Location: 155 East 52nd Street (Between 3rd Ave. & Lexington Ave.)
One of the really cool things about all the espresso places around New York City is how wildly different they can look and feel between one another. Ground Central Coffee is an instance where the spectacle of the store’s interior is as much of a draw as the coffee and food itself.
Ground Central Coffee is an instance where the the store’s interior is as much of a draw as the coffee and food itself.
The decor of Ground Central evokes a feeling that’s less like being in someone’s house or living room, and more like being inside of someone’s actual mind. If that mind contained small sandwiches, fresh cookies, and some lovingly crafted Counter Culture espresso beverages. So… basically any mind I would want to be inside, anyway.
In the front, the walls have some really intricate white-on-black art painted directly on them; some parts of it evoke the thick linework of the New York subway system, but there are also some interesting individual pieces inter-dispersed amongst the “stops” as well, kind of like tattoos of sorts floating over the small tables where people converse and study/write/read whatever they like. (Those tables also happen to be a great place to grade papers, as I’ve found out. Figuring out people’s work goes much faster when you’re mainlining caffeine like whoa.)
Head up a narrow ramp or couple of steps, and the rear opens up into a bunch of leather sofas, flanked by metal end tables and framed by bookshelves and some really ornate wallpaper. If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it’s like to drink your espresso while waiting for your trip in/out of the Matrix, I think this is pretty much your answer.
It’s about the ambiance, the things you see and hear while you’re actually enjoying your drink that really seals the deal in your mind of it feeling good or bad.
Now, I don’t really make any claims of having a particularly well-trained palate when it comes to coffee; I might be able to tell if my French press has been sitting around for a little too long but I’m too much of a savage to be able to really appreciate the finer distinctions between a Burundi or Tanzania microlot, for instance. Suffice to say that I just enjoy a really memorable experience. And, like I eluded to when I gushed about the face-meltingly awesome smell of baking muffins at Rex Coffee, that experience reaches far beyond the coffee or espresso itself. It’s about the ambiance, the things you see and hear while you’re actually enjoying your drink that really seals the deal in your mind of it feeling good or bad. You could get the same coffee on the go, and it won’t seem nearly as tasty – not just because you’re drinking it out of a ceramic mug versus a paper cup (though that certainly does play a role, more on that another time), but because instead of hearing jazz and watching people take a load off, you’re hearing traffic scream by while pedestrians are running around. Not really the same.
So, uh… I’m not sure where I was going with that. Experiences change perception of things tasting good, I guess. And certainly, Ground Central was one place where that experience is really out there. Great stuff.