really needed to use the restroom after paying my respects to the 911 Memorial. And now that I’m thinking about it, that action was a clue that I was meant to be a New Yorker.

This Starbucks is actually attached a part of the Marriott Downtown which is right of the West Side Highway of Manhattan. You can either enter the Starbucks through the lobby or its separate entrance on the backside of the Marriott. I think we must have been lost when we stumbled upon this location, because the cross-street of Carlisle and Washington isn’t exactly out in the open.

Once inside you’ll notice a couple of things. It’s extremely small. It has only one small stretch of seating. And there is no public restroom. If you’re really observant, you’ll also notice that this is a licensed Starbucks (probably owned by Marriott). The give-away? They don’t have the Starbucks App scanners and the receipts look different. Also the Internet is not AT&T WiFi or Google WiFi; it’s provided by the Marriott and doesn’t seem to work properly.

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NYC Starbucks: 37th & Broadway

29 Oct

37th and Broadway Starbucks

Once again I find myself back in NYC after a short reprieve. I totally understand why most New Yorkers travel so much; it really pays to spend some time outside of this concrete jungle — even for just a long weekend. This time I found myself meeting my boyfriend’s family in New Orleans. You can see my previous post for the details of my Starbucks experiences in The South, but just know that the two cities operate very differently.

While in The Big Easy I was introduced to something called the café au lait. Basically it’s the French version of Starbucks’ caffè misto — which is obviously Italian. The main difference is that in New Orleans, they add chicory to the brew, which gives it a spicy and woody taste that I loved instantly.

So now I’m back in the city sipping on my misto and wishing Starbucks would experiment with chicory in their coffees. I’m also wishing for more sun and warmer weather — but then again — that’s typical of the first few days after I return from a trip elsewhere.

I decided to visit the Starbucks on 37th & Broadway as a way of diving headfirst back into the city’s momentum. Being down south too long made me leisurely, and I can’t always afford to act like that. This Starbucks was not as crowded as I expected it to be, but that may be due to the fact that it simply isn’t big enough. Or possibly because its only restroom was out-of-order.

The patrons that were inside were mostly tourists. The limited window seating that this location offers up were all occupied. And there were no visible power outlets that I could see. Fortunately it’s in a conveniently located area, and if you’re desperate to take a load off, there are plenty of metal chairs outside on this strip of Broadway. I just wouldn’t recommend it on a cold and sunless day like today.

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Reflection: Undertow in The Big Easy

28 Oct

New Orleans Starbucks

Tennessee Williams once said: “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

While I’ve never actually seen Cleveland, I feel like I’ve spent enough time in the ‘Clevelands’ of the USA. And after this weekend, I’m proud to announce I’ve been to Tennessee’s top three cities and I know exactly what he meant.

New Orleans — “The Big Easy” — is such an interesting city. It’s the liberal south. Yes, it does exist! The past few days I’ve stayed both in a small New Orleans suburb called Houma and then the rest of the weekend in The French Quarter. Obviously, I had to sample the Starbucks in both cities, and I must admit, it is nice to be back in a city of large, spacious coffee houses.

At the Starbucks in Houma, I spent some quality time with one of the baristas. She even made my boyfriend and me undertows. Don’t know what that is? Check out the picture below and then ask your local barista. And if they don’t know what that means, then they haven’t been in the game long enough.

Starbucks Undertow

An undertow is a 3-layered drink served in a small shot glass. The bottom layer is milk, the middle is a flavored syrup of your choice, and a shot of espresso is purer overtop. You take it like you would a shot of whiskey. Fast! And just when you think the espresso is going to burn your tongue, the milk rushes in with the syrup and leaves you with this amazing sensation of bitter hot and sweet cold. If you’ve never had one, I insist you try it. Just find a barista who knows what they’re doing.

By Friday afternoon we were in the French Quarter. And after a night on the town — I had no idea you could openly drink in the streets of the city! — I had to see what an authentic New Orleans Starbucks was like. I stumbled upon the Starbucks on the corner of Canal & St Charles and was very happy with what I found. Not only was it large, but it was adorned with tons of New Orleans themed decor such as the jazz instrument light fixture and the pirate ship and mermaid wall painting. The building also had one of those typical New Orleans balconies — but being mid-afternoon there were no beads to be caught.

All in all, I really enjoyed the trip. The people were generally friendly and the baristas had that southern charm and patience that you just don’t get in the north — and sometimes simply can’t provide in NYC. No, I don’t miss certain cultural aspects of the south, but the ability to be leisurely every once and a while was a nice reminder of what I left when I moved to New York.

NYC Starbucks: 51st & Park

22 Oct

51st and Park Starbucks

Yesterday I ended my Starbucks streak for the month of October and took a break from blogging. I visited 22 Starbucks in the first 20 days of the month. So clearly, I am ahead of the curve of my 20 Starbucks a month goal. Now, the Starbucks on 51st and Park makes 23.

Specifically, this Starbucks is located between Park and Madison inside a small courtyard to an office building. Actually, that’s really all there is around here: office buildings and quick service restaurants. And a few hours after the busy men and women of New York grab their Chipotles, Just Salads and Pret A Mangers, they inevitably need a 3pm pick-me-up. Hence the Starbucks.

Although this Starbucks has a small interior and a heavy flow of nine-to-fivers, its courtyard and outdoor seating almost make up for it. There’s even a water fixture just outside its doors where pidgins — okay, just one right now — bathe.

The courtyard is very cute. But it is lacking one thing: patio umbrellas or an awning. And now it’s starting to rain. Until next time!

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NYC Starbucks: Roosevelt Island

20 Oct

Roosevelt Island Starbucks

Roosevelt Island is a small narrow island between Manhattan and Queens. It’s about 2 miles long and no more than 800 feet wide at any point. Although completely separated by water, it belongs to the borough of Manhattan. There’s no more than 20,000 people living on this island, and there is exactly one Starbucks servicing them all.

Here’s some other fun facts about Roosevelt Island:

  • In the 1800s the city of New York bought the island and used it to keep prisoners and the mentally ill.
  • The easiest way onto the island from Manhattan is using the Roosevelt Island Tram from 60th street and 2nd Avenue. It’ll cost you $2.50 each way.
  • If you’ve ever seen the first Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire, you may remember seeing Spider-Man rescue dozens of people from the dangling from the tram.
  • Until 1989 the tram was the only way to access Roosevelt Island from Manhattan. Then the F-train came along.
  • The only way to get a car or truck onto the island is from Queens using the Roosevelt Island Bridge.
  • If you’ve ever seen the first Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire, you may remember seeing Spider-Man rescue dozens of people from the dangling from the Roosevelt Island Tram.

Okay — enough about the island, I know you’re dying to hear about its only Starbucks.

The best way I can describe this Starbucks is that it in no way resembles your typical NYC Starbucks. If anything, it reminds me of some of my favorite Florida Starbucks. Meaning, there is just as much outdoor seating as there is indoors. In fact, you would probably prefer to sit outside — there’s quite the view. The Starbucks is surrounded by shrubs and green grass, and unless you look across to Manhattan you almost forget where you are. At least until you notice that this Starbucks has only one unisex restroom — and then it all comes back to you.

So if you’re a New Yorker living on Roosevelt Island, congrats! You’ve got yourself a great Starbucks. And if you’re a New Yorker who has yet to visit the island, I’d recommend you make the trip. Take the tram. See the views. Grab a coffee.

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NYC Starbucks: 35th & 7th

19 Oct

35th and 7th Starbucks

There is one aspect of each Starbucks that you can’t easily predict by simply looking at it. The quality of its WiFi. Sure you can always log on — unless of course the Starbucks’ Internet is actually down, which happens — technology isn’t perfect. But some Starbucks tend to give me flashbacks to the days of AOL and webpages loading in increments over a minute and a half. Yea, nobody misses those days.

Of course there are some telling signs that the WiFi may be less than impressive: a small location with no seating, a large crowd with lots of laptops, or conversely a large crowd with no laptops at all. Still… you’ll never really know until you attempt to log on.

The Starbucks on 35th & 7th is one that I had a sneaking suspicion from the moment I walked in that the WiFi would be slower than most. Maybe it’s because this is a Midtown Starbucks or because it’s heavily crowded, but somehow I knew the WiFi would be touch and go. What does that mean? Basically — no Youtube videos and Google image search will make you want to punch a baby, which I don’t endorse.

Other than the WiFi, this Starbucks is a mixed bag of lots of good and plenty of bad. It’s in a popular location, much larger than most, has great decor and stays open later than most. Unfortunately, Newton proved long ago that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Meaning this attractive Starbucks in a popular area of NYC can’t help but be bogged down by a huge crowd. Or maybe Kevin Costner said it best in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”

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NYC Starbucks: 93rd & Broadway

18 Oct

93rd and Broadway Starbucks

What can I say? When I see the opportunity to hit up two Starbucks in one day,  I just can’t help myself. Besides, the Starbucks on 93rd & Broadway is mere yards from the Starbucks on 95th street. And I’m rarely on the Upper West Side so I figured two birds, one stone. Or should I say: two blogs, one day.

After visiting both of these UWS Starbucks, here’s my concluding advice: If you find yourself in the area, definitely visit the Starbucks on 93rd & Broadway over the one on 95th. Not only is it bigger, but it offers much more seating. It actually has two large seating areas and still is much less cramped than its sister store to the north. The seating is also more personal — tables-for-two instead of communal seating.

But the lines at both stores are equally sized. So I guess what I should say is that if you’re looking for a cup of Joe on the go, pick your poison. But if you’re looking to stay awhile, this Starbucks is your best bet.

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NYC Starbucks: 95th & Broadway

18 Oct

95th and Broadway Starbucks

I’ve witnessed a lot of bizarre scenarios in the past 10 months of Starbucks exploration. You’d be quite surprised what some people decide to do in a NY C coffee house. Just yesterday, I sat a few seats down from a woman who apparently came to Starbucks just to charge her iPhone and listen to her music without headphones. She sat there for at least 2 hours blasting the most random music so that half the Starbucks patrons around her were forced to move.

Today at the Upper West Side Starbucks on 95th and Broadway, I bore witness to a whole different type of noise. An argument.

Two middle aged women, who clearly have several years invested in their friendship, apparently chose Starbucks for the place to have their reunion after a short cold-spell where neither had talked to each other. What resulted was a 90 minute debate over who stopped talking to who, why they stopped talking, what an email said, when one should have called the other and whose more dependent on whom. To sum it up, obviously both were ignoring one another because they felt they were being ignored. Lucky me — I got to know these women very, very well.

Hearing these two women bicker about who should have called who and each of them equally justifying the importance of their decisions not to reach out to the other, reminded me very much of two of my best friends back in Florida. The three of us together were this unstoppable force of tomfoolery, intimacy, bonding and magic. We felt more like a coven than just friends.

Now, my two friends have stopped talking to each other over a series of miscommunications and hurt feelings. They are actively ignoring one another while at the same time expecting the other to reach out to them. Sound familiar? To me, it resembles the game of uncle. Both are in pain but neither will cry out because they want the other to give in first. And since I’m 2000+ miles away, my intervention capabilities are severely limited.

The moral of this story is that I’m somewhat relieved to hear these women rekindling  in Starbucks — after a few tears, they did end up making up — because it shows that there is hope for my two friends. Also, it proves that this behavior is not limited to gay men in their 20s — which is also a relief.

I know this does little to give you an idea for what the Starbucks on 95th & Broadway is really like, but I think you’ll find the description below to sum it up just fine.

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NYC Starbucks: 52nd & Lexington

17 Oct

52nd and Lexington Starbucks

The Starbucks on 52nd & Lexington is located on a small section of 52nd street that has been dubbed Lew Rudin Way. The apples on the street sign made me think he must have been some great educator here in NYC, but as it turns out he was a great landlord instead. Alongside his brother, he headed one of NYC’s oldest real estate dynasties and was a strong civic booster. Doesn’t sound like your typical landlord, right? He died of cancer just after 9/11, and this portion of 52nd street was renamed in his honor in 2002.

The Starbucks on the corner of Lew Rudin Way is impressive for a Midtown location. It even has three outdoor tables right there on the sidewalk. Obviously, this is an added perk that most NYC Starbucks cannot afford; however, the fact that the tables have no barrier what-so-ever from the street crowd is a little unnerving. Plus the WiFi is really shoddy out there.

But never fear, there’s still plenty of seating inside.

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NYC Starbucks: Fulton & Nassau

16 Oct

Fulton and Nassau Starbucks

 

Thanks to the sheer density of Starbucks in Lower Manhattan, I’m beginning to know my way around the Financial District despite its irregular street names. In fact, the other day I was downtown giving directions to my boyfriend — who’s lived in NYC for 6 years, mind you.

One thing I’ve noticed about these FiDi Starbucks, is that they range greatly in quality. Basically, they are either great or just horrible. Location doesn’t even seem to be a factor in this — especially since they’re all so close together. And my experience today only further solidifies this theory.

I’m at the Starbucks on Fulton & Nassau. This Starbucks is only 2 blocks north of the very classy, unique Starbucks at Liberty & Nassau. However, it is lacking all of the decor styling and 80 percent of the seating. The best thing I can say about this Starbucks is that it’s in a good spot and has two doors.

Also, the barista that took my order was friendlier than your typical NYC Starbucks barista, and that is something I will always appreciate.

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