Espresso Expeditions: Fight Grumpy with Grumpy

Lorenzo L., Columbia University


While I realize that the vast majority of college students are only familiar with espresso beverages as a study aide (the classy alternative to Red Bull), for the passionate – the “espressohead” – a good, lovingly brewed cappuccino can erase an entire week of stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.  No, it isn’t a miracle drug; but good espresso is nourishing, uniquely tasty, and oftentimes a form of expression.

Additionally, I would argue that coffee is a social lubricant: the alcohol of the daytime. Coffee houses bring neighborhoods, lovers, friends, and families together to share space, stories, and warm beverages.

It is unfortunate that the Morningside Heights has such a shortage of decent coffee shops, although if the new Joe is any indication, the tide may be turning.  Hungarian Pastry Shop offers atmosphere but little in terms of quality coffee, Community serves a terrific latte but is clearly a restaurant (and a pricey one at that!) and Oren’s is only ideologically superior to Starbucks. But let this not deter you, brave Columbia students! There is a brave new world of caffeinated socializations and cozy study areas out there!

Every other week I will be reporting on the newly thriving independent coffee scene of New York City, and recommending locations based on their qualities as a student destination and as a purveyor of innovative, quality espresso.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Espresso Expeditions: Fight Grumpy with Grumpy

When I emerged from the subway into the bright but cold Manhattan February, the light hurt my eyes, the wind stung my cheeks.  Why on earth did I decide to go all the way to Chelsea for a cup of coffee? But the charming neighborhood, the sunshine, and most importantly, a trip to Café Grumpy quickly melted my frozen sense of adventure.

A small and clearly neighborhood-oriented establishment, Café Grumpy’s brick façade and lack of distinctive sign allow it to blend into the sea of aging brick apartment buildings and metal fire escapes that surround it.  The interior channels this rough, warm urban feel, with pipes showing and earth tones dominating the décor.  A healthy amount of small tables adds to the appeal.

I get my latte and chocolate croissant from the friendly (and expectedly hipster) barista, and settle down to read and eat. I find the latte a little milk-heavy and on the small side, but incredibly smooth and delicious, perhaps designed with luring the casual coffee drinker.  Best of all, it is the rare perfect temperature, and is finished speedily. The chocolate croissant is everything it should be, and exceptionally large for the price (especially considering the tiny “croissants” most Joe establishments sell).

On a whim, I order an espresso to finish warming myself up, and this was the true delight of the visit.  The drink was powerful but nuanced, both confusing and tantalizing with its strong and distinct flavors.  The barista tells me that the current espresso is a house blend of three types of beans (2 Colombian, 1 Costa Rican) called the “Heartbreaker.” The “Heartbreaker” is definitely not for the non-initiated, but I found it delightful and satisfying.

Leaving the establishment, I was ready to face the mountain of homework and other commitments the weekend promised. But, better than my new determination, was the smile fixed on my face.

Café Grumpy

224 W. 20th Street, Manhattan

Café Grumpy is definitely worth the trek downtown for a leisurely morning coffee date, and is only a couple blocks away from a 1 stop.

There are also two Brooklyn locations.


Filed under Columbia University, Espresso Expeditions, Lorenzo L., New York City, Reviews

2 responses to “Espresso Expeditions: Fight Grumpy with Grumpy

  1. mo

    Did you know they roast their own beans in Brooklyn (Greenpoint)? That’s a big bonus… they control the flavors of their coffee closely as a result… and make the neighborhood smell delicious.

    • Lorenzo

      I didn’t know they were in Greenpoint. Fun stuff. A lot of the up-and-coming NYC artisan coffee makers are roasting their beans locally, either on their own or through companies they trust… it’s a cool development!

      You’re absolutely right, it gives them a lot of control over flavor AND gives them more chances to be creative about the content of their coffee. People forget that a lot of the work that makes a good cup of coffee isn’t done in the coffee shop itself.

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