sometimes the best places are found by accident. during my latest trip to new york city, i had the pleasure of staying in an apartment in funky alphabet city (part of east village). the beauty of this, was that i was able to live like a local, instead of like a tourist. though i’m sure that i looked like a tourist everywhere i went, camera dangling around my neck, eyes and neck craned upwards gawking and drooling over architecture and fire escapes. still, my entire experience was a tiny bit of what it might be like to live in this ethnic, diverse, funky, rough around the edges neighborhood.
so, on my first morning in alphabet city, i decided to walk until i found a place for fika/breakfast – and that first cup of coffee of the day. no plans. no googling. no maps. just walking. i knew that i would know when i arrived. so, i strolled. and meandered. i observed and soaked in. i watched as east village began to stitch her arms and say good morning. and it all felt magical.
i passed buildings that i was certain i could live in, given the chance. i passed little gardens, with a lone person flipping through the new york times or new york post. and then i passed tompkins square park – the park that was, just a few years back, infamous for being a top place to find whatever drug you craved. today, the park, the whole east village area, is much cleaner – yet the vibes remain.
just across the street from the park, on the corner of avenue a and 9th street was a cafe with outdoor seating. almost all of the tables were occupied, but there was one in the corner that looked perfect. this was it. this was where i’d have my first sip of nyc coffee on this trip. cafe pick me up in east village.
after walking through the open-air cafe and seeing the bohemian, vintage, second-hand style, the decision to stop here was even more certain in my mind. it was the perfect place for my bohemian soul.
snagging that corner table on the sidewalk, the server brought a menu that included everything from breakfast sandwiches to pastries to eggs, and that was just breakfast. of course, there were vegan and vegetarian options as well – so many, that i thought i had teleported back to asheville. i decided on a chocolate croissant, a large orange juice (fresh!), and a big cup of black coffee with cream.
as i ate the delicious, fluffy (and chocolate-y) pastry, downed my orange juice, and sipped my coffee, i imagined doing this every day – but, with my journal in tow. you know, living the writer’s life in new york city (or what i dream that the writer’s life would be like – knowing that it’s not that dreamy and amazing every day). but, instead of dreaming away my moments, i refocused on the present moment – the homeless man sweeping the street and curb so diligently. the shop owner next to the cafe cleaning his part of the sidewalk, mopping his store floors, and then pouring the water down the sidewalk drain. the people coming out from a door next to where i was sitting, most assuredly tenants in the apartments above the cafe. people exercising, walking and talking on their phone. people pushing their baby or running with their dog. all kinds of people. all colors and shades. each doing their own thing, but all a part of this one little community moment.
cafe pick me up most definitely lives up to its name. perched on a corner in east village, across from the park, it is the perfect spot to give you a little pick-up if you’re hungry, tired, or feeling uninspired. it may not be the typical coffee shop place for fika, as it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. it’s not just a coffee shop, but a full-fledged cafe. still, it was the place where i started my day – and my visit to the big apple – with a piping hot cup of coffee. and after an hour long, leisurely breakfast in the sunshine, i can honestly say that i was full, energized, inspired, and ready to tackle of all the amazingness that new york city had to offer me on that day.