I haven’t bought a Starbucks coffee in (perhaps) five years because chain stores and their culture just aren’t my cup of tea. So, I often pass by all the coffee shops and their ilk because of my lack of curiosity. However, when I spy one in an unexpected location, my curiosity is piqued.
Such was my situation upon spotting Don Alejo Coffee on 116th Street in Spanish Harlem. Out of place, it appeared—based solely on its menu which is only akin to the chains because Don Alejo sells pastries from the vastly more expensive Balthasar’s in SoHo, but their prices are in keeping with the neighborhood: a breakfast plate of two eggs, two pancakes, ‘home’ fried potatoes and your choice of sausages or bacon, is $12. Remarkably affordable that is, these days.
Café con leche is one drink that separates Don Alejo from the coffee house chains, but the rest of their drink offerings are in step. Something else I noticed in this neighborhood was the absence of those chains.
So, if Starbucks or similar is what you seek, pay attention to this little hole in the wall, an ideal place to sit at one of their few tables and watch Spanish Harlem citizenry hustle by.