New York Trip (posted 2 months after the fact)
Exposed brick, tin ceilings, bottomless portafilters and short shots. These are some of the impressions that really stick with me from my NYC trip.
There is something really special about a place where there are a variety of shops staffed with people really interested in good coffee. It was cool to talk to a barista at one shop and, once they knew I was a visiting coffee geek, have them enthusiastically recommend I check out other shops. That is the sort of 'coffee community' that you don't get in very many places.
Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea)
I think this would have to be my favorite place that I tried. I think they did a great job maximizing the space, and the fact that is is so narrow with a low counter puts you up close and personal with the baristas. That was nice because I was able to get recommendations for other shops I needed to check out. It was very cool that I could choose espresso made with Counter Culture Coffee or Ecco Cafe beans (I chose both, naturally!). If I went there again I would want to see the Clovers in action, since they are right where you can watch the whole process. I was very excited to watch and taste espresso made with a Synesso. My shots were very dense, incredible mouthfeel. When I got the second espresso (CCC Toscano), the barista (Nick) tasted several test shots first to make sure the different blend was dialed in.
My wife's capp was very good, but she felt the short shots made it taste less strong than she is used to. I think she might like a macchiato.
Cafe Collage (Greenwich Village)
This was one of the recommended places from the guys at Grumpy. They also use a Synesso, and all of their Cappuccinos are the 'traditional' size (as opposed to places that offer both the "american" version and "traditional")
Ninth Street Espresso (union square)
Excellent espresso (CCC Toscano)- didn't get the barista's name, but he was very into it.