The beauty and the bane of living or working in Manhattan is walking from point A to point B. It could be a glorious spring day or a frightful winter wasteland. Even on a 50 degree December day, it can feel cold. A Minnesotan who now lives in The Big Apple summed it up best. “In Minneapolis you leave your heated office and take the heated skyway to your heated parking garage. In New York you leave your heated office and go out into the elements.”
The first weekend in December was actually quite nice by New York standards – perfect for roaming if well dressed. Husband and I decided to make a day of walking to Ground Zero. But as we strolled, the temperature (and sun) began to dip.
There is a Starbucks every 50 yards in Midtown. As you move toward more residential areas of lower Manhattan, the coffee shops begin to thin. By the time we reached Washington Square Park we weren’t cold as much as in severe need of a bathroom. Pointing ourselves toward Bleecker Street, we had to find a warm coffee house with a loud espresso machine waiting to greet us. But after passing night clubs and standing-only restaurants, we were desperate and dashed into a white linen cafe.
Two cups of coffee and nearly $10 later, we emerged. It was one of the most expensive pit stops on record.
We pushed forward with our camera backpacks through Soho and TriBeCa to Ground Zero. We viewed the construction site, walked through St. Paul’s Chapel Cemetery across the street, bought a $5 scarf for husband on the street, and turned back toward Midtown.
My face was numb by TriBeCa. But we trudged on, determined to get to Soho. There had to be a Starbucks in Soho.
In the center of Soho we didn’t see a Starbucks or anything that resembled a coffee shop. With no legitimate option for warmth in the middle of the afternoon, we opted for the best option within a few feet of us.
Toad Hall, a bar on a sleepy street in Soho, was dark with rustic English decor and a pool table in back. It was also warm and full of people chatting or reading alone while drinking coffee. Of course! They don’t drink coffee at Starbucks. Too tourist. Too ordinary. The residents of New York were in the bar for their cup o’ Joe.
After thawing in Toad Hall we agreed to keep the walking more tempered. In TriBeCa we tried our luck again, this time at Broome Street Bar, which also had piping hot clear glasses of coffee and cappuccinos. Again, conversation and book reading at the tables. It was never a scene I expected to find there, in the bars off West Broadway, but it feels like a graduation of sorts. After many trips to New York, I know where the locals find the best cheap coffee.