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My Favorite NYC Coffehouse (Sorry)
by Matthew Amster-Burton

December 2, 1999

Laurie and I went to see You've Got Mail, that saccharine and overlong cuteness vehicle, at Sony Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side. The theater actually appears in the movie. So does the nearby statue of Verdi and the Starbucks on Broadway. Rather than giving us a sense of belonging, though, the movie made us want to get back home to Morningside right away--its world was a phony New York, where everyone lives in a beautiful apartment, uses AOL as their ISP, and of course stops off in the morning at Starbucks. The evil empire incarnate!

Well, I have a confession to make. When I dissed Tom and Meg's morning Starbucks routine, I was covering for my latent tendencies. You see, my favorite coffeehouse in New York is a Starbucks, and it's on the Upper West Side. It's not the one on Broadway, though--it's at Columbus and 86th. (That's difference enough, right?)

For a few months I took voice lessons from this nice teacher on West 88th. (Her favorite former student: Jon Bon Jovi.) One night I was running early and wanted some hot tea, so I went to the nearest place even though it was a Starbucks. Perhaps it was my low expectations that allowed me to be so impressed, but the place could not have felt more welcoming on that night. It's a long, thin space, with comfortable overstuffed chairs and couches throughout. There are free newspapers scattered near the chairs. I had a tasty cup of chamomile and couldn't resist trying an espresso brownie, which was so rich that they were sold by the half-square, cut diagonally like a PB&J. Yes, $1.95 for half a brownie is ridiculous, and it's no St. Famous, but that wasn't the last time I bought one, since it went perfectly with my preferred espresso drink, a single decaf con panna.

But it gets worse. A few weeks later, I was early to Sunday Night Improv and stumbled up Broadway to 102nd, where I found an equally lovable Starbucks location, this one more square than the Columbus spot but with even more couches and just enough of that funky Broadway-in-the-100s feel. [HOME]

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