Culture Espresso is injecting a little bit of funk, flavor and fine coffee into the midtown scene. The atmosphere is full of warmth, a touch of glamour - a chandelier - and offers a wall of windows that look across to one of the city's finest facades, the Colony Arcade Building, now the Refinery Hotel.Indeed, this coffee shop will satisfy anyone's need for an afternoon pick-me-up with some of the best baked goods we have tasted. Their colossal, homemade cookies that were hot out of the oven, oozing with dark chocolate and about one-inch thick were game-changers for each of us. In addition to the cookies, we were tempted by the collection of brightly frosted pop tarts. Unlike the typical childhood treat out of a box, these are designed for grown-ups with a flakey pastry crust and sophisticated combinations inside. We tried the pear, the cinnamon and the mixed berry. All three were simply splendid.As for the coffee, the folks at Culture Espresso see themselves as more than vendors and baristas. According to John, the owner, he is always searching for the perfect roast with "blind cuppings" (coffee tastings) each week. However, he finds himself continually coming back to Heart Roasters as the absolute best. As their website claims, the folks at Culture are clearly "curators," and work hard to deliver a high-quality coffee experience each and every day.Their philosophy and genuine desire to please customers seem to be working well. On each occasion that we stopped by, the place was bustling with patrons lingering at their upholstered benches and high-top tables, while others departed with treats and caffeinated beverages in tow.
Stepping into Ramini, we were immediately drawn in by the quirky decor with partially exposed brick, a wooden bench, vintage spoons hanging in a display and cleverly painted walls. The Cafe offers teas, coffee concoctions, and hot chocolate, as well as a colorful assortment of macarons, which were the perfect decadent treats to nibble on with a hot mocha. Also in Ramini's homemade collection of pastries were cheese and olive bourekas, brownies, cookies and mini croissants. For those keeping to a healthier diet, there is a juice bar with fresh cleansing juices constantly being made to order. We chose to linger at one of the two tables as it enabled us to appreciate the constant flow of dedicated customers as the late morning became early afternoon; always a sign of good service, good coffee and good food.
Sporting a logo now made instantly recognizable by the HBO hit show "Girls," Cafe Grumpy turned out to be quite the chipper coffee shop. I walked in and was blasted with the rich, earthy aroma of grounds, and was soon chatting with a group of charming baristas while yuppiedom buzzed animatedly around us. This particular location of the cafe opened in August of 2013, bringing the total number of Grumpies to five, with two in Manhattan. Manager Kat described how when she heard of the move to Midtown she was hesitant, but she has found everyone to be "really nice." And it is easy to see why customers would be, with the servers exuding cheer, the coffee so full of flavor, and the pastries fresh-baked in the Lower East Side by "an adorable group of girls who keep weird hours." At least they get to drink Grumpy's coffee while they're at it.
Known as Bryant Park Place today, this Renaissance Revival structure was originally built by Andrew Carnegie, in 1907, to house the Engineer's Club, a professional group of men who were creating an important niche for themselves in the world of business. It was Mr. Carnegie's strong desire to pay tribute to "ordinary men doing extraordinary things." Members included President Herbert Hoover, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Today, No. 32 is completely residential, with Royce' Chocolate and Gotham Beauty Lounge located on either side of the stunning lobby. The exterior of the building remains almost the same, with its magnificent entryway and white stone facade.
A marriage of Mexican and barbecue, the bursting flavors of Mexicue set it apart from other mobile eats during its beginnings as a food truck in 2010. In 2011, the energy and vivacity of the original endeavor were carried over to a brick and mortar location on Seventh Avenue, and in 2014 Times Square became its third location, with continued plans for expansion. Great smells awaited me when I first stopped in one summer afternoon to find out what the buzz was about. Apart from the inviting wooden slab booths, the innovative menu, and the dynamic bar (which hosts weekday happy hours from 4pm to 6pm) what made me return for dinner that night was the charisma of the staff. From hostess to waiter, all members were devoted to ensuring a comfortable experience for their guests with bubbly smiles and relaxed attentiveness. Among other hits, the burnt ends brisket bowl has garnered quite a following with a base of award-winning chili, tortilla chips for crunch, and house-pickled jalapeños for a little kick. The empty bowl, after Manhattan Sideways members were done with it, assured me it was something special. What provoked my own interest, however, was the kale and quinoa bowl, an interesting listing on the menu that made sense at first bite, a perfect flavor combination of spicy Mexican and smoky barbecue.
At times, living in Manhattan can become a bit chaotic – and it is at this moment when Muji feels like a breath of fresh air. So different from our busy and cluttered apartments, Muji is the epitome of minimalist class. There is no rhyme or reason to what items are carried and yet while there are a million trinkets to browse through, the atmosphere remains effortlessly crisp and clean. Everything is made in neutral colors and simple materials, and labeled with clear descriptions. After wandering around, I suddenly had the urge to go home and clean everything out of my closet and start fresh. The store has a calming and almost meditative effect on people. The vast variety of items includes furniture, clothing, home goods – and yet everything feels unified. Some of the hidden treasures can be found within the office supplies – pens that glide beautifully across the page and notebooks that rival moleskin for utility and sophistication, but at a fraction of the price. Even the clothes are in soft, soothing colors, but made from fine fabrics and sold at very reasonable prices. Step inside to escape the bustle of the city, and do not be surprised if you leave with a new toothbrush or a pair of slippers.