For today’s Wednesday-Saturday Supplement, we’re staying in New York City with L.A. Burdick. Like Monday’s Coffee Spot, Stumptown on West 8th Street, L.A. Burdick is another out-of-town incomer, although this time it hasn’t had to come as far as the West Coast. Originally from Walpole, New Hampshire, I first came across L.A. Burdick in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when a friend tipped me off about it a couple of years ago.
For those not in the know, L.A. Burdick is a chocolate shop, but not any old chocolate shop. L.A. Burdick has made its name selling high quality chocolate and, through its four in-house cafes, equally high-quality drinking chocolate. Although it does fairly good coffee (and tea, which I’m not qualified to comment on), in my personal opinion, you’d be mad to come here and have anything other than the hot chocolate.
It also sells cakes and pastries, which, it seems to me, is complete overkill. As regular readers will know, I am rather partial to a slice of cake or three. However, having once described L.A. Burdick hot chocolate as a “heart attack in a cup”, the last thing I want to accompany one is more calories!
May 2017: It looks like the 20th Street branch of L.A. Burdick has now closed, although there is one in SoHo at 156 Prince Street. With thanks to Nick for the heads up.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The New York City branch of L.A. Burdick is tucked away on East 20th Street, midway between Union and Madison Squares (home of one of my favourite New York structures, the Flatiron Building). It’s best to think of L.A. Burdick as an elegant, high-class coffee shop that sells hot chocolate instead of coffee. That’s the immediate impression you get as you step inside through an airlock-type entrance on the left-hand side of the store. To your right, running along the window and extending about a third of the way along the right-hand wall, is a surprisingly comfortable wooden bench with six equally-spaced two-person tables. Ahead of you, against the left-hand wall, are a pair of tables, with another wooden bench running around two sides. In all, it will seat maybe 20, perhaps more at a pinch.
The remaining back two-thirds of the store is given over to chocolate. A lot of chocolate. Another bench runs down the centre of the store, but this has been cleverly converted to a display table and lined with chocolate. Down the left-hand wall is a row of display cases, piled high with chocolate. And, at the back, is the retail counter, where you can buy all this chocolate. Naturally, it’s surrounded by chocolate.
The right-hand side contains the counter, with its gratuitous display of cakes and pastries to the fore and espresso machine behind. Here you place your order, and, L.A. Burdick being a classy sort of place, there is no need to linger at the counter amidst the crude hollering of names that mars so many American coffee shops. Instead, order taken, you retire to your table and await your hot chocolate at your leisure. Which is how it should be.
Of course, having said that you’d be mad to go to L.A. Burdick and not have the hot chocolate, I did this just that. This was partly outstanding self-restraint on my behalf and partly dedication to you, my dear readers. You see, I’d already been to L.A. Burdick in Boston’s Back Bay earlier in my trip and tried the hot chocolate there. This time I was keen to see what the coffee was like. However, if the truth be known, there was also a large measure of self-preservation since I was still recovering from my upset stomach and the thought of one of L.A. Burdick’s rich hot chocolates was enough to bring back the feelings of nausea all by itself!
While I was at the Back Bay branch, I’d spoken to Steve, the manager there and, coincidentally, L.A. Burdick’s main coffee man. He told me about L.A. Burdick’s own espresso blend, a mix of beans from two different roasters. He impressed me with his dedication to the quality of the coffee that L.A. Burdick was serving, but since I was there at eight o’clock in the evening, I passed on trying it then.
However, since I visited the New York branch at lunchtime, I had no such excuse and so ordered an espresso. It was a little thin, but otherwise very fine. Old-school in taste, it had a slightly dark, bitter edge to it, but not overwhelmingly so. I still think you’d be mad not to have the hot chocolate though!
|5 EAST 20th STREET • NEW YORK CITY • NY 10003 • USA|
|Monday||08:30 – 21:00||Seating||Tables, Table outside|
|Tuesday||08:30 – 21:00||Food||Cakes, Pastries|
|Wednesday||08:30 – 21:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||08:30 – 21:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Friday||08:30 – 21:00||Wifi||No|
|Saturday||08:30 – 21:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||10:00 – 19:00||Mobile||N/A|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||15th March 2014|
Liked this? Then 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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