Gasoline Alley, Grand Street

A shot of Intelligentsia's Black Cat seasonal espresso blend served by Gasoline Alley in a white cup with oversized handle, the beautifully-mottled crema clearly visible.I first discovered New York City‘s Gasoline Alley in 2013, when I visited the original branch on Lafayette Street. This, the second branch, which opened in 2014, is just around the corner from one of my regular breakfast spots, the Landmark Coffee Shop (a very typical American diner). The original Gasoline Alley could actually be an alley and, while the same is true of this one with doors at either end, it’s more corridor than alley. Considerably smaller than the original, there’s space for two bar chairs at its solitary window-bar, with a pair of benches outside, one for each window.

I much prefer the atmosphere in this Gasoline Alley. However, where it wins hands down, just like the original, is that it serves Intelligentsia coffee and serves it extremely well. In fact, it might have served me the best shot of Intelligentsia’s seasonal Black Cat espresso blend that I’ve ever had!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The snowy exterior of Gasoline Alley, seen from across Lafayette early in March 2015.
  • A slightly different view. Still as snowy...
  • Fancy sitting outside, anyone? There's this bench on the sidewalk on Grand...
  • What a difference two days make! I popped back when the weather had improved...
  • ... to get some more exterior shots. To the right, one of WeWork's two entrances.
  • The other is the pair of double-doors on the left of this shot. Quite a handsome corner!
  • Stepping in through the main door on Grand, this is the view. More corridor than alley...
  • At the far end, another door leads into WeWork's lobby (the original WeWork, by the way).
  • Going back inside from the WeWork lobby, this is the view along Gasoline Alley, looking the other way towards the main entrance on Grand.
  • Brrr... Looks cold out there! I think we'll stay in here that you very much!
  • The counter takes up pretty much the whole of the right-hand side, cake to the fore.
  • A panoramic view of the counter, as seen from the window-bar.
  • Talking of which, fortunately there's a seat left...
  • What? Was it something I said?
  • The view out onto Lafayette and its junction with Grand. Turn right and the original Gasoline Alley is just seven blocks to the north, straight up Lafayette.
  • I know there are only two seats, but they really are lovely seats if you can get one!
  • If you can't, then the takeaway station is at the far end of the window-bar...
  • ... judging by the number of sleeves, Gasoline Alley does a lot of takeaway trade!
  • Opposite this, at the end of the counter, is a retail shelf...
  • ... with merchandising at the top, coffee in the middle...
  • ... and chocolate at the bottom.
  • There's also plenty of coffee behind the counter. No danger of Gasoline Alley running out!
  • Although Gasoline Alley is mostly windows, lights are still needed on a day like this.
  • The fans, way, way up in the ceiling, are surplus to requirements though!
  • The distinctive Gasoline Alley logo is also hanging up there, high above the counter.
  • Right, let's get down to business. The till's sandwiched between espresso machine & cake...
  • ... of which there is a fair selection, cunningly on view through the window...
  • As in the original Gasoline Alley, the minimalist menu is written above the counter.
  • Something from the bulk-brewer if you're in a hurry?
  • Just help yourself from the flask if you want to try a sample.
  • It's a single-origin from El Salvador and it was surprisingly good.
  • However, I wanted something from the espresso machine...
  • ... and went for a shot of Intelligentsia's legendary Black Cat seasonal espresso instead.
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The original Gasoline Alley, connecting Lafayette and Mulberry Streets, is seven blocks north of the second branch. Also on Lafayette, it’s on the corner with Grand Street, at the convergence of Little Italy, Chinatown, Nolita and Soho. More corridor than alley, it’s as tall as it is wide and about twice as long. Although the long side is on Lafayette, the main door’s on Grand, hence the address.

Gasoline Alley actually occupies the corner of a building belonging to WeWork, a communal office space. To the right of Gasoline Alley’s door on Grand, WeWork has its main entrance, while Gasoline Alley’s other door opens onto WeWork’s members lobby on Lafayette. Technically you shouldn’t use this entrance, but plenty of people do; similarly, folk working in WeWork shouldn’t use Gasoline Alley as a shortcut to their desks, picking up their morning coffee on the way, but no-one complains when they do. No-one will complain either if you log onto WeWork’s open Wifi network should you be lucky enough to get one of two seats at the window-bar.

Talking of which, Gasoline Alley’s layout is remarkably simple. Two sturdy, brick pillars, one on the corner of Lafayette and Grand, the other by the WeWork lobby, frame two massive, pillar-to-pillar, floor-to-considerably-high-ceiling windows. This makes Gasoline Alley feel incredibly spacious, bright and airy, even on the snowy winter’s day I was there.

Entering from Grand Street, through the door on the left-hand side, the counter’s on your right, running Gasoline Alley’s full length. There’s a large display case, visible from the street, holding cookies and other goodies, then comes till, espresso machine, sample-flask of bulk-brewed coffee and, after a small gap, a shelf full of merchandising and retail bags of Intelligentsia coffee. And that’s it. You’ve now reached the end of Gasoline Alley and the (glass) door to WeWork’s lobby. To your left, opposite the counter, a lovely window-bar runs between the two brick pillars, the perfect spot for a bit of people/traffic watching while you sip your espresso.

Talking of which, I had the most amazing espresso, on the recommendation of the barista who suggested not sullying it with milk. I’ve always liked Intelligentsia’s seasonal Black Cat blend, but this was outstanding. Served with a glass of water, the crema looked amazing and it tasted even better, with a thick, viscous texture like honey, going down like a liquid kiss.

154 GRAND STREET • NEW YORK CITY • NY 10032 • USA
www.gasolinealleycoffee.com +1 212 933 0113
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Intelligentsia (espresso + bulk brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Window-bar, benches (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa, Amex
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Yes (see notes)
Sunday 08:00 – 19:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 5th March 2015

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of New York City’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City.


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