Location: Manhattan, NYC
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]
Sadly when many people think of a "convenience store" the concept only conjures up images of a Kwik-E-Mart, complete with the beef jerky, sub-par coffee and various unhealthy munchables to sate the general needs of the average consumer. By no means do I detest the existence of this variety of one-stop shops, as they absolutely serve their purpose (where else will you get a wrinkly hot dog and a gallon of milk at 3 AM?), but I more detest that by and large, there are few small-scale markets that take it to another level.
The best example of such an establishment taking it up several notches is a fine specimen in Manhattan called the Nolita Mart and Espresso Bar. Located right on Mott St north of Chinatown, this is the market I wish I had on my block. When you walk in through the glass entryway past the outside furniture, you first come upon a coffee bar constructed of weathered wood, white subway tile and other elements birthed of superbly crafted design. The coffee comes from multiple roasters near and far, such as Stumptown, Victrola, Cuvee and Chromatic, with new roasters coming in periodically. And this beefy espresso bar is but one of three strong facets of the place. Right behind the coffee bar you come upon a rotating, six tap growler filling station complimented with additional prepackaged craft beer options, a gorgeous sight for someone who lives in the reality of Jersey laws where beer only is purchased in a liquor store. The final great aspect noted in the first part of the shop's name is the small grocery that takes up the other half of the space, a convenient supply chock full of sustainable, eco-friendly and/or local items.
That fine day of my visit, I was only in need of coffee, so I ordered an espresso of Stumptown's Hairbender and a pourover of Victrola's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, doled out notes of chocolate, lemon, basil, some rhubarb and light cloves, making for a good pull of Hairbender. The pourover of Yirgacheffe gushed chocolate, blueberry, heavy cream, a little limeade and a touch of poppyseed bagel, proving smooth and immensely flavorful.
Later on that afternoon, I realized how sad it is that there are not more entities like the Nolita Mart and Espresso Bar in the nation, as I can think of few other stores of similar ilk that come even close to comparing to the wondrous qualities I beheld that day (especially in the northeast, it's pretty much impossible to stop at the same place and walk out with good coffee, great ale and a gallon of milk). If you find yourself in Nolita, make your way over to the mart on Mott Street for a visit.