There was a time when great coffee was rather hard to find in Midtown Manhattan, but that’s all changed! Visiting New York City last September, I stayed on 26th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue in Midtown, where there were at least 10 speciality coffee shops within a few blocks. Today’s Coffee Spot, East One Coffee Roasters, was one of several options on my way to the office, its evening opening hours allowing me pop in after work as well.
East One bucks the trend of small Midtown coffee shops, occupying a large spot on the corner of 7th Avenue and 23rd Street, right next to the 23rd St metro station. There’s a row of tables outside on the busy 23rd Street, while inside, multiple seating areas offer a variety of tables, benches and bars. The coffee is roasted at East One’s Court Street coffee shop and eatery in Brooklyn, with a single-origin on espresso and another on batch brew. The options change on a regular basis and there’s a small selection of retail bags of coffee available to buy. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, the brunch menu’s available until 3 o’clock, backed up with a selection of cake throughout the day.
Today’s Coffee Spot is from last September’s visit to New York City and was another recommendation from my friend and fellow coffee blogger, Bex. St Kilda Coffee was my last stop before heading to Penn Station to catch my train to Atlanta on a very rainy Sunday lunchtime. That said, I visited St Kilda in Chelsea, while Bex had actually recommended St Kilda’s other location, a lovely basement spot around the corner from the Port Authority bus station.
As is often the case in Manhattan, St Kilda is a fairly modest establishment, part of a short row of shops/restaurants on the west side of 8th Avenue near its junction with W 21st Street. Long and thin, the counter is at the back, while the L-shaped seating area runs along the front and down the right-hand wall. The main draw is the coffee, with beans from Brooklyn-based SEY on espresso and filter (both batch brew and pour-over via the Kalita Wave filter), joined by a guest espresso (from Montréal’s Traffic during my visit), with Massachusetts’ Little Wolf on cold brew. A full section of retail beans is available from all three roasters, with if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes/pastries.
Firecreek Coffee Company was a chance discovery when I visited Flagstaff in February 2018. A roaster/coffee shop, Firecreek has a second location in Sedona, and has since opened a third in Cottonwood, as well as today’s Coffee Spot, it’s first venture in Phoenix. Located inside The Marylin, an iconic building that’s home to various offices, you’ll find Firecreek Arcadia on East Thomas Road, roughly equidistant between downtown Phoenix and Oldtown Scottsdale. While a car is advised (The Marilyn has an extensive parking lot), buses also run along East Thomas so it is, in theory, accessible by public transport.
The coffee shop is a beautiful, irregularly-shaped space, with a wide variety of seating both inside and out. The offering is familiar to anyone who has visited the original Firecreek in Flagstaff, the espresso-based menu catering to both the speciality coffee community, with options like the espresso set, and the more mainstream American coffee-drinker and their beloved 16oz lattes. There’s also batch-brew filter and pour-over made with the Clever Dripper or cafetiere using any of the available beans. Talking of which, all the coffee is currently roasted in Flagstaff, but Firecreek is in the process of opening a dedicated Phoenix roastery/coffee shop.
Continuing the theme from last month’s visit to Phoenix of old friends in new places, today’s Coffee Spot is Regroup Coffee + Bicycles, which I first visited five years ago in February 2018. Back then, Regroup was best described as a coffee bar in a bicycle shop in Old Scottsdale and while it had only been open for little more than a year at that point, it had big plans, including roasting its own coffee. In 2021, those plans came to fruition with a move south along Scottsdale Road and across the line separating Scottsdale from Tempe.
These days Regroup occupies a standalone building with a spacious coffee shop on the ground floor, which it shares with the roastery and a bicycle repair shop at the back. Upstairs is the showroom/sales area and offices, which doubles as additional seating, plus there’s outside seating on the terrace at the front. The familiar Mk II Slayer espresso machine has also made the move from Scottsdale, where it anchors a concise menu based around the seasonal house-blend, backed up with a single-origin on both batch-brew and pour-over using the V60. There’s also a limited food menu along with cakes if you’re hungry.
My first visit to Phoenix, in October 2016, saw the chance discovery of Press Coffee in the Scottsdale Quarter development, a short walk from my hotel at the time. Since then, I’ve been a regular visitor on my frequent returns to the area, often calling in on my way to/from the office. However, that was the old Press Coffee in Scottsdale Quarter: in July 2021, Press Coffee moved to a new, much bigger unit on the other side of the development. Naturally on my return at the start of 2023, I had to check it out.
The old location had a slightly awkward layout, but lots of charm, whereas the new location, a corner spot with windows on either side, has a more regular feel to it. There are two ranks of tables in the middle, with the counter at the back, while the windows and high ceiling lead to a bright, airy space. There’s more seating outside, with tables along the front and down the side. The offering is the familiar Press Coffee one, with two options on espresso, batch-brew filter and pour-over, all roasted in-house, along with limited but very tempting breakfast and lunch menus, backed up with cakes/pastries.
When I last visited Phoenix in January 2020, my first port of call was Mythical Coffee in Gilbert, which had, at that point, been open for just two weeks. It’s therefore fitting that on my return to Phoenix last month after a three-year absence, my first stop was Mythical North, Mythical’ s Scottsdale outpost. Not that Mythical North was entirely new to me, since I’d been a frequent visitor during its previous incarnation as Maverick Coffee. Located in the Paradise Valley Plaza, an old-style outdoor mall in Scottsdale, Mythical is conveniently located just around the corner from my usual hotel, making it a natural place to stop for my morning coffee, particularly on the drive to the office.
The change from Maverick to Mythical occurred in August 2022 and was more merger than takeover, Eric and the team at Mythical buying into the existing business. The changes have also been gradual rather than wholesale, the coffee shop feeling very much as it had been on my previous visits, although the coffee now all comes from Mythical, roasted off-site on a brand-new Loring roaster. The biggest (physical) difference is the expansion into the space next door, very much a work-in-progress.
The final Coffee Spot from last October’s mid-American road trip is, appropriately enough, from our last stop, Chattanooga, before we arrived home that evening in Atlanta. Velo Coffee Roasters was on my original list of places to visit and I’d planned to call in when we stopped in Chattanooga on the drive out. However, we arrived too late, making the chance discovery of Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery instead. On our return, I was determined not to make the same mistake, reaching Chattanooga with time in hand.
Velo Coffee Roasters is one of Chattanooga’s speciality coffee pioneers, having opened in 2009 before moving to its current location, just down the street from Neidlov’s, in 2015. Both coffee shop and roastery, Velo has a large, sheltered outdoor seating area and a quirky, multi-faceted interior, with the bonus of a barbershop upstairs at the back. Returning to coffee, the Boneshaker blend is offered as default for milk-based drinks, along with a single-origin option, while there are two single-origins on pour-over through the AeroPress, Chemex or Kalita Wave filter, one of which is also available on batch brew. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there are freshly-baked cakes and pastries from Chattanooga bakery, Bread & Butter.
Continuing the return leg of my mid-America road trip from October last year brings us to Saint Louis, which marks the mid-point of the journey. We actually called in at Blueprint Coffee on the way back, but since I’ve already written about that, today’s the turn of Sump Coffee, where we stopped on the way out. This is the original Sump Coffee, which also has a second location in Nashville. Occupying a beautiful old building on the corner of Winnebago Street and Jefferson Avenue, there’s a small outdoor terrace at the front, while inside Sump Coffee occupies three long, thin rooms, the last of which houses the 10 kg Diedrich roaster, which produces all the coffee, both for here and for Nashville.
Talking of which, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to coffee. Like Sump’s Nashville location, there are three single-origins on espresso, with six more on pour-over, plus three cold brew options. Naturally, all the beans are for sale in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Meanwhile, if you don’t fancy coffee, there’s a selection of teas, while if you’re hungry, Sump has a range of cakes and pastries too.
Today’s Coffee Spot takes us back to October and the final coffee stop of my American road-trip, when we called into Sioux City, Iowa on our way to Madison, South Dakota. Like the first stop of the trip, Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery in Chattanooga, Hardline Coffee was a chance find, this time the result of an internet search. A separate business located inside Art SUX Gallery on 4th Street in downtown Sioux City, Hardline acts as the in-house coffee shop, although both it and the gallery are fully open to the public, the gallery offering extensive seating options, including a sheltered outdoor terrace at the front.
While a chance find, I knew that I’d come to the right place as soon as I saw the roaster in the window and the Sanremo Café Racer (my second of the trip) on the counter inside. Hardline roasts its own single-origin Brazilian for use on the Sanremo, while North Carolina’s Black & White Coffee Roasters provides various filter options that are available as either as batch brew or pour-over. There’s a range of seasonal drinks and teas from nearby Artemis Tea, while if you’re hungry, Hardline has the usual selection of cakes and pastries.
I first went to New Orleans with my Coffee Spot hat on during 2018, when I visited for the weekend. I knew very little about the city’s small but vibrant speciality coffee scene, although one name that kept coming up was Sólo Espresso, which became the second stop on my short tour. I immediately fell in love with the basement-like space and, two years later, I was very sad to hear the news that Sólo Espresso had closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two years after that and I was back in New Orleans for my second weekend visit. On my first day, the staff at Congregation Coffee Roasters confirmed that Sólo Espresso was indeed gone for good. However, they told me some good news: a new coffee shop, Lowdown, had opened in its place, so the next day I made it my first stop.
If you knew Sólo Espresso, then Lowdown will feel very familiar, with essentially the same layout and friendly welcome. Ruby Coffee Roasters is on espresso, along with a guest roaster, plus another on batch brew filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes and pastries, all made on-site, with a brunch special each weekend.