When I first became a mother, there was a lot riding on a cup of coffee. As my husband once said of new parenthood, “We no longer get tired. We are tired.” For that first year, I was exhausted all the time. I was breastfeeding two or three times through the night, had little time to exercise (always key for keeping my energy level up), and was dealing with the emotional and physical exhaustion of being a working mother. (What am I doing? Why am I leaving her for eight hours a day? God, when will Monday be here? I need to get out of this house.) That first cup of coffee in the morning was my lifeline. I didn’t care at all about the roast or the blend or if it was fair-trade, organic, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts. All I cared about was that it was caffeinated. After just a few small sips, the day before me would suddenly become all rainbows and sunshine.
Eight years later, that cup of coffee is still a lifeline, but for different reasons. If I’m not on project in an office that makes me stay until the ungodly hour of 5:00 (at which point our babysitter steps in) then I am cramming all my meetings into breakfast or mid-morning coffee so I can get on my 2:20 train from Grand Central to be at the bus stop (or camp pick-up) by 3:00. If the person I am meeting must be in his or her office early, then I often offer to bring a good cup of Joe right to her. (Nothing says You can trust me quite like a cup of Stumptown.)
But then there’s the real reason I love coffee, or I should say the real reason I love a coffee date. It’s a chance to catch up with friends and sit in places that remind me of my former life as a childless city explorer — when I would spend hours scouring my beaten-up Zagat guide or figuring out how to get in to the latest and greatest dinner spot that everyone was talking about. I am in the phase of parenthood right now when dinner in the city with pals — even if it’s not at the latest-and-greatest place — is considered a special occasion, so my coffee dates have become a (perfectly wonderful) stand-in for Girls Night Out.
And you know how I used to be a magazine editor? Well, one of the skills you learn as a magazine editor is to surround yourself with people who know more than you do. In the case of coffee spots (and clothes and books and weekend getaways, too actually), that person is my friend (and Travels with Clara creator) Yolanda. Whenever we meet for coffee she finds some new, crazy charming (usually Italian trattoria-esque) place to do it — last week, over lattes and olive oil muffins at Cafe Mailiano in the Gramercy Park Hotel, she told me she considers it her personal mission to give me theee coffee outpost for every Manhattan neighborhood. I wanted to share them with you, too.
Cafe Mailiano 2 Lexington Ave (in the Gramercy Park Hotel); Cafe Sabarsky (in the Neue Galerie, 1048 Fifth Ave. at 86th Street); The Breslin (in the Ace Hotel, 16 West 29th Street), Tarallucci e Vino (three locations: East Village, Soho, and 15 East 18th Street in Union Square, which is where I go) The Smile Cafe (26 Bond Street in Noho)
Photo taken at Cafe Sabarsky by Kate Cunningham.