Coffee Chronicles: One Sunday Morning, Two Cafe Pedlars

"The macchiato at Cafe Pedlar in Brooklyn could make me a regular."


[Photographs: Allison Hemler]

Grabbing a cup of coffee can be as routine as brushing one's teeth--and like most of us will only go for Aquafresh or Crest, say, coffee fits the same profile. A visit to the bodega will not yield the same results as Gimme or La Colombe. When you've chosen the cafe you'll visit regularly, most people stick with one drink and don't budge. However, I've never been the regular type--my choice of drink varies with the day of the week and my estrogen levels.

Since I write about coffee, I'm constantly doing research on the big independent roasters and the tiny cafes that are popping up across our great city. Thankfully I'm a grad student, too--it's in the job description to drink coffee.

One night, after eating dinner at Frankies 17 on the Lower East Side, I noticed the restaurant's annex had been transformed into a second outpost of the highly regarded Cafe Pedlar in Brooklyn, a collaboration between the Frankies and Duane Sorensen of Stumptown Coffee. Since it had been a while since I'd been to the Brooklyn outpost, I decided the next morning I'd take a visit.

A tale of two Cafe Pedlars, after the jump.

Cafe Pedlar, Brooklyn


Cafe Pedlar in Brooklyn--bright, and full of blue

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Twelve hours later, I entered the cafe, Sunday morning jazz playing through the speakers, an adorable scruffy barista behind the La Marzocco GB/5, no one in line. I felt like I was on vacation. An interaction with the stoic female on register brought me back down to New York reality, to the emotionless faces I remembered from my morning commute. (Here's hoping my barista might've gotten laid last night and would transfer his good vibes to my coffee.)

After two minutes, a macchiato ($3.50), adorned with a tulip and a halo of caramel-colored crema with milk textured like a carefully steamed cappuccino, sat before me alongside my breakfast, a bundt-shaped olive oil cake. One sip, and I was enlightened--the macchiato at Cafe Pedlar could make me a regular, if only I didn't live in Jersey City, a PATH train and a subway ride away. So, after scraping my demitasse clean to inject as much of the Hair Bender Espresso from Stumptown into my veins as I could, I decided I'd try the new Cafe Pedlar in Manhattan to see if I could cross just one river to get my perfect drink.

Cafe Pedlar, Manhattan


Cafe Pedlar in Manhattan

Cafe Pedlar at 17 Clinton Street is about a quarter of the size of the original location, much darker in atmosphere, but all about the wooden tables and chairs with classic brown Stumptown porcelain mugs. Two twenty-somethings, in black Frankies 17 T-shirts, worked double duty on register, pulling shots behind a La Marzocco Linea. A macchiato later, I was slightly underwhelmed, at least appearance-wise, by the large air bubbles in the espresso and the organic white blob sitting on top of the deep brown crema. The texture simply didn't compare to the Brooklyn version, and the espresso and milk didn't mix to create that rich and silky flavor, but rather acted as one part espresso, one part foamy milk, until hitting the rest of the thin espresso beneath. All aside, I still drank every ounce.

While I didn't expect the exact recreation of my macchiato in Brooklyn, I wanted something to be as excited about, something I didn't have to leave Manhattan for. Afterwards, a friend of mine told me he's had good and not-as-good macchiatos at the Brooklyn outpost, but never bad. It's hard for me to imagine a Cafe Pedlar serving a bad macchiato when they have such serious baristas behind the bar and Duane Sorensen's coffee philosophy behind the scenes.

So while Cafe Pedlar in Manhattan isn't my holy grail, it's a fine attempt at bringing consistently impressive Stumptown espresso to the masses, and especially in such close proximity of such a fine restaurant (and if you're eating dinner at Frankies, please order the sweet sausage with polenta). For now, my leisurely cafe mornings will have to remain on the west side of Manhattan, until I move across the Hudson and East Rivers into the coffee mecca of Brooklyn.

Cafe Pedlar

210 Court Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 (at Warren Street; map) 718-855-7129

Cafe Pedlar

17 Clinton Street, New York NY 10002 (b/n East Houston Street and Stanton Street; map) 212-253-2303