The last day of summer. Coffee shops with huge windows are best place for people watching. Gazing through the window of 88 Orchard, I almost wished I were a self-employed freelancer, who lives in a dream world, breathes the sweet air of freedom, until, of course, all the bills payable pull one back into reality.
Cafe hopping is fun. The downside? Caffeine overdosage, losing calorie counts on chocolate cookies or scones, and when all the small expenses add up at one point your wallet will feel the pain.
88 Orhard is great for it's street corner location, sitting conveniently dans le coeur du LES, without too much tourist traffic if you come in at the right time. Their espresso is ok, a bit on the acidic side. But avoid the bland black coffee at all cost. A black coffee in a gigantic mug that doesn't even taste good, that is kind of scary. Too big in volume even by American standard. Speaking of volume, I couldn't help but give my two cents on the major difference between Americans and French: while "big is beautiful" defines the American living, French is all about quality, refinement and "le bon goût".
Cafe Grumpy at 13 Essex is what comes closest to the coffee shops in Paris. They don't have cups beyond 12oz, nor do they serve iced coffee. Espresso is available sur la place, but if you want it to-go, they'll make it into a perfect cup of Americano with just right amount of water to open up the flavor, not too much, not too little. Unlike the Americano you get elsewhere, which comes out diluted, bland and obscure 99% of the chance, theirs is comparable to the perfect cup of joe in Paris, and the espresso is a direct translation of "un café serré".
On a side note, though, as satisfactory as the consistency of the quality already is, one might still find some small variance in the texture of coffee, depending on the barista, which is inevitable for any independent coffee shops. At this particular location, I have a personal preference for the smart-looking tall girl with a chic pair of glasses and tattoos who speaks at least four languages. She serves the best espresso that I've tasted so far. If you come early enough in the morning, don't miss their chocolate & fig scone, in European size (meaning health size), not overly sweetened, looking all tempting in the pantry. But trust me, they taste even better than they look. One piece will magically brighten up your day. Way to start a fabulous morning.