Lists like this are meant to be debated and disputed, but this choice is to argue with. Though I can’t believe I never knew about the midtown location.
East Village: NINTH STREET ESPRESSO: The 7-Elevenification of the East Village may be underway, but this beloved spot is thankfully still kicking. Though the decor here is nothing fancy—there’s not much more than a counter, a couple chalkboards and some serviceable tables—the espresso/drip coffee here is smooth, almost buttery perfection that need not be sullied with gimmicky syrup and caramel. You’re not handing over half a paycheck for a cup here, with a small running $1.50 and an espresso shot running $3, and the brews are strong enough to tide you over for at least as long as that $5 chemical energy drink you might have splurged on, anyway.
Ninth Street Espresso has two locations in the East Village: 700 East 9th Street between Aves C and D (212) 358-9225, ninthstreetespresso.com) and at 341 East 10th Street between Aves A and B (212-777-3508, ninthstreetespresso.com). They also have a location at 109 East 56th Street between Park and Lexington Aves in Midtown East (646-559-4793, ninthstreetespresso.com) and a stall at Chelsea Market.