When Jamie Rogers decided to open a coffee business in Midtown, he knew it had to be different from his existing business, Pushcart Coffee on West 25th Street. He explained to me that Pushcart, which opened in 2011, works perfectly for where it is and what it is meant to be: a neighborhood coffee shop where locals can meet and relax. “We’ve done the neighborhood coffee shop well,” he said proudly. Midtown, however, lacks the environment that defines Chelsea and Gramercy, Pushcart’s two homes. Instead, it is a place that people pass through, where people are always on the go, and where everything has to be fast. Jamie recognized this, and so he opened Bustler Coffee in 2015. “This is meant to be New York’s coffee shop: it moves at the speed of New York.”
Bustler has done away with the long lines that often define coffee shops in the morning. Instead, Bustler is set up to allow customers to weave through the space, stopping at different stations while designing their drinks. Having removed the middleman inherent in a “cashier to barista to customer” system, the process appears to flow smoothly. As Jamie pointed out, the customer is the barista. “People are more likely to make a drink the way they like it if they make it themselves.”
This does not mean that customers are left to their own devices when they enter Bustler, adrift and clueless. Rather, the staff is on hand to guide each person through the process. The question each staff member is focused on is “How can we help you make the drink you are picturing in your head?” Usually this concept transcends the terms used in modern coffee shops. For example, Jamie told me that “macchiato” can mean very different things depending on where you are. Instead, Bustler focuses on what flavor and type of drink visitors would like. Customers are encouraged to interact with the staff as little or as much as they wish, as the goal is that after a few visits, they will become a master at making their drink of choice. Those who choose to chat with employees, however, often have a more enriching experience than they would in a normal sale environment, Jamie claimed. He added, “You can have a conversation in a much more fluid and dynamic way than if there were a counter between you.” At the end of the process, staff use handheld Point of Sale machines, further eliminating any need for lines. Additionally, Bustler works with Perka, an online electronic punch card that can hold credit card information and make for swift, easy transactions.
As Jamie guided me around the floor, he showed me the iced section, the row of natural syrups made in Pushcart’s Brooklyn bakery, the milks and creams on tap (including nondairy options) and the rotating single origin coffees. He then emphasized Bustler's direct trade with farmers in Nicaragua and Columbia. The Pushcart green buyer and coffee roaster have spent time in these countries to ensure a high quality product. There are espresso machines, located at the far end of the store, and for those who do not drink coffee, there is a wide selection of teas, specifically made for Bustler by Brew Lab. In addition, Jamie has coffee- and fruit-based iced drinks. He said with a wry grin, “We needed blended ice drinks if we were going to compete with Starbucks.” There is a nice selection of food items as well - from traditional breakfast pastries to vegan soup and empanadas.
Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, was eager to meet the challenge of creating her own drink. With Jamie as her guide, she built her own chai tea latte. He led her to the chai syrup and then gave her advice as to how much steamed milk to use. Proudly, she admitted that the result was a drink with the perfect level of sweetness. We could see how easy it would be to become an expert at making one's own drink.
After finishing up her cup of tea, Jamie mentioned to Olivia and me that while he has noticed the coffee shop becoming busier, it does not ever feel busy, thanks to the way it is set up. "Bustler is ergonomically efficient, aesthetically pleasing, and produces good quality coffee.”
In the mornings, this wittily named coffee shop is filled with frenetic Midtowners seeking their daily jolt of caffeine. The afternoons, however, find it decidedly more relaxed. Wandering to the back of the cafe, I lingered for quite some time among the shelves of books and comfortable couches. The space is perfectly crafted to encourage guests to indulge in literature, cups of excellent coffee, and freshly baked croissants. The cafe's owner, Etienne Wiik, moved from Paris to New York in 2012 and spent his first year in the city "figuring out how to bring something hip and young to a primarily corporate neighborhood. " Etienne passionately explained how Ground Central reflects his "sense and vision of New York. " After 5pm, the cafe boasts an incredibly well priced tapas and wine menu, making this the perfect place to both start and end a day.
Fig & Olive is Mediterranean-inspired dining in its most exquisite form. On my first visit to this location, I was drawn in by the collection of wine and olive oil bottles lining the walls and the chic rustic decor that feels reminiscent of eating in the Italian countryside. Never has there been a time when I have dined at one of the several Fig & Olives in Manhattan, that I did not have an excellent experience. I have feasted on fresh ingredients assembled into delectable creations. I was thrilled to take the Manhattan Sideways team here for lunch one day where they raved over the selection of crostini and devoured the mouthfuls of perfectly paired ingredients – goat cheese and caramelized onion, for example – heaped onto small squares of fresh bread. Another favorite that I introduced them to was the zucchini carpaccio served with lemon and olive oil. We accompanied the meal with a beautifully presented Cucumber Cosmos and Rossellinis, selected from the extensive cocktail menu.
After a lawsuit, renovation, and rebranding, Sesamo has officially taken the place of Crispin’s at W52nd Street and 10th Avenue. Sesamo co-founders Nikita Levitan and Sabrina Gao filed the lawsuit against their previous partner, Crispin Mejia. They accused him of a series of problematic behaviors, including sexual harassment, repeatedly showing up to work drunk, and serving expired food. Taking a sharp turn away from Crispin's, the new Sesamo features an entirely different menu. “The new brand launches with an Asian-influenced Italian menu with many old Crispin’s favorites but with fresh and new Asian twists, " Gao said. She added that Sesamo also offers a unique drinks menu, including a brand new Asian fusion cocktail program with some first in NYC offerings, such as boba tea cocktails. Another beautiful feature of Sesemo is its 80-foot mural created by Selwyn Senatori back in 2018. The Dutch artist created the artwork depicting a champagne celebration with a “Feed Me Love” bubble to celebrate the opening of Decimo Ristobar. Though some of the mural has been painted over, the rest that remains adds an air of festivity to Sesamo's exterior. This story was adapted from the W42ST articles, "Crispin’s Becomes Sesamo as Partners Sue Hell’s Kitchen Chef" and "Hell’s Kitchen has Lost an Outdoor Dining Shed — but Regained a Mural. "
McKinney Welding Supply has been a fixture in Hell’s Kitchen since 1943. This long-running business is family-owned and employs about thirty-five people, ten of them being family members. Allen Dickon, branch manager of the West 52nd Street store, told us "We are the only place in Manhattan where you can find all of your welding and compressed gas products under one roof. ”
Bedecked with fresh flowers, Michael's simple, spacious design and elegant clientele combine to convey an impressive atmosphere to dine. Since opening in 1989, Michael McCarty has built his reputation as a hotspot for business meetings, and celebrity gatherings including those of markedly high profile shoulder-rubbers. For larger events, there is an expansive back room that leads into a stunning sculpture garden. The cuisine at Michael's is Californian, based on the original location in Santa Monica that debuted in 1979. Its wine list is a particular point of pride, including over eight hundred labels from California, France, Italy, and elsewhere, and targeted to please everyone from novices to connoisseurs. The real showstopper, however, is the phenomenal collection of art that hangs quietly on the walls, including pieces by Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Robert Graham and, of course, Michael's wife, Kim.