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Esparks in Woodside

Just noticed this, sign must've gone up very recently. There's an Esparks opening up in the old hallmark store across 59th street from Engelines. I've read mixed things here and elsewhere about Esparks. My first reaction was that the basic area could be well served by a coffee-shop with wi-fi and seating and whatnot, even if it is a Starbucks clone and not a cute little homey place. The awning also says "sparksberry". Maybe they're doing yogurt as well?

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  1. Hadn't seen that and I walked by there just recently. I'll check it out. Their website shows Woodsite, among others outside of Queens, as a location..... hmmmm


    3 Replies
    1. re: deborah24

      This is bad news. Esparks is positively awful; they use real espresso machines and grinders, but don't hire people who know/care about coffee. There's very little training. Plus, the beans they use are cheap, stale, and even more over-roasted than Starbucks. I once purchased a bag of beans from the Astoria store, ground some up, loaded up my espresso machine, and it gagged, wheezed, and coughed up a rancid, crema-free mess that tasted like cigarette ash.

      I wonder how their Pinkberry ripoff will be. Maybe if y'all are lucky, they'll open up an Efara Pizzeria, too.

      1. re: PAL

        Gawd that sounds positively awful. Was just starting get to excited about getting an espresso within walking distance of my aparment.

        1. re: PAL

          and Sparksprhaphai? Sparksy and Tasty?

          Too bad. I love this little intersection of woodside and look forward to more interesting things joining the pleasant options already here.

      2. To me it tastes like motor oil mixed with mud and water. Disgusting.

        1. Sersiously, that signin huge. I don't see how I could have possibly missed it unless it went up in the last week. It looks just awful.

          1. It can't possibly be worse than that hallmark store with the dirty toys strewn in the windows. Can it?

            I have seen elsewhere mixed reviews of their coffee. Is it decent espresso in a pinch even? I feel obliged to boycott Starbucks, but must admit that their coffee is drinkable (if not great by any stretch). Around here all we have is drip coffee. Clearly this is not the coffee shop the hounds of Woodside have been longing for, but hopefully it is not as brutal as several of you say it will be.

            1. Esparks coffee isn't great, and the place is a stone Starbuck's knock-off, but still it will be nice to have a comfortable place to sit in the community with FREE wi-fi. That alone makes it better than the big green monster, and the OK Pinkberry knock-off yogurt makes it even better.

              But I'm still wondering who these Esparks guys are. Their website gives no hints, other than making it clear that the site was put together by non-native English speakers. They seem to be local, having opened their first place in Astoria, but they're now expanding all over Queens with a store already open for awhile in Elmhurst by the hospital, and new places going in that I've seen in Woodside, Ridgewood, and Glendale. They're even opening one in Manhattan near FIT.

              1. For the record, the "Esparks Coffee" in Woodside has not yet opened. I think the negative comments posted in this thread are unfair and unhelpful.

                5 Replies
                1. re: patsw

                  The negative comments are based on experiences at the other, open, Esparks outlets. While at the moment I welcome them coming to Woodside, the quality of their products as served at these other outlets could really use some improvement. I think it's quite fair to point out that, at present, Esparks coffee is pretty low quality, lower even than Starbucks, and perhaps it could be helpful if someone from Esparks reads these comments and does something to improve that situation. Then Woodside could have a business that's more than just a reasonably nice place to sit with some free wifi.

                  1. re: Woodside Al

                    As of April 5, the Esparks on Steinway is shuttered. Marshal's closure notice pasted to the door, handwritten For Rent signs in the window. Looks like things aren't going too well.

                    1. re: jmat

                      Maybe Kelly is right below. Expanded too quickly?

                      1. re: jmat

                        Anyone in the nabe have info on this? I would hate to see them go under, and so quickly!

                        1. re: KellyBelly

                          Well, the original one in Astoria is indeed gone. I saw them pulling out the furniture a couple of weeks ago. But, so far, the one in Elmhurst is still open, and they seem to be going ahead with opening new ones.

                  2. I'm curious to see how this goes over in Ridgewood and Glendale. Though the Ridgewood location (Myrtle and Onderdonk, across the street from Commerce) is a busy area with NO coffee type place, the Glendale location (64 st, by Stop and Shop) is mainly residential. They do have the large Kingdom Hall closeby though. The 2 locations are literally walking distance apart.

                    Seems as though Esparks might be opening too many locations too quickly. We all know what can happen then.

                    1. They seem to be moving along quickly now. The paper is off the windows and they have the counter installed, plus a bunch of other furniture. I did see what looks to be a frozen yogurt machine there as well, with 3 spouts.

                      There we people working in there at 9pm last night, so they must be really pushing to get it open. I would guess they'll be up and running the in next couple of weeks.

                      1. Esparks in Woodside opened today, and here's a little report for people who are interested: In general, I think it's a great addition to the neighborhood, which really lacked a good coffee shop of its genre (the coffee-and-wifi model). I’m glad to have a Starbucks imitator instead of Starbucks itself, mainly because I think they’ve done a better job with many things than Starbucks. Here’s what I like:

                        Free WiFi. I love them just for that.
                        Its spacious and bright, with comfortable places to sit.
                        The awnings and large windows: I’m not crazy about the huge white letters (although there is certainly far more garish signage in the neighborhood), but the awnings are an excellent choice because they block direct light so that they don’t have to use shades on the windows. That means there’s nice natural light and an open view, and you can sit by the window and still see a laptop screen.
                        Good music at the right volume.
                        Friendly staff.
                        Bagels. Starbucks doesn’t seem to sell bagels.
                        Reasonable prices.
                        The yoghurt. I had a free sample and thought it was pretty tasty, although I have no idea how it compares to the Pinkberry stuff. Hey, if you’re going to rip off one popular chain, why not rip off two and give people more of what they like?
                        Plenty of power outlets, even by the window seats.

                        The coffee I had (drip, not espresso) was ok. It ain’t Illy café, but you can buy worse at a lot of places in Woodside. That said, it would be nice if the coffee were really good.

                        The food selection is lackluster, and very Starbucksesque. If I were the Esparks people, I would get some of the local restaurants to make food packages to sell instead of the lame sandwich boxes. If they had lunch items from say, Sripraphai, Spicy Mina, and De Mole, they would totally rock (and probably get more business).

                        As for the ambiance, it does have the Starbucks-clone feel, which isn't ideal. I think that if they replaced the generic coffee-bean photos with work by a *good* local artist or photographer, that would go a long way toward giving the place more personality and a less corporate feel. Otherwise, the space is really nice, with good lighting, nice furniture, and what I think is a pleasant color scheme. It just needs a little more of a personal touch.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: sidurii

                          Excellent report sidurii. How many seats are there? I'm tempted to try going there for some studying this weekend.

                          1. re: sharonj

                            Well, I didn't count the chairs, and am not very good at estimating that sort of thing, but I'd say the seating is in the same ballpark as the Starbucks in Sunnyside. It's relatively large for a coffee place. It seemed to me that a lot of the customers were kids and people with kids (which makes the yoghurt key), and since they don't tend to stay very long, that might make Esparks an easier place to get a seat than some other cafes.

                          2. re: sidurii

                            i hope this doesn't sound snotty -- it's not meant in that spirit at all -- but what i get from this report is that:

                            1) the coffee at this coffee place is average/nothing special

                            2) the food component is mediocre at best

                            3) the decor is blah

                            the upside is that it's a large space where you can sit for a long period of time in peace,

                            somehow that doesn't strike me as enough to recommend an eating/drinking establshment.

                            but then again, when i think of going out for coffee, my main goal is to get a beverage (and perhaps a snack)

                            1. re: david sprague

                              "the upside is that it's a large space where you can sit for a long period of time in peace,"

                              ...and with free wifi (and frozen yogurt).

                              All things that are pretty scarce here in this part of Queens.

                              I wish an independent had had the vision to do this, like the nice little Espresso 77 in Jackson Heights, rather than a Starbuck's knock-off. There are lots and lots of places in this area to have good food, but almost no places to just hang around and relax other than Irish bars or the nasty Dunkin Donuts. Instead we seem to keep getting more places opening in this neighborhood like that weird little somewhat off-the-mark wannabe fast food sandwich shop/bakery on Roosevelt with no place to sit that (as the sign says) "served Halal food."

                              So, you've got to take what comes your way sometimes, and all the things said above are certainly more than enough to recommend the place to me.

                              1. re: Woodside Al

                                Are you talking about Pasha's, near 61st st? I had high hopes for it but the food I got wasn't so good. I was hoping for a quick sit-down version of decent halal street-cart chicken/lamb over rice type dishes. It seems to me places tend to open around here where they try to be all things to all people, serving every kind of dish imaginable, when they'd be better off focusing on something unique and special that perhaps they'd be good at.

                                1. re: Widmark

                                  Will see how the chain fares - I have not been yet but they seem to be getting a decent business from both coffee drinkers and yogurt consumers. Jury is still out on the coffee. Personally, I am just as happy not to have an espresso 77 type yuppie coffee joint in Woodside. Aside from the interminable strollers, the place is too tiny to sit for very long without feeling some pressure to buy anything, they have absolutely no shade whatsoever making it a miserable place to be in the afternoon, and most importantly I found the espresso to be just ok. Meh. I would rather go to Chivito de Oro on an off hour and have espresso there (they do an excellent job; lots of Italian cuisine in Uruguay, btw).

                                  On Pasha's (Roosevelt just west of 61st): A coffee shop it aint, thats for sure. Having had take out from there several times, I would rate it as above average halal cart food. They are also quick and efficient, which is helpful. Certainly nowhere near the level of the Broadway and 73rd carts...

                                  1. re: elbev

                                    re: pasha, what do you get there? I've only had the chicken over rice and while the first time I figured "this is quick and fine" the next time it didn't fare so well.

                                    1. re: Widmark

                                      Same thing - chicken + rice combo. I get it with all three sauces on the side (the green and white are important, the red is too vinegary), since I take it to work and eat in later. Once I had the chicken biryani instead since the c+r would mean a longish wait. Both were fine. By no means outstanding, but made for a tasty lunch after I heated them up later in the day.

                                  2. re: Widmark

                                    I agree about espresso 77, too small, too Yuppie, too pretentious-coffee overrated as I see it. If a want a cup of gimme coffee coffee, I'd gladly wait on line at the original in Williamsburg. I have actually had mixed experiences with the esparks in Elmhurst. The last one I had a great cup of cappucino. I agree about the limited food choices, but, it's fresh.

                                    1. re: foodforthought2

                                      i happen to like espresso 77, although i will grant that it can get a bit too yuppie-ish, clientele wise, at times. but as far as "gladly wait[ing] on line at the original" gimme coffee, i sincerely doubt you'd be willing to travel 45-60 minutes with several subway transfers to get a cup of coffee if you could walk two blocks for the same brew. are you *really* that dedicated?

                                      1. re: david sprague

                                        I usually go to Starbucks, Letys, or Pan Fino for coffee, while in Jackson Heights. however, I do like to go to Williamsburg often enough for other reasons. I also think that Gimme makes it much better, not the same to me.

                                        1. re: foodforthought2

                                          i love the pastries at lety's and the general vibe at pan fino (i've only set foot in a starbucks three times in my life and disliked all three experiences), so i guess it's one of those different strokes situations.....

                                2. re: david sprague

                                  To reply to David Sprague, yes, the way you understood my little report was about right, except for the part about the blah decor. The decor lacks personality, but it's pleasant enough and the big windows are great. (And the blatant Starbucks rip-off does have its entertaining points. For example, I noticed that while the boards list small, medium, and large sizes, if you order a large, it comes up on the register as "Venti." Cracked me up.) If you're a student or are self-employed or writing the Great American Novel, you will probably appreciate Esparks. If your priority is above-average coffee, you'd be better off picking up a cup at HaNae and drinking it in the park in front of the Duane Reade. Personally, I'm thrilled to have Esparks in the neighborhood, but there's nothing snotty about saying it's unremarkable in terms of the eating and drinking options. After all, this is Chowhound, not Hanging-Out-With-Your-Laptop-Hound.

                                  1. re: sidurii

                                    I happened to be driving on Metroplitan ave and Copper Ave and noticed they are oping up a Esparks there if anyone is intrested I personaly dont fdrink coffee so I wont go but to those who do here you go.

                              2. So about a week ago, seemingly overnight, Esparks in Woodside turned into...Cafescape. Similar fancy sign...remodelled interior. Esparks rebranding or new owners?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Widmark

                                  Sunnyside has an Esparks under construction at 45th and Greenpoint Avenue. It will probably be popular with the Jehovah's Witnesses crowds across the street.

                                  1. re: Widmark

                                    According to the owner-manager in Woodside, he's independent and bought out Esparks to operate at this location. He's changed the primary coffee he serves. So if you thought as I did that the old coffee tasted burnt, give cafe-escape a shot.

                                    1. re: patsw

                                      Any chance they now have hazelnut coffee with the actual beans?