Box Kite is a relatively new player on the New York coffee scene, occupying a small, cosy spot on St Marks Place in the East Village, two blocks east from old favourite I Am Coffee and just across Tompkins Square from Ninth Street Espresso. Opening on January 1st this year, Box Kite is, dare I say it, more European-style coffee shop than American, offering coffee and wine in the day, with food in the evening. This is all served with a touch of elegance that reminded me of the likes of London’s Notes and Fernandez & Wells.
Seating is very limited, both in the number of seats and in what’s available. While you can come to Box Kite for a romantic, candle-lit dinner, don’t expect to find yourself sitting at a table, gazing across at your loved one. Seating at Box Kite is strictly at the counter or on stools at one of two very small bars. That said, it’s the ideal place to sit and drink coffee!
I’m indebted to Lee Gaze for recommending Box Kite, which he said was so good he walked two miles in a blizzard to get to it. You can’t get better than that!
August 2016: It looks as if Box Kite has had to close its doors for good, which is a terrible shame.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Box Kite is long and thin, with a three-person bar in the window to your left as you enter, the store itself stretching out before you. Most of the space is taken up with the beautifully-tiled counter on the left-hand side. The front, opposite the window, is given over to a two-group Synesso espresso machine and three grinders (including an EK-43). The rest of the counter houses the seating, a row of bar chairs running down the side, while there’s a three-person bar inset in a nook in the opposite wall. Behind the counter is a brew station for filter coffee, and, at the far end, a small, open kitchen which produces all of Box Kite’s various food.
The décor is plain but elegant; simple, white-washed walls, wooden floor and dark, tin roof. It has none of the sumptuous fittings of London’s Notes or New York’s new Stumptown (West 8th Street). Nevertheless, exudes an air of refinement that comes more from the atmosphere and attention to detail than it does lavish fittings.
One of the good things about Box Kite’s size and layout is that it forces you to engage with the staff, especially if you sit at the counter, where you really have no option. Normally I like to sit fairly anonymously in a new coffee spot, scoping it out and getting a feel for it before introducing myself (or sloping off if I don’t like it). At Box Kite, I had no such luxury, being outed the moment I photographed my first espresso. It was all good-mannered in nature, as Eric, the coffee manager, chatted with me, leaving me little option but to introduce myself.
If you like the process of coffee as much as coffee itself, then Box Kite is the place for you, especially if you sit on the first chair at the counter. Here you get an excellent view of the Synesso in action, while the brew station is directly opposite you. Alternatively, if food is your passion, sit at the other end where you’ll be in similar proximity to the kitchen.
The coffee itself was excellent. Box Kite rotates its guest roasters on a regular basis, with plenty of European options, including Square Mile and various Nordic roasters. When I was there, Madcap (Grand Rapids, Michigan) was on espresso, with a decaf option, while pour-over and bulk-filter came from San Francisco’s Ritual. Box Kite’s coffee philosophy, as explained to me by barista Emilee, is to keep things small, eschewing the America obsession with large cups. Even the pour-over comes in 160ml servings through a Kalita Wave filter.
My espresso, a Yukro from Ethiopia, was very sweet. There were fruit notes and a certain sharpness to it, but neither dominated. All-in-all, an excellent cup of coffee.
The food was equally impressive, the menu changing on a regular (usually weekly) basis. Mindful of my dicky tummy, I had sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke ) soup, in a bowl lined with raw apple and ground rosemary, with the soup poured over it. Smelling like korma, it tasted divine, wonderfully sweet and creamy. I followed this with a main that consisted of carrots cooked in many different ways, including pureed, with freekeh, skyr and sesame. Frankly, I had no idea what most of the ingredients were, but it tasted amazing!
|115 ST MARKS PLACE • NEW YORK • NY 10009 • USA|
|Monday||07:00 – 02:00||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 02:00||Seating||Counter/Bar|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 02:00||Food||Restaurant (from 18:00); cake all day|
|Thursday||07:00 – 02:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||07:00 – 04:00||Payment||Card + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 04:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:00 – 22:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||12th March 2014|
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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