Manhattan, April 21, 2007: “My nose is going haywire this morning. Perhaps this is because when I travel I have to put off my morning brew until I can get from my hotel to a decent coffeehouse. Am I ever glad, then, that I discovered Grounded.”
I am a coffee fiend. Each day I venture out from work for an extended lunch break at my local coffeehouse, where I ruminate over a Fair Trade, organically-grown dark roast blend, a newspaper, and a notebook. Naturally, when I travel, I do not like to give up this daily routine. However, since finding a good independent coffeehouse is often left to word-of-mouth recommendation, I am sometimes forced to suffice with below-grade medium roast coffee or to chance it on espressos made by inexperienced baristas.
While my previous coffeehouse experiences in New York have been hit-and-miss, I seem to have stumbled over a great, unpretentious spot to enjoy a brew and gather my thoughts between bouts of aggressive phototouring. Lodged into a fifteen foot-wide crack between Victorian buildings on Jane Street in the West Village, Grounded is difficult to find amidst the brownstone rowhouses that fold over one another in this maze of a neighbourhood. To this travelling Canadian, though, it appeared as an oasis — an independent coffeehouse in the Village that serves fair trade coffee, isn’t overpriced, and hasn’t been overrun by scenesters or stroller moms.
“‘Grounded’ gives a free refill when you order a two-dollar coffee to stay. The coffee, a house blend, is a medium-dark roast and goes doen smoothly without any remarkable palette sensations nor any untoward sharpness. The coffeehouse advertises Fair Trade coffees, but I am as yet unaware if the House Blend is among them [I later found out that it is].”
When one enters Grounded, they are immediately met with an odor akin to cooking macaroni and cheese. Although the store offers toasted breads and snacks, I did not find out what exactly was the source of that mysterious smell — so homely a smell to a Canadian who was raised on Kraft Dinner (but has since moved on to less processed cuisine). The homely aura of the coffeehouse is heightened by a seating area which is cozy but comfortable. The owners of Grounded have managed to stuff a surprising amount of seats into the length of the nineteenth-century building, whose brick walls are exposed to the patrons inside. The area doesn’t feel cramped, though, and while I visited it was never more than two-thirds full (a relief compared to the commotion within other New York coffeehouses that I have visited). Vases with daffodils adorn the tops of each of the tables, and a large, fully-stocked bookshelf covers most of the west wall of the shop, ready perusal of by caffeine-driven literature fiends.
“Titles on the bookshelf include Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, as well as Michael Palin’s ‘Hemingway’s Chair’. Also spotted: George Carlin’s ‘Brain Droppings’, ‘Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution’, ‘Windows 95 Secrets’, Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’… Something for everyone, indeed.”
“The human-to-dog patron ratio looks to be about 3:1. The store offers free wireless internet, and for those remaining Neanderthals who don’t own laptops (ahem, Ken), the cafe offers pay computer terminals near the entrance… Five dollars for thirty minutes of the wonderful world wide web! Hrm, after 24 oz of coffee, Ken feels much better.”
“They’re playing ‘Poets’ by the Hip this morning… Will they play all of Phantom Power? Stay tuned… Yep, the whole album. Turns out the barista is from Calgary.” Apparently Greenwich Village is a haven for young Canadian ex-pats. The featured drink while I visited Grounded was the Iced Canadian Latte, a sort of milky concoction complete with real maple syrup sweetener. While I visit New York City for an escape from the sometimes banal world of Ottawa, it was ironically comforting to, in a neighbourhood that bleeds the lingering presence of great American artists, hear some decidedly Canadian music coming from the cafe’s stereo system while being served good dark coffee by a fellow Canuck.
Do pay a visit to Grounded next time you’re in the West Village. It’s at 28 Jane Street, just east of positively W. 4th Street.
Tags: Cafés, Manhattan, Morning Coffee, New York