Café Grumpy, Lower East Side

Cafe Grumpy's grumpy face logo, hanging on the wall of the Lower East Side branch.Café Grumpy, a small, local coffee shop chain, roasts all its own beans in Brooklyn. With its no compromise attitude, it’s fast becoming one of my NYC favourites. The Lower East Side branch, on Essex Street, is the smallest and is perhaps my favourite (of those I’ve visited so far).

My go-to place for morning coffee used to be the original Pushcart Coffee on East Broadway. Just a few blocks east of my usual hotel in Chinatown, it was perfect. Then it closed and, for the last two years, I’ve been coffee-less first thing in the morning: not the ideal situation!

Embarrassingly, I only discovered Café Grumpy on my most recent trip, not realising that the Lower East Side branch had been open since 2012, some while before Pushcart closed. Just around the corner from my hotel, it’s every bit as convenient as Pushcart, so I needn’t have gone coffee-less all those mornings. What an oversight!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Café Grumpy's Lower East Side branch on Essex Street, a few blocks from my hotel.
  • It's not that obvious now when it's open, but at night, shutters down, I walked straight past!
  • The outside seating consists of these two benches on the pavement. Unusually layout...
  • Inside, there's not a lot to Café Grumpy. There's this counter at the back...
  • ... where you have the option to perch on one of two bar stools by the espresso machine.
  • Looking the other way, you can see just how small Café Grumpy actually is.
  • This, by the way, is your only other seating option: the generous window seat...
  • ... where you can sit in the warm/quiet and watch everyone else sitting outside.
  • The floor, by the way, is awesome.
  • I also liked the exposed brick walls. Then again, I always do.
  • Here's Mr Grumpy himself.
  • For somewhere so small, Café Grumpy has an impressive retail selection.
  • Just some of the bags of coffee you can buy to take away with you.
  • As well as coffee, there's also a selection of cookies, etc, plus some healthier options.
  • The coffee menus are on the wall next to the retail selection.
  • Given its size, the list of retail options is impressive...
  • ... while the selection of coffee on offer is really amazing.
  • For starters, there's the obligatory bulk-brewed drip coffee.
  • But what's this behind the bananas and underneath the loose-leaf tea?
  • It's all of Café Grumpy's single-origins beans! You can have any of them as a pour-over.
  • Finally, on the other side of the counter, don't forget the shiny Synesso espresso machine.
  • Again, the selection is impressive: house-blend, single-oriign and decaf.
  • My flat white, made with the Heartbreaker espresso blend.
  • This cortado, by the way, was not for me; the manager was having it.
  • I followed my flat white up with a shot of the single-origin guest espresso.
  • Before we go, one last look at the lovely orange cups, Café Grumpy's corporate colour.
Javascript Sliders by WOWSlider.com v4.6

The Lower East Side Café Grumpy is, as I’ve said, the smallest yet, just a simple rectangle, counter at the back, with a broad, marble window-sill at the front which you can sit on. Two stools sit at the right-hand end of the counter by the Synesso espresso machine where you can perch and chat with the barista. There’s more seating outside, a two-person garden bench, its back to the window, with its twin facing it from the opposite side of the sidewalk.

Café Grumpy doesn’t exactly jump out at you, although once you know it’s there, it’s easy enough to find. However, I walked past, only spotting it when I saw some coffee-drinkers on the benches outside. It’s even worse when closed: I’d utterly failed to find it the night before, having specifically gone to check out the location. With the shutters down, there’s nothing to indicate that it’s a coffee shop, let alone a Café Grumpy.

Something that’s always impressed me about Café Grumpy is the range of coffee on offer. As well the obligatory bulk-brew (drip), Café Grumpy championed pour-over long before it became fashionable. It typically offers five single-origins on pour-over, one of which is a decaf, while on espresso there’s the seasonal house-blend (Heartbreaker), another single-origin and decaf.

You’d think that somewhere as small as the Lower East Side branch might be tempted to cut back on its offering, but not Café Grumpy: the full range, including pour-over (through the Chemex), is available. During my visit, a single-origin from Honduras was on bulk-brew (the selection changes daily, chosen from the available beans) while the guest espresso (which changes every six weeks or so) was a Gatuyaini Kenyan Peaberry.

I started my day with a flat white, a well-made, well-rounded coffee, very typical of the ones I’ve had before at Café Grumpy, one of the few places in New York with a proper-sized flat white. The barista also tempted to me try the guest espresso. Normally I’m wary of Kenyan espressos and this one such occasion where my caution was justified. It was a well-pulled shot, but the Kenyan’s natural fruitiness was a bit too much for my poor palate, particularly first thing in the morning, when it hadn’t really woken up.

The Lower East Side branch is quite wonderful, a real neighbourhood gem. Most customers came for takeaway and were on first-name terms with the sole barista. However, a few stayed to drink their coffee, including the manager, who’d come in on her day off! Usual Café Grumpy rules apply by the way: no Wifi, no laptops, although where I’d have put the laptop if I had tried to use it, I have no idea!

December 2016: Café Grumpy, Lower East Side was a runner-up for the 2016 Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

13 ESSEX STREET • NEW YORK • NY 10011 • USA
http://cafegrumpy.com +1 212 255 0000
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Café Grumpy (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Stools, Window-bench, Benches (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards MasterCard, Visa
Saturday 07:30 – 19:00 Wifi No
Sunday 07:30 – 19:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 17th February 2016

You can also see what I made of Café Grumpy’s Chelsea and Fashion District branches.

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


If you liked this post, please let me know by clicking the “Like” button. If you have a WordPress account and you don’t mind everyone knowing that you liked this post, you can use the “Like this” button right at the bottom instead.


Don’t forget that you can share this post with your friends using the buttons below.