Monday, December 14, 2009

71 Irving Place

When I first tried to find Irving Farm Coffee I wound up across the street from Union Square standing in front of an office building with nothing but a giant, over-filled Starbucks in my line of sight. With no other option, I begrudgingly suffered an overpriced, lukewarm, 3/4-filled decaf soy peppermint mocha in the loud, packed, anything-but-coffeehouse atmosphere. As it turned out, my google text had returned the address of Irving Farm's wholesale headquarters. Ugh.

The second try was the charm, as the gilded sign for 71 Irving Place glistened in the sunlight beckoning me towards it. The neighborhood pooches adorning the facade as their owners' picked up breakfast further suggested that this was exactly the type of place I was looking for: the anti-Starbucks*. Too dark for photos, the atmosphere was pure, upscale coffee house. As I stood in awe my vegetarian companion quickly left me to find a table for us in the crowded cafe and called over her shoulder, "Get me a black coffee and anything for breakfast; it all looks incredible." Indeed, it did.

My attention was drawn by two big, brightly lit cases filled with assorted, delectable baked goods: contents all clearly marked, vegan where applicable. Additionally, there was soy milk for coffee and vegan cream cheese for delightfully minimally doughy bagels (I abhor doughy bagels). I chose a vegan peanut butter chocolate chunk (extra points!) cookie over the maple ginger, and my companion thoroughly enjoyed a giant, non-vegan, mixed-berry scone.

Despite a constant flow of tourists off the beaten path, neighborhood regulars, and peeps like me who may have found them on SuperVegan, the service was quick, efficient, and friendly. It was the kind of great NY place that makes you wonder why anyone ever patronizes chains. It also effortlessly exhibited how easy it is for omni establishments to cater to vegans and allow the two to dine harmoniously for something as simple as coffee. Needless to say, I will happily return.

*Don't get me wrong, I enjoy many of Starbucks offerings and am happy that the nationwide chain was one of the first to offer soy milk. However, their vegan-friendliness seems to have stopped there. Only ONCE did they try offering a vegan baked good 'round my parts and it STUNK. Further, they have made no effort to label which lattes are vegan and which aren't (ahem, pumpkin spice). And, most importantly of all, I make a concerted effort never to visit a Starbucks in Manhattan; the service is abysmal. Give me a reserved, suburban New Jersey Starbucks any day & I will thoroughly enjoy my lattes indoors or out.

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