Intelligentsia, High Line Hotel

The word "Intelligentsia" written over a pair of wings, bracketing the words "Fresh Roasted Coffee", all in white.Intelligentsia, the Chicago-based coffee roaster, with cafés in Chicago (6), Los Angeles (3) and New York (1), has a place close to my heart. I visited the downtown branch in the Monadnock building on my first trip to Chicago in 2003, long before the Coffee Spot came to be. I’ve been a regular visitor there ever since (if visiting each time I’ve been to Chicago counts as regular!) and I’ve enjoyed Intelligentsia’s coffee elsewhere (for example, Gasoline Alley). Naturally, I jumped at the chance to actual visit Intelligentsia proper in New York.

Located in the lobby of the High Line Hotel, just across 10th Avenue from the High Line itself, it’s one of the most sumptuous coffee-shop locations I’ve seen, giving Stumptown on West 8th Street a run for its money. As well as the permanent zinc-topped coffee counter in the lobby, a refurbished 1963 Citroën coffee truck sits out front in the hotel grounds for those who don’t want to wander inside.

The Citroën serves a limited range of espresso and pour-over coffee. Inside, there’s a choice of the famous Black Cat seasonal espresso blend, plus a single-origin espresso, another single origin on pour-over (Chemex or V60) and decaf.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The magnificent building that is the High Line Hotel on New York's 10th Avenue.
  • Let's go in, shall we?
  • Wait, what's that at the far end?
  • It's Intelligentsia's 1963 Citroën coffee truck. In good weather, you can get coffee here too.
  • You can also sit outside in the hotel grounds, like that brave soul on the right...
  • ... although I'm not sure that the outside seating was open during my visit.
  • It was, after all, pretty cold! The seats looked very tempting, however.
  • Anyway, talking of cold, let's go inside, shall we?
  • You enter, as you do in most places in New York in the winter, via this airlock system...
  • ... before going into the lobby of the High Line Hotel proper.
  • And here it is, stretching out in front of you, all wood, brick and tiles.
  • The Intelligentsia coffee bar is not actually until the far end, on the left...
  • ... tucked away around the corner...
  • ... although if you wanted to get to the rest of the hotel, you can slip by on the left.
  • The view back towards the front of the lobby from by the counter. Check in is on the left.
  • There's several seating options inside, including this table to the left as you enter.
  • There are also threee sofas. For example, there's this one on the left as you first enter...
  • ... and this one on the right opposite the counter, between the back doors and check-in.
  • Another view of the sofa at the back...
  • ... and a view of the counter, as seen from the sofa.
  • If you like the counter, you can always sit up there at this L-shaped bar.
  • Alternatively, go past the counter/sofa to the doors at the far end and step out into...
  • ... this amazing, secluded rear courtyard.
  • Once again, due to the snow, I think it was officially off-limits, but come the summer...
  • Right, time to head back inside again.
  • I loved the ceiling beams (and the high ceilings in general).
  • There were lots of interesting bits and pieces decorating the lobby walls...
  • I particularly liked the paintings above the first sofa on the left.
  • The big painting of the coastline was my favourite...
  • ... although this fellow had a certain charm.
  • I was also fond of this one which was on the back wall in the alcove holding the counter.
  • Not sure what was going on with the blank picture frames though.
  • And talking of things I'm not sure about, I'm not sure what these are...
  • ... nor do I know what this is, down by the second sofa.
  • I'm not entirely sure about these either, although I think, given the presence of the lantern...
  • ... on the floor that they might be giant candle snuffers.
  • This, on the other hand, is definitely a typewriter. Of that I'm 100% sure. Well, maybe 99%.
  • Meanwhile, this is definitely a guidebook to the nearby High Line.
  • Of course, no hotel lobby worth its salt would be complete without a set of paint brushes...
  • The floor, by the way, has some really lovely tiling.
  • Moving on, the brick pillar at the entrance to the counter doubles as merchandising shelves.
  • Coffee, anyone?
  • More coffee and other coffee-related kit.
  • Anyway, down to businesss. All that coffee has made me thirsty.
  • The counter, with its amazing tiling and zinc top, is worth a closer look.
  • The tiling in particular really caught my eye.
  • At the far (left-hand end) comes the cake...
  • ... then there's the till and the menu...
  • ... with a choice of coffee and loose-leaf tea.
  • Finally, at the right-hand end, facing into the lobby, is the business end of the counter.
  • On the back wall, the grinders and filter equipment.
  • There are three espresso grinders: Black Cat (house), single origin and decaf.
  • There's also an EK-43 for filter.
  • The La Marzocco Strada espresso machine...
  • ... with a couple of bags of Black Cat for good measure.
  • And finally, my lovely single-origin espresso. With a glass of water, of course.
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Intelligentsia has been sharing the lobby of the High Line Hotel since 2013, a sensible arrangement which is being adopted by various high-end hotels around the world. It provides the hotel’s guests with first class coffee, while the coffee shop has readymade seating and a discerning customer base.

As well as the lobby, when the weather’s good, you can take your coffee outside, where there are two rows of tables at the front of the High Line Hotel. Alternatively, you can buy your coffee from the Citroën van at the far left-hand end (when it’s open), rather than having to go inside. You can also go through the lobby to a delightful, secluded, shaded courtyard behind the hotel. This has plenty of seating and, when the both outside areas are fully open, they can accommodate 120 people!

The lobby itself is effectively a long, wide, high-ceilinged corridor with doors at either end. If you come in from 10th Avenue, you enter at the front, the doors at the far end giving access to the rear courtyard. Intelligentsia, with its zinc-topped, amazingly-tiled counter, occupies a large, low-ceilinged alcove off to the left, towards the back of the lobby. If you don’t want to (or, in my case, can’t) sit outside and there are no free seats in the lobby, then you can take your coffee at a little L-shaped bar opposite the counter.

However, the lobby has by far the best seating, with sofas to the left and right as you come in. There’s another L-shaped sofa opposite the counter at the back on the right, although it’s worth noting that only the sofas on the right have coffee tables (and typewriters). There’s an airlock system to keep the heat in during the winter, but when the weather’s warmer, there’s a table in the airlock itself which would make a nice option, along with another (octagonal) table immediately to your left as you exit the airlock, just before the first sofa.

I loved the lobby, with its bare brick walls, tiled floor, wooden panels and steel girders holding up the high ceiling. This décor went well with the gorgeous leather sofas, stools, marble-topped coffee tables and old rugs. It’s worth noting that the space still serves as a lobby for the hotel, although you would never know it at a casual glance. However, there are always a couple of hotel staff on duty, unobtrusively checking guests in on an iPad. To me, it feels much more like a coffee shop and I found it relaxed and friendly (although for different take, see what my friend Greg, of Coffee Guru App, made of it).

Turning to the coffee, I’ve long been a fan of the Black Cat seasonal espresso blend, but having just had a superb example of it at Gasoline Alley on Grand Street, I wanted to challenge myself, opting for the single-origin Colombian. Served with a glass of water, it was really fruity and zesty (not a word I often use with espresso). I definitely experienced a “boom” moment with the first sip, although it calmed down a bit after that as it cooled. It was very much a front-of-the-mouth taste: interesting, subtle and very different (in a good way) from what I’m used to. Highly recommended.

HIGH LINE HOTEL • 180 10TH AVENUE • NEW YORK CITY • NY 10011 • USA
www.intelligentsiacoffee.com +1 212 933 9736
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Intelligensia (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Sofas, Bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 07:00 – 18:00 Power No
Chain Yes Visits 9th 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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11 thoughts on “Intelligentsia, High Line Hotel

  1. I remember visiting the intellentsia outlet around 5 years ago in New York and when one of our roasters visited the East Coast in September to train with the Boot Coffee Camp, he spent some time in LA and visited both outlets in Pasadena and Venice beach. Each one has that attention to detail that is so typical of the US coffee scene!

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