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Aug 26, 2007 08:05 AM

La Colombe Espresso Bar

Had the pleasure of going to the newly opened La Colombe espresso bar at 319 Church St (one block south of Canal). Serving the "high-end" coffee of a Philadelphia-based roaster, it's a classic espresso shop very much in the Roman mold--no special flavorings, iced coffees, etc. Atmosphere is classically Italian as well, with attentive baristas, carefully prepared drinks, and a management staff that seems European in dress and manner. The coffee is supposedly served at places like Le Bernadin and other "4-star" establishments (which is not something necessarily worth bragging about, since I've rarely found good coffee at any pricey restaurant--they simply don't have the time or inclination to prepare it properly and generally seem to go for the Illy pod approach). Nevertheless, I found both the espresso and decaf lattes quite good, with a strong, pleasantly sharp flavor. Drinks are beautifully presented by some of the most professional baristas in New York (none of whom, oddly enough, are covered from finger to shoulder in tatoos). The place is well worth visiting, if only to sample is comfortably austere vibe and its B+ espresso. Still, Joe's the art of coffee has nothing to worry about--its Barrington Roaster beans are in a class of their own.

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  1. Hi BGRose,

    Thanks for your review! I read an article in NYT or NYM about this cafe. Wondering if they serve any food (pastry or salad or sandwich?). Also, how many seats do they have? Do you think it is a good place for a few friends or just a single person to spend an afternoon?

    Since you mentioned that it is B+ espresso, could you recommend a place that serves A level espresso? I am novice in judging coffee but sure want to learn!

    Thanks again for the wonderful review.

    4 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      they serve only a few types of pastries and cookies. They have 5 small tables (seating 2-3), but they're spaced comfortably apart. From being there about 10 minutes, it seems to be a nice place to settle in (though I don't know if they have WiFi--I would guess that would go against their prevailing aesthetic).
      In terms of "A" quality espresso, I'd recommend both locations of Joe's the Art of Coffee (Wavely Pl. and 13th St.), Red Horse Cafe in Park Slope (which also serves Barrington Roasters beans) and Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea and Greenpoint, Brooklyn). For a less savory and pleasant experience, but for superb coffee, try Gimme Coffee in Williamsburg.

      1. re: BGRose

        Thanks BGRose! I will check them out!

        1. re: kobetobiko

          A third location for Joe is in the Alessi showroom on Greene between Prince and Houston.

      2. re: kobetobiko

        Hi kobetobiko,

        We wrote about La Colombe last week and really liked it--we have been drinking coffee made from their beans for quite a while now (via Casa Cupcake and its very fine espresso drinks). They do have pastries--all of them come from Petrossian Bakery.



      3. thank you thank you for this post!!!! I was raised in philadelphia, and went to college there, and i have been a la columbe devotee for over ten years. I buy their beans 5 pounds at a time over the internet ... they're the only ones i'll use at home for brewed coffee. i did not, however, realize that la columbe had come to new york. i can't wait to go!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jcd

          La Columbe has the best capuccino in the country. There may be others as good, but none better. They don't do flash. They do elegance. I've been to Intelligentsia in Chicago (bah), Gimme! in Ithaca (strong but not elegant), and some other famous places. On a trip from DC to Storm King near West Point, I had us drive out of the way to Philly to go get coffees there. There were no complaints about the 2 plus hour detour after they had their coffee.

        2. Having drank La Colombe espresso on a daily basis for a couple years, I came to the opinion that it was light years ahead of the hordes of know-nothing coffee shops that serve the Starbucks-level "espresso" which is really burned coffee, but a couple steps behind the best. Cafe Grumpy and 9th St. Espresso (Counter Culture is their roaster is I remember correctly) serve an excellent cup, and the Intelligentsia roasted espresso at the recently shuttered Cafe Collage on Bleecker was also very well done. I tend to prefer my espresso a bit thicker than La Colombe pulls it. La Colombe is above average but it remains a mystery why it is served at so many top restaurants, but price and name recognition go a long ways.