With a borough the size of Brooklyn, you’re bound to find a decent coffee in one of its neighbourhoods. Although it may take a little looking around, as I discovered. So if you have a penchant for espresso like I do, and those simmering jugs of filter coffee just don’t cut it, there are plenty of choices available.
Spending a couple of weeks in Brooklyn was time enough to get a sense of its coffee culture. These guys love their java as much as I do. Be it filter or espresso. Although I prefer good old espresso. As with my previous New York coffee compilation, here’s one I’ve devoted just for the places that were tried in Brooklyn.
Up on buzzing Smith Street in Carroll Gardens is this coffee shop that appears to be more of a coffee lab. Intelligentsia provides the beans, and as you crunch into one of the pastries you can sip espresso or press coffee that’s made with love. Can you see where Roogla gets its name? Yup, those sweet little rugelach pastries staring at you from the glass cabinet. We ordered a couple of chocolate ones and were given one cinnamon and one vanilla to try as well. Thanks guys.
As for the coffee. By my observation, iced coffees seem to be the ticket here. Made fresh using the single origin beans, by pouring hot coffee over ice. The heat outside was enough to make you want one, but I only tried the macchiato on our several visits. Chicago-based Intelligentsia coffee sure knows how to roast.
Roogla – 180 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
Also using Intelligentsia is Williamsburg’s Dépanneur, a one-stop shop for coffee, gourmet pantry items and a bite to eat. As tempting as the Ceci-Cela pastries and freshly-made sandwiches were, we were there for one thing. A quick macchiato. Once again the beans deliver in the flavour stakes; nice and strong. If I was a local I’d be loitering around the cheeses like an addict.
Dépanneur – 242 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
Down on the main drag is the seemingly busy El Beit. Busy with local folk that love their Americano’s (a shot of watered-down espresso) and iced coffees. The macchiato we had was carelessly made, was very weak and the milk was over-heated. Perhaps this is the norm, or perhaps the coffee maker wasn’t performing so well that day. Nobody likes milk skin forming on their coffee, do they?
El Beit – 158 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Greenpoint isn’t a neighbourhood that many out-of-towners tend to venture to, but thanks to being in the area and in need of a caffeine pep-up, Champion Coffee seemed like the right ticket. The tiny narrow space doesn’t allow for much seating but there’s always the rear courtyard.
We may have got our caffeine fix but the macchiato I ordered was somewhat off the mark. Rather weak and watery in flavour with a cloud of foamed milk on top. The cortado we also had wasn’t so ordinary.
Champion Coffee – 1108 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint
Gorilla Coffee was the first place we tried once touching down in New York. The beans are their own and the pastries come supplied by Balthazar. Man, that sticky pecan bun was a killer. Deliciously messy.
Macchiato’s, I quickly learned, are nothing like the ones we get at home in Australia. American’s tend to fill the small cup with steamed milk, rather than add a small amount of milk. It’s more of a piccolo latte, rather than macchiato, which I still love drinking
Here at Gorilla, the macchiato is really good. What makes it good is the beans, of course. Beautiful crema and a gutsy chocolatey flavour in the beans.
Gorilla Coffee – 97 5th Avenue, Park Slope
Down on busy Flatbush Avenue, across the road from Flatbush Farm, is the ever-popular Hungry Ghost. Seats in this place come coveted as there just isn’t enough of them. Thanks to me eyeing off the two armchairs a couple of young hipsters were about to vacate, we scored somewhere to sit and enjoy some decent and well-made coffees. A macchiato and cortado.
I grabbed one of the orange, coconut & almond cookies but somehow it didn’t have either the orange or cardamom. Lots of coconut, some cranberry and an excessive amount of sugar instead. Time for a sugar high!
Hungry Ghost – 253 Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope
This in one fine little place I happened to spot while we explored Fort Greene. From the outside it appears to be nothing more than a local bike shop. It was when I swung my head into the door that I noticed an espresso machine. A bike shop-cum-cafe-cum-bar has to make good coffee, right? If you ask me, I’d say yes. The macchiato I tried was pretty special. Single origin Guatemalan bean, bitching strength and a cool dude that makes it. They even serve Brooklyn beers if coffee doesn’t cut it.
Red Lantern Bicycles – 345 Myrtle Avenue, Fort Greene
After checking out the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket we stopped into this very popular small cafe. Very popular with young families, by the look of it. Many tempting cakes and pastries peer at you from behind the glass. Along with a tasty little lemon poppy muffin we had the usual cortado and macchiato. The cortado was well received but my mac came in a bigger than normal cup, diluting the strength with the extra milk.
Smith Canteen – 343 Smith Street, Caroll Gardens
Aussies are bound to know the name of the next place. Toby’s Estate. For those that don’t know, this guy started roasting in Sydney and has already made a bit of a mark on the cafe scene down under. Now Brooklyn has its own Toby’s outlet, and the locals have embraced it with fervor. Aussies can even order a flat white, and the guys behind the machine know what you’re talking about. Here in the States it’s pretty-much a cappuccino.
The fit-out is a bit loungey, a bit industrial and oh-so Williamsburg. And as per usual, there are laptops as far as the eye can see; hogging tables and making use of the free wifi.
To he honest, I’m not the hugest of fans with Toby’s beans. They don’t pack the grunt and intensity I prefer, but to be fair, it’s still really good coffee. A decent macchiato and cortado.
Toby’s Estate – 125 N 6th Street, Williamsburg
Thanks to its location, this fab little cafe saw us the most out of all the places we tried. It didn’t take long for the barista at Black Brick to cotton onto the coffee’s we preferred, and a small glass of soda water was automatically poured because it was just me that wanted one. Stumptown is where the beans come from and the blend is Hair Bender; a concoction of beans from the worlds three major growing regions. East Africa, Indonesia and Latin America.
The other half starts off ordering the usual cortado, but soon switches to a macchiato. This is one fine coffee that had us hooked a couple of times a day during our five days in Williamsburg.
A special mention needs to be made about the insane donuts. Brooklyn-based Dough churns out some pretty special specimens. Not only are they based in Clinton Hill, but they appear at places like Smorgasburg and many cafe’s about town. Passionfruit glaze is a killer, as is the hibiscus. The best donuts I’ve eaten for many years.
Black Brick – 300 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Had I not looked up to see the words cafe & espresso bar as part of a mural on the façade of a warehouse, we would have probably kept on walking past none the wiser. Swallow is virtually hidden on the first floor of one of the warehouses along gritty Bogart Street. Aside from being the oldest pair of humans in the building, we also seemed to be the only ones without a skateboard. I already knew this neighbourhood was hipster, but the accessory of choice on this block had four small wheels.
The cafe itself is as deconstructed and cool as they come. Old floorboards and chairs, vintage lights, exposed brick and the basics of coffee and a handful of sweet pastries or bagels to fill the gullet. The macchiato was ok, made using Brooklyn Roasting Company beans. A perfectly laid-back place to chill.
Swallow Cafe – 49 Bogart Street, Bushwick