Third Rail Coffee has been part of the New York speciality coffee scene for some time now. A chain of precisely two, this branch, in Greenwich Village, is the original, having opened seven years ago. It’s a small spot, not much bigger than Café Grumpy’s Lower East Side branch where I had started the day, with space inside for maybe 12.
The coffee’s from North Carolina’s Counter Culture, the Los Rosales single-origin Colombian on espresso, joined by a guest roaster. This guest spot focuses on East Coast roasters, exemplified by the choice during my visit, Boston’s George Howell. There’s a single-origin (sometimes blend) on bulk-brew, with a choice of four single-origins through the Chemex. These change every couple of months and are chalked up on boards next to the menu. As is often the case in the US, the focus is firmly on the coffee, with cookies if you’re hungry.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Third Rail Coffee’s been on my radar for some time, but in a city as big as New York, it often comes down to opportunity. One block from Caffe Reggio, I’d hoped to visit two years ago, but that was the trip of “spend-two-days-feeling-like-you-are-going-to-die”, so it was always going to be a coffee shop too far that time around. However, on my most recent trip, Third Rail was definitely a possiblity. When Adam, the barista from Café Integral, recommended it, that made up my mind.
Third Rail has a compact, square layout, the entire storefront occupied by windows stretching from the ceiling almost to the floor, a recessed glass door offset to the left. This creates a slight asymmetry, with a short (one-person) window-bench to the left and a longer (two-person) window-bench to the right, both of which continue along their respective walls.
The seating is arrayed around theses broad, wooden benches. To the left of the door, there are three small, round tables lining the exposed brick wall, along with a couple of bar stools. On the right, the bench occupies the window and maybe half the right-hand wall, a whitewashed, plastered affair, before stopping at the takeaway station. Here there are two of the round tables in the window and one against the right-hand wall, this time with no stools. In all, if everyone squeezed up, you might be able to get 12 people in, with maybe two more on a small bench outside on the pavement in front of the right-hand window.
Just be aware that twin hot water pipes run up by the walls, one at either end of the window. These have rope wound around the lower part which makes them a good option to warm your hands on, but don’t touch the bare metal above since it’s very, very hot (I found out the hard way).
The counter occupies the back of the store, with the till on the left, two-group La Marzocco on the right, while a hatch in the middle allows the baristas to escape. In this respect, the door is well-placed since it leads you in a straight line to the till.
Third Rail had a cosy, subdued atmosphere, perhaps my favourite of the day, with a quiet background soundtrack. The exposed-brick walls, wooden floorboards, dark wooden counter and whitewashed ceiling all added to a feeling of snugness.
During my visit, Third Rail had a single-origin Colombian from Kuichi on bulk-brew, while the Chemex options were a Nicaraguan (Los Colinas), an old favourite, the Burundi Buziraguhindwa, a Rwandan Jarama and a Tairora from Papua New Guinea, which I selected since you still don’t see that much coffee from there. As is the fashion in the US, it was served in a tall, cylindrical mug. Well-balanced, I found that it came into its own a little as it cooled, with the flavours evolving nicely. As an aside, I was pleased to see the espresso drinks being served with a glass of water.
|240 SULLIVAN STREET • NEW YORK • NY 10012 • USA|
|Monday||07:00 – 20:00||Roaster||Counter Culture (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 20:00||Seating||Benches, Bench (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 20:00||Food||Cookies|
|Thursday||07:00 – 20:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 20:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 20:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 20:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||17th February 2016|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City for more great Coffee Spots.
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