The corner of West 45th street and 11th Avenue would not have been my first choice for the next NYC hipster food spot, but wait for it. Actually, don't even wait: tomorrow morning (November 20th) at 7am, the doors will open at the Gotham West Market, a reasonably sized, thoughtfully curated food market that brings together a handful of local and faraway food artisans and goods-purveyors. This place is poised to be (dare we say it?) a kinda European-styled food-hall that might even become a (dare we say this, too?) destination in Manhattan. And right there in the sunny corner window is the city's newest Blue Bottle Coffee.
“We were approached last fall,” said Aaron Nice, whose awesome coffee job is to scout future Blue Bottle locations on the East Coast. “They wanted to basically bring together people to create a lovely market space that could offer a unique experience in this neighbrohood. At that time it was only a couple of other operators who'd signed on—The Brooklyn Kitchen and Ivan Ramen. We loved those businesses and had heard rumors that Saltie was also in, which was exciting.”
The clean, kitchen-modern room was conceived by hospitality/design firm AvroKo, the team behind NYC restaurants like Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex and Madam Geneva (as well as the Kid Robot store.) Though Blue Bottle is well known for its softly minimal design aesthetic, AvroKo did the heavy lifting for Gotham West vendors.
“We were able to lay out our coffee bar and have a say in the equipment and the height of the counters and stuff like that, but in terms of the build-out, they were responsible for 95% of it, which gave the whole space this kind of seamless communal look,” said Nice, overlooking his black marble and walnut coffeebar. The space, which for the most part doesn't separate vendors with walls or barriers, flows nicely and effects a much-nicer-food-court feel. It also gives this Blue Bottle the most seating of any of their New York City locations, including a large, handsome communal table perfect for taking a meeting or spreading out with some a Gibraltar and some tonkatsu ramen and enjoying the free Wi-Fi.
The larger-than-kiosk-integrated cafe is a natural move for market-born roaster Blue Bottle, whose coffee iconically anchors the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, and whose New York presence among food markets like Smorgasburg and their seasonal High Line location has seen them keep only the finest culinary company.
That said, Gotham West Market employed only heavy hitters to make their Hell's Kitchen location a draw for food dorks citywide: Ivan Ramen's first location in North America is one such power play (though the space seems like it's hardly ready to accomodate the inevitable apocalyptic lineup), as is Saltie restaurateur Caroline Fidanza's Little Chef, which promises to transform Saltie's Williamsburg seasonal sandwich aesthetic into a more soup-and-salad orientation. They're joined as well by tapas/wine anchor El Comado, charcuterie boozecan the Cannibal, Genuine Roadside, and Court Street Grocers. And how's this going to fit into the city's flow? No problem: the market's open until 12am weeknights, and 2am weekends. (If getting there is still an obstacle, NYC Velo is operating validated bike valet parking, and there's a CitiBike stop at 46th and 11th if you've happened to hop on a bikeshare from the Port Authority.)
So far, Blue Bottle plans to operate under their usual 7am-7pm hours, but that may change depending on Market demand.
“We're starting simple with what we're doing thus far,” said store manager Derek Lingle.
“I think it's more about intrdoducing speciality coffee to a neighborhood that doesn't really have it at this point. So I think we're going to keep the really intense single origin insanity to a minimum for a little bit. We want to possibly start doing a Chemex for two on trays and send people off with it, but for the most part it's about introducing specialty coffee to Hell's Kitchen because it's just not here.”
Blue Bottle Gotham West Market will open with two single origin drip coffee offerings, Retrofit espresso and decaf espresso. The existing La Marzocco Strada EP will be soon replaced with a custom-built Kees van der Westen Spirit, which Lingle says is perfect for the supermodern location—”like the Jetsons.” The cafe's fancy, oft-photographed Kyoto-style drippers are absent here, with an eye to offering both Blue Bottle iced coffee styles on tap when the season's right.
So while the next few months will reveal exactly what the coffee lovers of Hell's Kitchen truly demand (it would be great to see a coffee bar open super-late in this city that supposedly never sleeps), in the meantime there's one bigger question yet unanswered. With perhaps the most unique view from any coffee bar in New York City, how will baristas decide which landmark, the Penthouse Executive Club, or the USS Intrepid (hello, Space Shuttle?!), onto which their breaktime gazes should fall? We'll be camped out over here with a shot of espresso and a glass of wine, eating a sandwich turned into a bowl of soup, waiting very patiently to find out.
Liz Clayton is a staff writer for Sprudge.com. Read more Liz Clayton here.