Café Integral, Elizabeth Street

Part of the menu board from Cafe Integral on Elizabeth Street in NYC, showing the filter options.I first came across Café Integral when I was last in New York two years ago. Back then, Café Integral was a small, but delightful coffee bar inside the American Two Shot clothing store. Not long after my visit, in August 2016, Café Integral opened its own coffee shop a couple of blocks away on Elizabeth Street, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot. This was part of an expansion that has also seen Café Integral open in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, all in collaboration with Freehand Hotels.

Cafe Integral’s main claim to fame is that it only serves coffee from Nicaragua, all of which is roasted in-house in Williamsburg, the coffee sourced from several farms in the country which have close ties to the Vega family, which owns Café Integral.  There’s always an espresso blend (Dulcinea), plus a different single-origin on espresso, bulk-brew and pour-over. There’s also cold brew, nitro cold brew and a house tonic, plus tea for those who are so inclined. The coffee is all seasonal, changing every month or two, with the number of different options depending on the season.  Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s an extensive, and very tempting, array of cakes and pastries.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On New York's Elizabeth Street, you'll find the permanant home of the lovely Cafe Integral.
  • It's a compact little space, seating at the front, and counter at the back.
  • There's a corner sofa-bench off to the left, occupying the front window & part of the wall.
  • At the back, past the takeaway station, there are two stools at the end of the counter.
  • The counter is at the back, running the full width of the space.
  • The rest of the seating is on the right.
  • There's a communal table with four stools in the centre...
  • ... while behind that, in the large window to the right of the door, is a window-bar.
  • Another view of the communal table as seen from the door.
  • There's a set of retail shelves on the right-hand wall...
  • ... where you can buy, amongst other things, Cafe Integral's range of beans.
  • In a world of exposed light bulbs, the lights at Cafe Integral are interesting & different.
  • I liked the plants on the tables, which were a nice touch...
  • ... as were the rest of the plants around the place, making it a very green space.
  • To business. The well-lit counter is at the back.
  • There's a sink with plenty of cold drinks on offer, plus yoghurt and granola...
  • ...while front and centre is a cabinet bursting with cakes.
  • The coffee and tea offerings, along with bags of the coffee on offer, are on the counter.
  • The menu in detail: there are extensive notes on each of the coffees, all from Nicaragua.
  • The main menu, with prices, is on the wall above/behind the counter.
  • Talking of coffee, the espresso machine is at the far, left-hand end.
  • I had a shot of the El Bosque, served in a lovely cup, which I'll leave you with.
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Café Integral is in Nolita in lower Manhattan, one street over from the Mott Street Café Grumpy and just a couple of blocks from the original coffee bar inside American Two Shot. This sadly closed soon after Elizabeth Street opened, American Two Shot’s owners needing more space for retail. With the standalone coffee shop up and running, it made sense to all concerned to close the coffee bar.

Café Integral also opened a coffee shop inside the Freehand Hotel in Chicago, and, following on from that success, two more have opened in Miami and Los Angeles, although the Miami branch was closed for a while after hurricane Irma in 2017. All of this makes Café Integral a national chain (sort of), although all the coffee is still roasted across the East River from Elizabeth Street in Williamsburg.

I was very much a fan of the original Café Integral in American Two Shot and liked the branch in Chicago so much that I stayed in the Freehand Hotel the last time I was in Chicago just so I could go to the coffee bar every day. I was therefore largely sold on the Elizabeth Street coffee shop before I ever set eyes on it.

It’s a simple space, the counter occupying the rear third of the store, stretching across its full width. The door is offset to the left, a square window to its left, a double-width window to the right, each window with its own bench outside. Inside, an L-shaped sofa-bench occupies the left-hand window, before running up the left-hand wall. This has a conjoined pair of low, round coffee tables with a couple of low stools for additional seating. Further along, a couple of stools perch at the left-hand end of the counter, while the remaining seating is on the right, a four-person bar in the window, with a four-person communal table between it and the counter, the actual seats all provided by stools.

The counter’s layout is just as simple. A large glass display case in the centre splits the counter in two. This holds the cakes and pastries, a tempting array which includes a wide variety of Du’s Donuts. If you want something more substantial, the Egg Shop (which does what it says on the tin) is literally next door, and also serves Café Integral’s coffee. To the right of the display case is the till, where you order, while you’ll find the coffee operation to the left, with the two-group La Marzocco Strada taking centre stage. If you want a non-dairy alternative to milk, Café Integral makes all its own nut-based milks on site.

One of the (many) things that I liked about the Chicago branch was the cups and jugs that the coffee was served in, all made by a local ceramicist. It turns out that Café Integral likes them too, since all the coffee in Elizabeth Street is also served in the same ceramics, shipped in from Chicago. There’s a variety of shapes and sizes, from neat, compact espresso cups, to large bowls that are used for the 10oz drinks.

I decided to try the single-origin espresso, the El Bosque, a naturally-processed catuai varietal, produced by the Valladares family. A fruity, acidic coffee, it was really bright. I mean, really, really bright. The first sip was akin to a brief punch in the mouth, but it calmed down and played nice after that, turning into a rather enjoyable drink.

December 2018: Café Integral, Elizabeth Street was a runner-up for the 2018 Best Overseas Coffee Spot Award.

Monday 07:00 – 17:00 Roaster Café Integral (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 17:00 Seating Sofa, Table, Bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 17:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 17:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain National Visits 26th February 2018

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of New York City’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City.

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5 thoughts on “Café Integral, Elizabeth Street

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