The strongpoint of Cafe Regular is just that, their coffee. They serve good coffee in nice amounts with a good selection of choices. If you get a cappuccino, latte or au lait, you can actually taste the difference between all of them. Sometimes at Starbucks or Le Pain Quotidien there is very little differentiation between these beverages, if there is any at all! This isn't the place you go when you want a paper cup (which I do, quite often). When you go to Cafe Regular, you are getting your coffee in a proper mug, with beautiful schiuma art as well; if that is important to you, and it is to me.
While I enjoy the coffee at Cafe Regular, they make amazing soy iced lattes (with unsweetened soy milk), there is very little else I enjoy. I am not going there to enjoy the atmosphere/ambiance, sit down for a while, get good food or work. When you go there you go to get coffee, sit for a spell, but preferably leave as soon as possible.
The major problem with the atmosphere of this cafe is the size. It is just too small to fit in a decent (or really any) people. You will end up perched on a stool the size of a dime (or five p coin), sitting in an awkward window seat or sitting in the middle of a cafe, once again on an uncomfortable stool. I'm okay suffering a little to get good coffee, but there is no way I could spend a sustained period of time there after my left butt-cheek goes numb.
You may think that the lack of comfy seating is excusable, and it most definitely could be if they had something else that made up for it. Unfortunately, the rest of the cafe experience at Cafe Regular is similarly lackluster. Since the cafe is so small it feels cramped, uncomfortably so. Small spaces are no doubt the norm in New York, but it feels as if they are trying to fit something that would work well in a much bigger space into a shoebox. This raises tensions among people who are already hopped up on caffeine.
Once you get over the small space and the lack of proper seating, you must deal with the poor customer service. I can deal with a lot. Short salespeople generally don't annoy me. It's a long day, they are probably tired, they want to rest! I get it, it sucks. But when you are doling out doses of caffeine to people on their way to work, it makes sense to me to use caution. Please don't get annoyed when I ask you for a single iced soy latte. I don't mean harm! I'm giving you nearly four bucks for the thing! Now, I've seen people in there having surprisingly animated conversations with the counter people. Yet, I've always found them highly detached. Maybe they don't like what I'm ordering. Maybe because I don't look achingly hip. Maybe because I didn't order something simple. I don't know, but I definitely don't go here when I want good service.
Now, back to the coffee. Because it really is very very good. It keeps me going back, over all of that. I put up with less than good service, I put up with a cramped cafe and I put up with wacked out seating to get this coffee. That says something. Sure, there are times when I don't feel like going, but when I do go, I am never disappointed in the coffee. Afterall, isn't that the reason we are going to all these different cafes? To get good coffee? Plus, they serve Jacques Torres hot chocolate. The drinks are pretty much ace.
So should you go? If you are in the neighborhood and want good coffee, this place is ace. Yet, I wouldn't go out of my way for it. Part of my affinity for this cafe is the location, which, for me, is extremely convenient. The service and general lack of ambiance makes this cafe a miss on too many levels to call it a destination cafe.
Atmosphere: 1 out of 5 coffee cups. Maybe it's the odd music. Maybe it's the dark colors. Most of all it's the cramped space and bad chairs. Cafe Regular's atmosphere is there, but is lacking in nearly every department that would mark the reason you go to a cafe.
Coffee: 4.5 out of 5 coffee cups. The coffee is potent, yet cut nicely by a generous amount of frothed milk. Their variety includes iced lattes, cappuccinos and coffees, extending to hot au laits, cortados and mochas. You can tell that the owner knows their coffee and wants to share good coffee with people who care to stop by a whole-in-the-wall coffee joint.
Food: n/a. There really is no food to speak of. Even if there was, you wouldn't have anywhere to eat it.
Prices: 4 out of 5 coffee cups. The prices are pretty standard, think Starbucks. Even though Starbucks tends to veer to the expensive side, you are getting really good coffee here, so it ends up being worth it. The other day on the way to work I got a soy iced latte for $3.80. Way better than Starbucks for about the same price.
Location: 3 out of 5 coffee cups. While the location is great for me, they only have two, which can make it extraordinarily inconvenient for others. Take your pick.
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