The snow started to fall just after my arrival in Manhattan, and it didn’t let up for more than a day. Coffeehouses helped to keep me warm (and well caffeinated) throughout the blizzard, including Third Rail Coffee, a coffeehouse that became a priority after local coffee pro Mike White singled it out for my New York City Coffee Culture Status Report.
At the time of my visit, Third Rail had been open for about two years near NYU in Greenwich Village. Owners Humberto Ricardo and Rita McCaffrey transformed a Jamaican pattie shop. The name refers to the third rail in an electric subway line that carries the current and can electrocute people who touch it. Thankfully there was nothing so treacherous in the tiny coffeehouse.
The small, glass fronted cafe features a single brick wall, six circular wood tables and wraparound banquette seating. It’s primarily about the coffee, though they do source pastries from CeciCela, Balthazar and Park Slope’s Blue Sky Bakery, which is best known for its muffins.
Bags of Hairbender and Black Cat sat side by side on the shelf. When I mentioned that Intelligentsia and Stumptown are an “unlikely combination,” Griffin said, “No, they’re a likely combination; they’re both great.” Good point, and even though multi-roaster coffeehouses have become commonplace, it was still somewhat surprising to see those particular companies share shelf space.
Once Griffin learned my local shop was a branch of Intelligentsia, he pulled a double shot of Hairbender on a shiny La Marzocco espresso machine, which was not quite as bright as Black Cat, but still good. After taking a pre-dawn flight from Charleston, a caffeine onslaught was necessary. My next hit came from Finca El Injerto ($3.95), also courtesy of Stumptown, brewed via Chemex.
This wasn’t my last visit to Third Rail during the course of the week, and if I lived in New York, it would certainly be part of the coffee circuit.