Two Doors, Four Dollars, Six Chairs: Gasoline Alley Coffee

I’m not sure how I feel about coffee shops with a purposeful dearth of seating.  On one hand, I get it.  They want their cafe to be about drinking good coffee, not giving the self-employed an office.  Everyone should be able to come, get a cappuccino, sit for awhile and then leave.  Simple, right?

Yet, it seems wrong that so many cafes  lay out their spaces to discourage the self-employed armies, and other people who would like to sit and relax whilst enjoying their cappuccino, from colonizing.  Go to Starbucks, some might say, but does anyone really want to go to Starbucks?  Besides, getting a seat at any Starbucks in New York is really, really hard.

That’s what I was thinking as I waited for my four-dollar cappuccino at Gasoline Alley Coffee one Friday in mid-April.  The space isn’t exactly small, this isn’t like Abraço or even Third Rail Coffee; it’s more on par with Bowery Coffee.  Yet, the seating is non-existant, well more or less.  They have some benches outside, on either side of the cafe, and about six stools inside.  The space is not, however, designed to encourage lingering.

I guess, that’s okay, right?  If they don’t want you to sit down, well then why would you want to.  That might just get uncomfortable.  Yet, it’s a bit wrong to exclude people from space, especially in a city like New York where it’s so limited.  Gasoline Alley Coffee exuded the hip atmosphere that might view spatial limitations as positive.

That being said, there was a guy sitting down at one of the stools eating a croissant along with his iced coffee, so I guess people do want to sit there.  At least a bit.

Gasoline Alley Coffee is on Lafayatte street in the awkward triangle bit, just a block up from Houston.  The cafe extends the width of the block allowing the large doors and windows to open on either side and let the light stream in.  In front of each they have two orange benches set up, which are very pleasant for sitting on.  They make up, a teeny-bit, for the lack of seats inside.

The space is very light and modern with chrome and red accents.  It feels very cool and it feels very new New York.

So, how was the coffee?  Surprisingly good, though perhaps not worth the four dollars they charged me.

My cappuccino had a good amount of foam, though I would have preferred just a bit more, and a nice milk-to-coffee ratio.  The coffee was pleasantly smooth tasting, though with enough of a bite to avoid the feeling of drinking milk.  As far as cappuccini in New York go, it is definitely one of the better specimens.

Why isn’t it worth the four dollars then?  Over the course of my “serious” coffee drinking in New York, I’ve found the average price for a cappuccino to be about $3.50.  A latte can range from $3.50 to $4, some places stagger their prices depending on how much milk is in the drink.  Ultimately, you can get a cappuccino that is on par with this one for less money.  That’s not to say that one shouldn’t go to Gasoline Alley coffee, I definitely will go back, but something to think about.  Their drink prices weren’t staggered.  Everything, except for the macchiato and mocha that cost $3.75 and $4.50 respectively, cost $4.

Still, the deal is better than Starbucks.  As is the atmosphere and the service.  If you want to grab a good cup of coffee, either to take-away or drink on a bench with a friends, Gasoline Alley Coffee is as good a bet as any in NoHo.  Don’t forget them between La Colombe and Gimme! Coffee.  They’re just as good, if not better.

What is the average prices for a cappuccino/latte/filter coffee where you live?


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