Trademark Grind, a new coffee shop in the Executive Hotel Le Soleil located just off the Herald Square subway station, is a breath of fresh air for coffee seekers in Midtown Manhattan. This part of New York has historically been known as somewhat lacking when it comes to quality coffee, though positive developments—such as specialty shop Culture Espresso spinning off a nearby second location, Culture 36, in late 2014—are increasing. Trademark is the latest.
Launched by hospitality group In Good Company this past April, the moderately sized shop is decorated with gray walls, white tiles, and old black-and-white family photos of the company’s owners and staff. A mural in the back adds color to the atmosphere, and seating comes in the form of industrial red barstools and several tables and chairs outside.
The sharp style extends to the coffee and presentation: A sleek red Mavam UC-2 espresso machine—one of 18 in existence—is the quiet star of the shop, perched discreetly on the counter near an off-white Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder. The baristas wear custom denim-and-leather aprons and tamp their espresso with brass-and-walnut wood tampers; both are designed by the Western-inspired (and -based) coffee-accessories outfit Saint Anthony Industries.
“When you hear ‘Midtown,’ you automatically think ‘Dunkin’ Donuts and a bagel,’ but we get customers who’ll order a Burundian coffee brewed via AeroPress,” says cafe manager Josip Drazenovich of Trademark's clientele, which is mainly a mix of office workers and hotel guests. “We can thank places like Culture Espresso and Café Grumpy for being the pioneers in the area—they’re the ones who plowed the way for coffee concepts like us to be welcomed in the neighborhood,” he said.
The place was calm and peaceful when I stopped in early on a recent Thursday morning, with the odd customer popping in for a cold brew or latte. Trademark serves coffees from Brooklyn-based Sweetleaf and Lofted, either batch-brewed on a FETCO or manually via AeroPress. The pastry case was stocked with an abundance of house-made baked treats, including the signature “medium-rare” double-chocolate-chip cookie and some vegan options.
In a week or two, the cafe's food menu will expand its savory offerings, including sandwiches, toasts, and salads. I tried a newly debuted breakfast sandwich made with Nueske's applewood smoked bacon, a light and fluffy scrambled egg patty, and a slice of melted cheese on a brioche bun—simple, incredibly tasty, and hearty enough to serve as a proper breakfast. (It's worth noting that the cafe is connected to a full-serve New American restaurant, Trademark Taste, just down the hall.)
In addition to coffee and a variety of teas from Rishi, Trademark has several inventive non-alcoholic cocktails, including a coffee mint julep, a plum limeade, and a horchata chai, all prepared from scratch and served in a tall soda glass with a straw.
There’s also an unwritten “hidden” menu that Drazenovich encourages everyone to explore: “If we have the ingredients, odds are we’ll make it. We pretty much make everything that is asked of us.” So, I wondered how they’d handle a request for something like a caramel macchiato. “We’d take some cultured-butter caramel, demerara vanilla, your choice of milk, and a 20/20 [20 grams in, 20 grams out] EK shot of our house espresso, which is currently Slapshot from Sweetleaf. All I have to say is: order it.”
After a couple of visits over the course of a week, it became evident that Trademark Grind really is an excellent coffee shop—not just for a shop in Midtown. The coffee is consistently delicious, the food is top notch, and the people behind the bar seem genuinely welcoming and pleasant. “I guess we aren’t really doing anything differently here than we would anywhere else—we’re trying to do everything really neat, really fast, and really well,” Drazenovich said. “We’re here to sling quality coffee with warmth and hospitality, and we want everyone to feel they’re in good company.”