>> Thursday, December 4, 2014

71-60 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-0604

I've lived in Forest Hills for the better part of ten years. But I'm from Manhattan and I do miss it. That said, these days, it's sometimes easy to forget that I'm not there. In the past few years, Forest Hills has gotten wine bars, cocktails and craft beer, enough taxis to make midtown blush, concerts, expensive restaurants with pedigree chefs, brand-new luxury buildings, bakeries, hotter girls... Now, finally, our own independent cutesy coffee house. As soon as the 71st/Continental subway stop gets an art installation, this actually will be a Manhattan neighborhood.

Like I said. We now have an independent coffee place. Red Pipe Café (so-called because of the red pipe outside of the building that cannot be removed as per city regulations) on Austin Street. Housed in what used to be the hippyish Stoa Jewelry, you can wander in, get an organic café au lait, pop open your laptop and use the free wifi to write a restaurant review or wade through your emails while drinking your brewed goodness from a (thank Christ) non-paper cup.

It's not a huge space, and never have I seen all the tables taken, but I don't see that lasting for long. It's a shame that there aren't any cushy chairs to sink into with a book, but I make that complaint about every coffee shop I've been to since college. I know I know. This isn't my living room or the library. Still. A few cushy chairs and a fake fireplace would be awesome. I love the exposed brick and the dim lighting and the artwork (which they need more of), but there are some growing pain issues at least as of this writing in early December. No plates for your food, for one. Boxes of packing peanuts stacked up in the open for another. There's a piano taking up a lot of space on one wall that, during the day, looks like it was in someone's apartment until they decided that a coffee shop is cheaper than a mini-storage unit. (At night, it actually gets used for live jazz.)

A very welcome addition to the neighborhood, Red Pipe serves, in addition to organic coffees and teas, vegan pastries and cookies, sandwiches, juices, and smoothies. They're even applying for a wine and beer license. When that happens, I'm curious to see the changes. Maybe there'll be a poetry reading or art gallery night or something chill to mirror the jazzy music that they play.

Expect to spend about $5 for your large espresso-based beverage of choice. $2 for the small coffee.

UPDATE 2/10/15: 
The boxes are gone. The sofas are back.


Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life December 5, 2014 at 4:04 PM  

I get a latte here every weekend. Nice addition to the neighborhood for sure.

Anonymous,  December 9, 2014 at 8:53 PM  

A fine addition. The sidewalk photo even looks like it was taken somewhere in Midtown!

Anonymous,  December 11, 2014 at 5:44 PM  

They need to tone the message down on the 'organic'. Just put it in the title; the menu doesn't have to be:
Organic deviled eggs
Organic kale sandwich
Organic blah blah blah

And they need a better line system; it's hard to know who just ordered!

Anonymous,  December 13, 2014 at 10:27 AM  

Haven't been there, but I commend them on a clever name. Some of the names around here are really weak. 'The Flying Pig' (stealing the name Spotted Pig and stripping it of all originality). The Grill. Organic Market. And here's my favorite - "718". Emily's Sugar Rush was ok, but unfortunately, they forgot to write Emily's Business Plan.

Anonymous,  January 2, 2015 at 12:59 AM  

I get that they stress organic because of some of the prices. Love the food options, there is something for everyone. A printed menu would be nice, the boards are hard for some of us to read.

Susan May 2, 2015 at 10:41 AM  

And Red Pipe is clearly reaping the benefits of filling that void. Even mid-day during the week it can be difficult to find seating.

In regards to the food, all I can say is that the salad I've had is perfectly fine. Not much that can go wrong with a salad, as long as you're using fresh ingredients (which Red Pipe does).

As for the baked goods, they look delicious, but not something I eat so I'll let others comment on that.

First and foremost, this is a coffee shop, so let's get down to business.

My very first cup of coffee at Red Pipe, on one wet, dreary night was delicious. My next visit was on what I believe to be a Wednesday night when they had live music. Awesome. The guitarist was great, and another good cup of coffee.

Over the course of several months, I had some good cups of coffee ($3 for a large, which they may or may not inform you comes with 1 refill. Finally one of the servers clued me in on that), and some that tasted a little "off" to me.

Still, I really enjoyed heading over on Saturday mornings to listen to the music, have a cup and do a little reading. It has become a habit. One which I now need to break.

About 6-weeks ago I popped in mid-week to take a break from work. Ordered a large coffee which tasted as bitter as could be. My bad for not saying anything at that time to the Barista working the counter. I drank about 1/3 of the cup and left. At $3, that's a pricey 1/3rd.

About 1-month ago I'm sitting there on a Saturday morning having a so-so cup of coffee (sometimes it just tastes strangely off, other times, downright bitter). An elderly man sits at the table next to me, takes a sip of his coffee and makes a face that would clearly indicate he was not happy.

He mentions to one of the servers that the coffee was extremely bitter. The server never offers to brew him a new cup, but they chat a while about it and the man mentions that he grew up in Italy, and knows good coffee (it was a pretty amusing conversation!). The server mentions that the Barista used to work in Italy, and has him come over.

Susan May 2, 2015 at 10:41 AM  

Bottom line, the Barista never concedes that maybe there's a problem with the brew. He doesn't even offer to give the man another cup. Man takes a few more sips, and leaves.

Now flash forward to this morning. It's a gorgeous day, and they have the windows open. Seats are available. I'm pretty darn happy. Order a large coffee. Take two sips and it's horrible.

I go to the Barista and say that this has happened before and I haven't said anything, but I want them to know that the coffee tastes bad and I'd like a fresh cup. Seriously, I was just being stared at for a few seconds. It's as if the world had come to an end.

He explains that he just poured it (out of a thermal beverage container), and he was willing to give me a fresh cup --- out of the same beverage container.

Fed up, I told them I'm pretty much done with the place and left. I did hear one of the workers say they'd give me my money back, but I left without taking it. Probably not very smart of me, but they can keep it since it will be the last $3 they get out of me.

There's a few problems that I see in regards to Red Pipe -

1) If you're paying $3 for a cup of coffee, it should be fresh brewed. NOT served out of thermal beverage containers. He brews a bad pot, any cup he pours out of that is going to be bad.

2) The coffee is inconsistent, for the reasons noted above.

3) The service really is not very good (the exception is when the woman is working the counter). The Barista and two workers look lost half the time, and if you do order a large cup, no one will come around to give you your refill.

Red Pipe will do just fine without my business. They will continue to pack in the Forest Hills community for the sheer reason that other options don't exist.

Then again, what an incredible opportunity for prospective cafe owner.

Jon Parker May 2, 2015 at 11:34 PM  

Well, Susan, yet again, I have to agree. I love the atmosphere, but their regular drip coffee is terrible. I go to Starbucks or La Boulangerie (or the bodega across the street from my front door) when I want quick Joe. Once a month, when I want to spend an hour at a cafe with my laptop, I get the latte.

Susan May 14, 2015 at 1:45 PM  

Jon, I get my daily cup of Joe at the bagel store across the street from me. Certainly not the best, but I'm at least able to drink it.

I give the Red Pipe guys credit in that they found a "need" within the neighborhood and jumped on the opportunity. Place is typically bustling, regardless of the day.

Their Yelp reviews continue to be a head-scratcher to me. Positive reviews from regular reviewers. I don't get it.

Thanks for making me feel that I'm not crazy!

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