Third Rail Coffee opened a couple years ago and it makes me feel like I live in an actual neighborhood rather than a tourist/drunken frat-kid trap. The guys and gals who work here are cool and down-to-earth, carrying none of the pretension one might expect from a coffee shop near the West Village. This place feels more like a community than a mere cafe, and these dudes are totally my people! They play great music, eagerly stamp your card with a star (9 drinks and the 10th is free) and are just really passionate about the art of caffeine. One of their baristas, Mike Jones, actually placed 2nd in the Northeast Regional Barista Competition. And recently, after my klutzy self spilled an entire iced tea on their floor (I probably buy iced tea more than coffee, actually), not only did they clean it up, but poured me another one (for free) and assured me I shouldn't be embarrassed.
While Third Rail is a bit too tiny for staying and chatting or staying and writing (though many do), Washington Square Park is a block away and, on nicer days, the perfect spot to sip whatever you've got. They serve a wide range of coffees, with fancy shmancy ones like Americana and Kilamanjaro (I always save my free-drink ticket for those!) and they use slow-drip Chemex coffeemakers, which are simple and elegant. They even have liquid sugar (both brown and regular!) for cold drinks. Then of course there's the selection of scones, muffins (pumpkin apple walnut for the win), croissants, etc.
Cooler than even the ever-changing blackboard out front and the staff in general is the art that adorns its walls. Changing every few months (at least to my observation), the art adds to the overall ambiance. On the walls most recently is Ashley Gilbertson's contemporary exhibit of photographs from Occupy Wall Street in NYC. Maybe it's the Gilded frames or the sepia and black-and-white tones, but I originally thought the photos were from protests of the '60s. Very inspiring!
Third Rail Coffee
240 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012
-a.d. [photo of blackboard by me, photos from OWS by Ashley Gilbertson]