As the New York coffee turf battle continues, it seems not unsurprising that Ground Support, an Intelligentsia account, opened up just around the corner from City Girl Cafe, server of Stumptown coffee. I suppose the only question is why it took Ground Control, open for only half a year, so long to do so. City Girl has been serving Stumptown for over a year and served Counter Culture before that. Of course, given the path taken by other cafes such as Ninth Street Espresso with regard to roasters, it seems like City Girl could very well be on a trajectory of becoming an Intelligentsia wholesale client by sometime in 2011.
I don’t know if Ground Support and City Girl provide something of a window into the brief history of specialty coffee in New York City and how that movement has affected design, but compared to Ground Support’s more slick approach, City Girl seems to reflect something more of New York cafes of yore. The tables are the standard marble top variety, the wood bar is unassuming, the display cases seem ordinary and the overall vibe is far from eye catching. There are nice touches like the crystal chandelier, the deco girl paintings and statues, and the large coffee cup shingle hanging above the door. Overall, though, City Girl resembles a tricked out version of a typical New York City cafe that happens to serve better than typical coffee along with homemade baked goods.
City Girl staff pull Hair Bender shots on their three group La Marzocco Linea. I wasn’t too impressed with this particularly long shot of Hair Bender. It had some good chocolate notes and wasn’t bitter but it lacked the depth and nuance this blend can have at its best. Instead it struck me as a bit heavy, leaning towards musty. (3-)
I was excited to see City Girl offers up a real range of filter coffees, with three different choices caffeinated choices. I believe they brew these on a Fetco (please correct me if I’m wrong) and store the coffee in air pots. I opted for the Colombia El Jordan, which was a nice nutty coffee, clean with some lime acid notes. It was generally a good, but unremarkable coffee (3).
City Girl represents a class of New York cafe a bit like Blue Spoon or The Brooklyn Standard, which somehow inevitably falls short for me. These places do a decent, but somehow substandard job with a high quality coffee product and due to the oddities of New Yorker myopia are likely a welcome addition on their own block despite the availability of better coffee right near by. The power of this myopia is not to be overlooked in a place like New York where many people consider a neighborhood other than their own something almost akin to a foreign country (many upper east/west-siders might scratch their head in confusion if you asked them when the last time was they had traveled to the other side of the borough). That said, a place like City Girl would be a great leap forward in many parts of the country or even many parts of this same city, like the Upper East side, which are nearly devoid of anything resembling a cup of coffee as good as this.