Grounded Coffee and Tea House

Manhattan, New York

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This is not a coffee forum. This is a compendium of observations of cafe and coffeehouse culture. We have never adopted an official definition, but in the backrooms and penthouse suites of cafetableaux, there have occurred vigorous debates of what constitutes a suitable establishment for coverage on this website.

Coffee-centrism is obviously critical, but how can this be defined? Is it the amount of space on the menu and in the program devoted to coffee-based drinks? Is it the prominence of the espresso machine? Is it represented by keywords such as ‘bean’, ‘buzz’, or ‘grounds’ in the name of the establishment? Can the importance of coffee to the proprietors be judged based on whether the brew is served from an vacuum airpot, an urn, or a carafe?

Cafe 14

Not suitable for cafe tableaux.

One branch of confusion stems from the misuse of the term ‘cafe’; businesses that may be more described as ‘bistros’ or even ‘restaurants’ include ‘cafe’ in their name, perhaps in an effort to make known the light-hearted atmosphere, assuring the slovenly-dressed patrons — typically averse to mature dining — that there will be televisions overhead and plastic chairs for seating adjacent to the parking lot. The term ‘coffeeshop’ seems interchangeable with ‘diner’ — a place where one would expect a mayonnaised sandwich to arrive with a pickle wedge and a pile of ridged potato chips.

There are, at least, some conditions that clarify what is unsuitable for a tableaux:

  • Orders are taken at your table.
  • There are tablecloths.
  • Food is prepared on a stove, to order.
  • A waiter refills your cup at your seat.
  • You need a knife and fork.

If any of these rules apply, then unfortunately ‘sNice is not suitable for review on cafetableaux. This reviewer personally finds this to be a shame, as ‘sNice has proved to be a reliable base of operations on his late business sojourns to New York City — a place to comfortably while the hours between the arrival of the bus from the suburbs and the start of class. Though constantly busy, ‘sNice is vast and generously spacious; aside from ska, the music is a generally pleasant background; and your hours can be sustained by Philly-Style Seitan sandwiches, Spicy Buffalo Soy Wrap, or a Smoked Tofu Panini — finished off with vegan blondies, apple muffins, and cookie/soy cream sandwiches.

Considering that ‘sNice may not be reviewed on CT, then, our discovery one morning of Grounded after the nigh-fiasco of stepping into Tartine, is all the more fortuitous, as it enables the dropping of ‘sNice’s name into a review as well as serves as a foil for the neighborhood to nearby Tartine: we had come across Grounded shortly after being snubbed out of that misadventure, spurring effusive curses and angry vows to visit immediately upon the next arrival to New York City. With awareness of my propensity for losing my sense of direction, I shakily sketched a map onto the back of a business card assuring an unhitched return.

Grounded Coffee and Tea House

Although at least half of my entries into Grounded have been followed by an immediate exit, sans beverage, due to their eight tables are almost invariably occupied, Grounded is always worth the attempt, as it is a rare innocent cafe in New York. There is no ‘large coffee for here’; they will give you a mug and tell you to return for a refill. Slid into a space that was possibly once a garage, it maintains that notion of honesty; it neither obliterates the previous state of use nor fills a blank inauthentic pretenses. I wistfully imagine some anarcho-hippies being teleported from Missoula or Madison and finding the empty chamber ideal for their cafe. They write the prices for Fair Trade coffee and tofutti on the wall, hang their shingle above the door, and leave it at that. Warmly illuminated via a skylight, only the tacky — pervasive in the city — pay-as-you-go internet stations rouses me from my reverie and remind me of the tumultuous metropolis outside its door.

Taking refuge from Tuesday’s rain in ‘sNice, I’ll try Grounded again Thursday.

UPDATE: Since the original posting of this tableau, Grounded has expanded; they now have vastly more than ‘eight tables’. Don’t let the fear of not finding a seat keep you away!

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Grounded Coffee and Tea House

28 Jane Street
Greenwich Village
Manhattan, New York 10014

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