Our beloved New York has been hit hard by COVID. But with warmer weather upon us and light at the end of the tunnel, the resilience of New York has never been more evident as people slowly and safely begin to patronize their favorite hangs. Nothing is more beloved to me than a proper cafe... not a coffee shop, but a cafe where you come for the coffee, but stay for the conversation and community. Like Tourists in New York, on the sunniest Friday yet, Ari and I toured five of our favorite cafes -- sipping five coffees, enjoying five different treats and chatting with a whole lot of great characters. We did so, naturally, in our Kahve (Coffee) Sabahs. Enjoy!
Coffee #1: Cappuccino at Caffe Reggio, 119 MacDougal St
Treat: Nutella Croissant
Note: Listen for the Italian-speaking owners; check out the old Espresso machine inside!
Crowd: Old school regulars and artsy students
Our first stop was just around the corner from the Sabah HQ, Caffe Reggio on MacDougal street. Opened in 1927 by Domenico Parisi, Caffe Reggio's claim to fame is bringing the Italian cappuccino to America. Inside the cafe, against the back wall, there is still the original espresso machine, made in 1902, that Domenico bought with his savings when he opened the cafe. And they sure do serve a great one, along with the perfect croissant with Nutella and a lot of nostalgia. Find a table outside, bring a paper or a book, and sip and savor the vibe.
Coffee #2: Cortado at Abraço, 81 E 7th Street
Drink: Cortado (or anything espresso based)
Treat: Olive Oil Cake
Note: Don’t be dissuaded by the morning line. It’s part of the experience here.
Crowd: Local east-villagers, dressed just right.
Our second stop was Abraço - where clued-in East Villagers who love proper espresso get their morning and afternoon fix, along with delicious pastries and lots of conversation. We drank cortados and definitely had two slices of their famous olive oil cake. Abraço is welcoming, never short of great people watching and is the place where 20 or so well-dressed regulars come daily, know each other by name and are quick to welcome you into the conversation. With a great outdoor setup in the sun, it's a seriously cool hang!
Coffee #3: Turkish Coffee at Lion's Milk, 104 Roebling St in Williamsburg
Drink: Turkish Coffee
Treat: Istanbul sandwich on Simit
Crowd: A young Brooklyn crowd and Turks missing home
Next we headed to Williamsburg -- pleasantly buzzed on two coffees with our sights set on Lion's Milk - a Turkish owned cafe that makes a great Turkish coffee, but is also revered by Turks for their sweet & savory treats, most namely baklava and simit sandwiches, the Turkish equivalent of a bagel. We took our time, sipping Turkish coffees under the sun, adding fuel to the fire with rich pistachio Baklava and topping it all off with the classic Turkish delights too. Our coffee fortune: there may be a beautiful, new patterned Baba like no other coming soon ;) Afiyet Olsun!
Coffee #4: Cafe con Leche at Cubana Café, 272 Smith St in Brooklyn
Drink: Cafe con Leche (aka Cafecito)
Treat: Plato Grande with cilantro rice, fried yucca, and roasted chicken
Note: In normal times, there is live music and the place turns into a tight dance party between tables.
Crowd: A vivacious crowd of old souls!
Next on our list was Cubana Café in Carroll Gardens for Cafe con Leche. I love this place for their “Weekly Latino Breakfast” (a rotating menu of breakfasts from different Latin countries, like Costa Rican Gallo Pinto on Mondays). We were hungry and it was lunch, so our treat was two plato grande lunchtime specials. Cafe Cubano is colorful, cheerful, charming and the cafe con leche is strong with perfectly frothed milk and super sweet as it should be. Grab two stools, a window seat and enjoy the tunes. You're in heaven!
Coffee #5: Espresso at Cafe Gitane, 242 Mott St
Drink: Espresso (or an Aperol Spritz!)
Treat: Avocado Toast
Note: Snag a table outside, or don’t miss the great bar seats inside.
Crowd: Downtown NYC at it's finest: in-the-know tourists, artists & cool kids… and often the Sabah Dealer too!
Our final stop brought us back to downtown Manhattan... two late afternoon espressos at Cafe Gitane paired with a refreshing Aperol Spritz. The sun was starting to get low and the Friday evening electricity was tingling (along with the caffeine coursing through our veins). The classic service, the sidewalk sprawl of blue tables and small stools, and the NoLiTa street scene enjoyed with the buzz of coffee and spritz felt just right. Cafe Gitane is a regular end of day stop for me; like so many of New York’s dining institutions, their unflappable, impeccable, and cheerful service has not stopped. Thank you!
A couple spritz later... and we were able to imagine a beautiful summer. Cautiously optimistic, there are blue skies ahead.