On my last visit to Manhattan, I was impressed at the rise in quality coffee. On this year's trip, I wanted to try two of the well known Chelsea espresso bars: Cafe Grumpy and Stumptown.
Cafe Grumpy is a surprisingly quiet little shop tucked away on West 20th Street. The set up is pretty no frills, but they do a good drink. My cappuccino had a nice, bright flavor and creamy texture. It was pretty standard third wave coffee fare, but the standard these days is high.
Stumptown Coffee, along with Intelligentsia, was one of the pioneers of the Third Wave. Founded in Portland in 1999, they now have outlets in Seattle and the one I visited on 29th Street in Manhattan. I've never been to a Stumptown, so I was excited to try it. Quite the contrast to the casual Cafe Grumpy, Stumptown had a long line and sort of an industrial feel. The seating area is the ultra-cool lobby of the Ace Hotel. The coffee at Stumptown was superb. The cappuccino was perfectly balanced with just the right amount of tannic notes coming out in the cup. I had an espresso as well. It was darker than what I'm used to from Intelligentsia, which I personally enjoy in an espresso, even if it's against the norm these days. (Note that the cappuccinos from Grumpy, above, and Stumptown, below, look almost exactly alike, down to the cup.)
All in all, both of these were great cafes. I enjoyed Stumptown's coffee more, but the ambiance was nicer at the less uptight Cafe Grumpy.
224 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
18 W. 29th Street
New York, NY 10001