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Archive | November, 2013

Reflection: November

30 Nov

November Starbucks

Holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving has just passed, Black Friday weekend madness is currently underway, and minds everywhere turn toward Christmas and all its treasures and troubles. In New York terms, this means Christmas trees are popping up on sidewalks everywhere, tourists are invading Midtown — avoid 5th & 6th avenue altogether! — and bubble jackets and winter hats can be seen everywhere. In terms of Starbucks, this means that red cups are back, holiday drinks are a-brewin’, and iced beverages are few and far between.

During November, I saw 18 new Starbucks across the city: from 168th street in Washington Heights to Water street in South Ferry. And obviously, there were a lot of Midtown Starbucks in-between. I spent a good amount of time in Times Square; I visited Starbucks that serve both Columbia and Pace universities; and I even made my way out to the Starbucks that caters to the conventioneers at the Javits Center.

Although I saw some well-designed and decorated stores over the past 30-days, not one earned a 5-Cup rating. In fact, exactly half were rated 2-Cup or under — with a whopping 3 Starbucks getting the lowest rating of all. I swear I didn’t intentionally save some of the worst for last! I’m hoping there’s still an undiscovered 5-Cup out there somewhere. And with only 20 — or so — Starbucks left to visit, the chances are seeming kind of slim.

As I prepare to enter my last month of coffee blogging — is that a real thing? — I’m also looking back at where I was a year ago and how much 11 months in NYC can change a person. More on that soon to come! In the meantime, there’s still another round of Starbucks to go, and I’m pretty darn excited for my next stop. I’ll even give you a hint: four distinct Starbucks can be found in this 10-story NYC landmark.

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NYC Starbucks: 42nd & 8th

29 Nov

42nd and 8th Starbucks

After nearly seven hours of Black Friday shopping in NYC, my body feels like it just went through a trauma. My feet are swollen like a pregnant woman’s and my back is sore from carrying the baggage I inevitably picked up. Still — it was kind of worth it. And I got to visit a Starbucks along the way.

While most retail stores — and practically everywhere near Times Square — were much more crowded today than usual, I can assuredly say that the Starbucks on 42d and 8th avenue sees this kind of crowd daily. This location is connected to the Regal Cinemas and stays open later than most Starbucks in the city to keep late-night movie goers and passers- by caffeinated.

Inside, this Starbucks is average sized — maybe a little big by Midtown standards — and has a heavy crowd flow. Obviously, it houses as lot of tourists, but it also has a decently sized seating area and a few random bar stool to maintain the crowd. But its most distinctive characteristic is its elaborate decor. Even the Starbucks logo outside is louder than most, but then again, in this neighborhood, your signing needs to be over-the-top to stand out from the hundreds of other flashy and eccentric marketing ploys.

My favorite piece inside the Starbucks is a large eclectic wall mural that takes up most of the wall near the street entrance. It contains random colors, various siren sketches and different quotes about coffee, nature, mermaids and other random stuff. Most of the mural and some of the quotes are pictured above, but my favorite is as follows:

“Come into the water,” the Siren said. “Without water there would be no life. It is water that brews our coffees. Many humans are convinced you know, that there is no life before coffee.”

And — yes — clearly, I am one of those humans. Especially on Black Friday, there would be no life in me without coffee.

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NYC Starbucks: Water & Whitehall

27 Nov

Water and Whitehall Starbucks

Presently, most New Yorkers are attempting to flee the city before the ThanksGiving nor’easter arrives. However, I — having no desire to pay holiday flight prices to Florida — plan on spending this stormy 4-day weekend doing something that really matters: shopping!

Now before you go judging me, know that the past 5 holiday seasons I’ve spent entrenched in retail madness. Last year I ate Chinese food for thanksgiving dinner then reported to work at Target by 9pm. Black Friday shopping has rarely been a possibility for me since I’m always working. So this year, I plan to take full advantage of the approaching sales. Obviously, I’ll need more than my fair share of Starbucks to cope with the early morning crowds and ferocity of other shoppers. Maybe I’ll even get to review a Starbucks during the mad dash for Christmas gifts.

But before all that drama starts, I decided to visit Manhattan’s southernmost Starbucks in the small South Ferry area. This isn’t really a neighborhood; it’s more like a small section of ports  and docks for those wishing to catch a ferry to either Staten Island or Governor’s Island.

The Starbucks is directly north of the 1-train’s South Ferry station and is located inside the New York Plaza — a very oversized and elegant residential building. Unfortunately, the exquisite taste of the building cannot make up for the fact that the Starbucks is as small as a Midtown studio. There’s no seating or public restroom and just enough space to receive your drink, U-turn and head back outside.

Most likely, this Starbucks was put in place to catch the subway and ferry crowd while simultaneously solidifying the elegant stature of the New York Plaza.

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NYC Starbucks: William & Spruce (Pace University)

24 Nov

WIlliam and Spruce Pace University Starbucks

After visiting the Starbucks just outside of Columbia University in Morningside Heights yesterday, I decided today was the day to infiltrate the Starbucks inside Pace University near the corner of William and Spruce.

You see, I’ve recently discovered that certain Starbucks are actually off-limits to the general public. Most are in office buildings, but some are actually inside college campuses. Earlier this week I went looking for the Starbucks inside of Pace University, only to be turned away by a campus security guard. So, I knew today I had to be a little more persuasive. Well, that’s not entirely true, I just dressed like an undergrad would on a Sunday and asked the front desk security where the Starbucks was. Regardless — it worked like a charm!

Unfortunately, the Starbucks itself is completely lacking of charm. Not only were the baristas rude (see description below) but the Starbucks itself is simply one of many restaurants inside a small campus food court. There’s no Starbucks WiFi and no comfy chairs. There’s just a cafeteria-esque environment of young Pace students grabbing lunch and a midday pick-me-up.

I know they say our college years are some of the best of our life, but I really beg to differ. The past two days of being around undergrads from both Columbia and Pace got me thinking. And I can honestly say that the best years are those that follow your graduation. That’s when the messy mold that formed in college begins to harden and you get to see just who you are and what you want to do in this life.

BTW…

This is completely unrelated to the Pace University Starbucks, but some of you may recognize the image in the top-right corner of this blog entry’s photo. It’s Starbucks new holiday tumbler and it costs $75!  Why you ask? Well, besides an artistic design — it also gives the owner a free handcrafted espresso beverage every day in January when you bring it into a participating Starbucks. So for those of you who really love their lattes, this may be the perfect tumbler for you. Or if you know someone who can’t get enough Starbucks, this would also make an excellent Christmas gift. It’s even going on sale for $65 on Black Friday. If you do the math, anyone who purchases it and uses it daily in January, will get their money’s worth well before the month ends. Unless of course your New Years resolution is to give up caffeine.

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NYC Starbucks: 114th & Broadway

23 Nov

114th and Broadway Starbucks

Today my Starbucks journey took me on a stroll through Columbia University and to the Starbucks on 114th and Broadway that serves its student population.

After I decided to move to New York, there were three universities that I considered applying to for grad school: Pace, NYU, and Columbia. Although NYU won out, I was highly intrigued by Columbia. After all, it is an Ivy League and one of the oldest universities in the country.

Columbia is located in the small Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Morningside Heights — which is characteristically an Upper West Side/Harlem hybrid. Although I’ve been to Morningside Heights before, today was the first day I stepped foot on Columbia’s  campus. Whereas Washington Square Park functions as the commons area for NYU, Columbia has its very own partially secluded common area between Broadway and Amsterdam. It’s well maintained, beautifully decorated and grand as I would expect an Ivy League’s campus to be. Pictured above is the main library and a statue that sits on the staircase leading up to it.

After taking in the campus environment, I exited on Broadway and crossed the street to the Starbucks on the north side of 114th. Once inside, two things were very obvious: Columbia students thrive on Starbucks, and there’s simply not enough space to contain them all. When I was a student at Florida State University, I used to wait in a line 20-30 students long at the Starbucks in the center of campus. The only difference between that Starbucks and this one is that this Starbucks does not have the space to hold all the students/residents that want their coffee fix. Not everyone is looking to stay and have a seat — in fact, most do get their coffee to leave — but the seats this Starbucks does offer are mostly full.

Luckily, I came at the right moment and was able to get my own table on the cushioned sofa in the back. Once I sat down I could feel the impression of all those Columbia students that have sat here for countless hours before me. And it was this thought that inspired me to knock out a term paper that I’ve been putting off for half a semester. What better Starbucks to write it in?

So, even though the seated crowd is pretty fluid and the restroom line is not too bad, that barista bar line has not let up since I arrived 3 hours ago. Maybe Columbia  should look into putting another Starbucks somewhere on campus? It certainly worked well for FSU.

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NYC Starbucks: 57th & 8th SEC

22 Nov

57th and 8th SEC Starbucks

One day last month I was walking down 8th Avenue from Columbus Circle — probably thinking about how cold it was getting outside or pondering what I was going to be for Halloween — when I passed by an blatantly brand new Starbucks on 57th & 8th. Not another one! was my first thought. My second being: OMG, look how small it is!

Obviously, I’m the last to complain about more Starbucks popping up in NYC, it’s just that at times it feels like I’ll never be able to visit them all if I can’t keep track of where and when they appear. Luckily, I stumbled by this one by chance. So I quickly made note of it and promised to come back one day. And today is that day.

The reason my second thought was on the size of this Starbucks is because it is perhaps the smallest in Manhattan. Literally I could see the Starbucks in its entirety just by casually passing by on the street. I’m torn whether the Starbucks on 42nd & 6th is a tiny bit smaller or not. Since I’m not about to break out a measuring tape, I’ll call it a tie. 

This Starbucks has no seats. No restroom. No available power outlets. But, ironically it does offer Google WiFi. When I arrived there was a young woman perched in the corner, half-sitting on a ledge, typing away on her laptop. She left. So can you guess where I’m at now? Yep — that very same ledge. Obviously, this Starbucks isn’t meant for loitering, but it just goes to show that its meager size won’t stop New Yorkers from lingering. 

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NYC Starbucks: 35th & 11th (Javits Center)

20 Nov

35th and 11th Javits Center Starbucks

Today I pretended to be a professional working in the field of internet security just so I could sneak a peek at one of NYC’s most isolated Starbucks. I’m referring to the small Starbucks stand inside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center off of 11th Avenue in Midtown. What you see pictured above is an enormous glass plated convention building right near the Lincoln Tunnel to Jersey.

I’ve been staring at that one isolated dot on the Starbucks App for quite some time — wondering exactly what was all-the-way out there on 11th avenue besides gas stations and drive-thru McDonalds. And as I approached the massive convention center on my Citi Bike, it seemed weird that I’d never spotted this building before. Albeit it is in Hellsea — the neighborhood of traffic jams and construction — but it’s also right up against the West Side Highway in an area I’ve biked up and down countless times. How’d I miss the giant glass building?

Once I parked my Citi Bike at the corner of 34th and 11th — very convenient, btw — I followed someone with a conference badge that looked like he knew where he was going. Once inside I was surrounded by hundreds of ISC East convention-goers. I had done some research of the conference and found out that it was all about internet security and cutting-edge programs to keep businesses and programs safe. So, not exactly my cup of tea, and clearly I did not take the steps to register to attend. So I walked around and tried to look like I belonged. First I stumbled upon a small food stand that was serving coffee out of white Starbucks cups as well as some sandwiches and pastries. An amateur may have been fooled by this, but I knew this was no corporate or licensed Starbucks, just as I knew I there was one in the building somewhere, and I was going to find it.

So I continued to wonder until a security guard asked me for my conference badge. I played dumb and asked her where the Starbucks was, but she didn’t know. Finally I found two gentleman with authentic Starbucks drinks in their hands and they informed me the Starbucks was on the other side of the building. So I cut around the registration line, bypassed more security guards, breezed by several construction teams — the convention center is apparently under renovations — until I finally spotted the Starbucks branded coffee stand in a mostly deserted area of the building. There was no line — even though stanchions were set up — and the baristas were eager to take my order. I then found a small cafeteria/seating area one floor down from the Starbucks and sat for a moment to enjoy my iced coffee before vacating the Javits Center entirely.

Obviously, this is not the kind of Starbucks that any normal tourist or NYC resident will be interested in visiting. It’s far too isolated from the rest of Manhattan and not easily accessible to anyone not going to a convention of some sort. Still, it is a licensed Starbucks and I had to see it for myself.

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NYC Starbucks: 52nd & 6th

19 Nov

52nd and 6th Starbucks

 

The Starbucks on 52nd and 6th Avenue has alluded me for quite some time. This Starbucks’ technical address is 1290 Avenue of the Americas (aka 6th Ave), which is a large office building. The Starbucks App shows this store to be on the west side of 6th Avenue, but the address belongs on the east side. Previously, I’ve walked up and down the avenue from 49th-53rd street and come up short. Once I even asked one of the security guards at Radio City Music Hall for direction, and she guided me into the Rockefeller subway concourse, where I discovered an entirely different Starbucks altogether. And when calling the phone number listed on the app, I never got an answer.

Honestly, I was beginning to think either this Starbucks didn’t exist or it was hidden in the depths of the office building and off-limits to the general public. Then, I decided to explore a little further and found it off of 52nd street on the backside of the 1290 building. It has its own independent entrance and everything, but since it is still technically connected to the office building, it is given a 6th Avenue address. Only in NYC!

Thankfully, the Starbucks App allows you to “Improve Store Info.” Once inside, I submitted a request to change the pin location for this Starbucks. Across the street and down the road is just no good. However, I soon found that there are plenty of New Yorkers and tourists alike that have absolutely no problem finding this Starbucks. I arrived in the mid-afternoon and this location was popping — to say the least.

Still, I was able to find a seat on the long cushioned sofa near the door. This Starbucks also has a few high tops in the back corner, but that’s really where its accommodations end. I’d say its most prominent feature is the the espresso themed photography hanging on the walls.

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NYC Starbucks: Hanover & Pearl

17 Nov

Hanover and Pearl Starbucks

 

After spending a few hours in FiDi today, I began to realize what a ghost town this neighborhood becomes on a Sunday. Sure you see people walking the streets here and there, but most residents are probably tucked away in their apartments, and most businesses are closed until the business crowd comes back on Monday. The few street stragglers appeared to be walking to and from the few sports bars that are playing Sunday football. Of course I passed by each and headed to the Starbucks on Hanover and Pearl.

Today was actually the last day of Starbucks’ latest promotion: buy one, get one Holiday drinks. Although, I’m not the biggest fan of sweet espresso based drinks, I couldn’t pass this one up. Literally, I arrived 2-minutes before the promotion cut-off time, and ordered a gingerbread latte for myself and a peppermint mocha for my boyfriend.

The Starbucks itself is a small L-shaped location, with wraparound window seating and two comfy chairs against one wall. There’s no public restroom and no crowd beating down the door at 5pm on a Sunday. It’s very close to the water’s edge of Manhattan, and it’s ironically the only building on the block that is covered in construction scaffolding.

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NYC Starbucks: 43rd & 3rd

16 Nov

43rd and 3rd Starbucks

Yesterday I visited a small and cramped Starbucks in a neighborhood full of spacious apartments, and today I’m at a considerably sized Starbucks in a neighborhood of unbelievably small apartments. What a conundrum! I guess that just goes to show you can’t depend on the neighborhood stereotypes for everything.

The Starbucks on 43rd and 3rd really did surprise me with its grand size and moderate crowd. From what I’ve discovered, the handful of big Midtown Starbucks are strategically placed to impress travels and tourists — Times Square, Herald Square, etc… But this Starbucks is just hidden enough for the patrons to be residential and still be located near Grand Central Terminal.

If I lived in the neighborhood this would definitely be my “Go-To Starbucks.” In fact, anyone living in Midtown will probably have more office space here than in their own apartments.

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