the contextual life

thoughts without borders

coffeeshop chronicles :: bluebird (nyc)

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there’s no lack of starbucks in this city. you trip over them like you would a tree root or fallen branch in the mountains of montana. they’re on every corner—threatening to turn us all into ‘grande, skinny, no-whips’. yikes. lucky for new yorkers there are some great indie coffeeshops in between.

tucked away in the east village is a place that almost allows you to forget the crowded hustle of city-life. east 1st street between 1st and 2nd ave is a special place, especially when walking west and the tropical hut kicks off your oh-so short journey down the block. just a few few feet away from the hawaiian-motifed juice shack is one of my favorite coffee spots: bluebird coffee shop.

part of 1st street’s beauty is its lack of function for motorized vehicles: it’s not easily accessible and, with houston street running one block parallel, it’s useless. if that weren’t enough, a park sits opposite shielding it from the traffic. the smallness of the coffeeshop, along with its dark wood paneling, makes it a cozy retreat. the baristi* are always friendly and you’re guaranteed to hear good music. i’m happy sitting either inside, when there’s room at the few scattered tables, or out front at their 4-seater bar.

during my most recent visit, there was a lull in the usually-consistent stream of coffee drinkers and i had a chance to speak with the baristi. they confirmed my suspicion that this is one of the greatest places to spend your time and money. unlike starbucks, the music you’ll hear at bluebird depends on the person working. ive heard some great tunes there that have made me ask what was playing. not only was the guy behind the counter happy to tell me who it was, he even spelled out the artist’s hard-to-pronounce name. today, black friday, there was christmas music but it wasnt obnoxious—it was some warm, soulful jazzy type stuff. at one point a little girl, about 5 years old, got up and did some ballet moves across the then-empty wood floor. the barista said that there’s an overwhelming amount of 70s soul music played at the cafe.

bluebird is intentionally comfortable; and while i would think most places strive for this same ideal, bluebird achieves it. as mentioned, it’s a small place and their seating arrangement forces you to engage your fellow coffee drinkers but since the place is so mellow and the servers so cheery, the customers, strictly by association, appear approachable: of course they’ll move their bag and no, they wouldn’t mind if you took the empty seat next to them.

bluebird does not survive on charm alone—even fantastic customer service has its limits; they keep their steady stream of loyal fans by serving some of the best coffee in this city and baking their goods on the premise. using stumptown coffee roasters, their espresso is so smooth and chocolatey it can only be called undeniable. and yes, they have soymilk.

my favorites:
12 oz. / large-size mug americano: $2.75
maple wheat scone: $2.00

baristi suggestions:
cortado: espresso with a small amount of warm milk. served in a small glass.
macchiato:  espresso with a small amount of hot milk. served in an espresso cup.
irish soda bread if you want something subtle  but if you want something sweet, try the chocolate cookie praised as “perfect”.

*the american plural for ‘barista’ is baristas while in italian it’s baristi for male and mixed sex. i’m going italian on this one.


Written by Gabrielle

November 26, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Posted in coffeeshop chronicles

Tagged with ,

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