By Gordon T. Hughes, Jr.
There is a famous scene with Jill Clayburgh and Woody Allen in Annie Hall where the two are sitting on a bench in New York City describing people who are walking by. Well, many New Yorkers with a little spare time do just that. When I have a moment or two, I do it from one of the benches at my favorite morning coffee joint, Cafe Panino Mucho Giusto.
This pastime led me to think about coffee joints around the City and specifically where I live in the West Village. There are tons of them and they seem to cater to repeat customers. Each coffee joint has its own unique coffee blends and its distinct set of patrons. So, this morning (Friday, December 1st), I decided to dig a little and look in on new territories. Here is what I found.
The big chains, like Starbucks, tend to serve tourists. They don’t serve tourists exclusively, but it appears that their ubiquitous brands draw them in; that is what advertising does on a global basis. But let’s not get stuck in the weeds. Back to my snooping.
All the coffee joints have one thing in common: Many patrons seem to be writing the Great American Novel on their laptops. I wonder how many episodes of “Law and Order” were written in West Village coffee hangouts or, for that matter, how many Broadway plays and musicals.
Starting in the northwest section of the Village is Kava Café (803 Washington Street, near Horatio Street). It has a nice outdoor area, which is fun in good weather. Here, I found a young-to-middle-aged crowd, which seemed to have a lot of time on its hands. Also, the laptop keys were tinkling like crazy.
Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee (138 West 10th Street, between Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue) seemed to draw a crowd of young mothers with amazing perambulators. Where do they get those things? Also, yoga clothes seem to be the rage there.
Then there is Joe Coffee (141 Waverly Place, at Gay Street). It invites a slightly older crowd, which appears to be a bit more intellectual, at least from the conversations I overheard. Joe Coffee is the closest to NYU, which may explain the intellectual bent.
Now, I like supporting small businesses in the Village and hate seeing our local enterprises close. So, for that reason, I hit Cafe Panino Mucho Giusto (551 Hudson Street, near Perry Street). There, I see a great mix of folks. Yes, there are the laptoppers, a few prams, some workout gear, lots of dogs, and some really great coffee. One of my pals wears a beret, another a hat and coat that, on cold days, looks like something from Stalin’s era in the old Soviet Union. There are men with old-fashioned ponytails (no man buns in this place). There is also an amazing variety of men’s and women’s shoes. It is quite the fashion show and it’s more old Village chic than trendy.
I know that coffee fuels New Yorkers each and every morning, and that there are coffee spots in all five boroughs. But there is just something wonderful about the coffee joints of the West Village. Just like in Annie Hall, I sit on the bench and watch tourists and locals walk by and make up stories about them, all with a great morning cup of joe.