we need coffee bars...

>> Monday, August 31, 2009

we need coffee bars...

If you're a coffee person, as I pretend to be, then Forest Hills is severely lacking. The pickings are slim, folks. Coffee, in it's most Sanka form, can be had anywhere. But there's a difference between a restaurant that sells coffee and a real coffee bar. And sure, I can always grab a cup of joe to go at a diner but that's just giving up.

Sadly, as of my writing this, there is no independent coffee bar in Forest Hills. Not that I know of. No place like THIS, where you can go in and sit for hours and read the paper, chat with friends, listen to Asobi Seksu playing dimly overhead, and being able to relax and forget the stress of the day. Park Slope has 'em. Williamsburg has 'em. But we don't? It shouldn't be the kind of thing to royally piss me off. And yet...

Coffee bars rarely open here, and when they do, bad luck or a bad follow-through seems to bring them down. When I first moved in, there was a shmancy and impressive place with dozens of loose teas, coffees, desserts and truly horrid service called Modus. Then came Munch; more casual, free wifi, a loyal fanbase, cushy chairs and, apparently, a landlord they fought with all the time. The latest was Sonoma Coffee Cafe, a chain with locations in 12 states. It opened last year on Queens Boulevard and was so underwhelming that that I wasn't surprised in the slightest when they shuttered this year.

Starbucks is the closest thing we've got, and I'm not Starbucks-hater. I just really really really like variety. We have four and it's not enough. The one on Continental is so small that someone should put an "express" sign under the logo. You can forget about trying to get a seat at the others. Say a prayer, cross yourself, burn some incense; only God himself can grant you one if you aren't willing to wait a half hour. I even went so far as to email the district manager of Queens asking her why the seats and tables that have been taken away aren't being replaced. The Austin Street one loses a table every four or five months, it seems. She very pleasantly told that there are a lot of bureaucratic loops to go through that have to be considered... of course there are. How silly of me.

Further away is the Seattle's Best Cafe (which is owned by Starbucks) at the Borders at Atlas Park, or Esparks on the corner of Metropolitan and Cooper. But they're quite a shlep by anyone's standards unless you drive, which you shouldn't have to do.

Some people might be thinking right now "what about Dunkin Donuts?" Well, that coffee is awful. America only runs on Dunkin because it's probably half diesel fuel. As for those of you about to suggest McDonalds, I want you to sit in the corner and think about that in silence. Shame on you.

So what are we gonna do? Well, I'm going to write a letter to Caribou Coffee and tell them that their first NY location should be us. And if any of you were thinking of opening a real coffee bar, with hipster baristas, custom espressos, good music (better yet, no music), old sofas, local artwork for sale on the wall, and a menu that doesn't overextend itself by going beyond offering cakes, muffins and cookies, then please please please do so. You have at least one guaranteed customer.


Anonymous,  September 4, 2009 at 5:36 PM  

As somebody who wrote a phd dissertation in about 10 different coffee houses in Austin, Texas, I am TOTALLY with you on this one.

Munch had its quirks (some more endearing than others), but it was something at least! Caribou would be welcome, and a non-chain even more so...I'm also hoping Europan will have a decent atmosphere.

Anonymous,  September 7, 2009 at 10:40 PM  

Yes PLEASE, it should not be so difficult to find a decent coffee shop in which to hang out or meet up with someone. I know Forest Hills just is not hip, but someone please help. We are dying here! And I really believe that people will come...

Jeff September 10, 2009 at 9:39 PM  

There's a place on Yellowstone (or is it Selfridge)? Right around Ingram. I've almost never seen anyone in there, and it's not a good location. But it's something. Can't remember the name, though

Jon September 10, 2009 at 10:16 PM  

You're thinking of Maggie's Dream Cafe. It's a euro-esque panini/gyro place. Less a coffee bar than a diner with apparently fancy desserts.

Jeff September 12, 2009 at 10:31 PM  

Fair enough. I didn't realize the food menu was as extensive as it is. Only time I was in there was a day I was desperate for WiFi and didn't want to deal with Starbucks. I just had coffee, but you're right -- not quite a coffee bar.

Anonymous,  September 21, 2009 at 9:40 AM  

So where are the two or three closest-to-Forest-Hills independent coffee bars? (With free wifi as bonus.) Anyone have suggestions?

Anonymous,  October 5, 2009 at 2:16 PM  

How about Metro Cafe on Metropolitan just off of 71st? Coffee and food are OK, atmosphere is nice. Don't know about the free wi-fi.

Jon Parker October 5, 2009 at 3:09 PM  

I've been to Metro all of maybe three times. My impression is that they're a winebarcoffeeshopcaferestaurant.

Coffee bars and wine bars like cushy sofas, which Metro has. However, Metro doesn't have an impressive wine selection (Kendall Jackson and Yellow Tail do not count as impressive).
Nor is there an espresso menu worth writing home about.

In the meantime, their front section is like a cafe/restaurant, but the menu is mostly burgers and sandwiches.

The short of it is that Metro doesn't yet know what it wants to be. If I were to review it tomorrow, I'd list it under "diner".

While I'd LOVE a real wine bar (future rant to come) and I'd LOVE a real coffee bar, Metro is neither of those. If it wants to be coffee, fine. Ditch the food and bar and focus on coffee and pastries. If it wants to be a wine bar, fine, forget pastries and coffees and create a small-plates, non-generic, wine compatible menu. There are plenty of wine bars in Manhattan to draw inspiration from.

And no, they don't have wifi.

Anonymous,  October 14, 2009 at 2:56 PM  

Amen. It's amazing that in such a walkable neighborhood there are so few walk-in places near Austin Street and Continental.

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