Far, far wiser souls than myself have remarked astutely on the ebbs and flows of Astoria’s food trends. However, since my arrival in the neighborhood a mere four years ago, it seems clear that pizza, burgers, and (egads!) frozen yogurt all have had their time in the limelight.
And now, it is indisputably coffee’s turn. In the past few weeks two brand-new coffee places, Kinship Coffee Cooperative and Caffino have opened within eyeshot of Astoria’s 30th Avenue. Two more places, Astoria Coffee on 30th Street and a new Starbucks on Astoria Boulevard, are also in the works for that general neck of the woods.
There are more than a few similarities between Kinship Coffee and Caffino. Both places are really excellent, so that is not, to my mind, a bad thing. Both are located on large anchor streets – Caffino on Crescent Street and Kinship on Steinway Street – that bisect Astoria’s busiest block, 30th Avenue.
Caffino and Kinship are of the newer variety of New York coffee shops, a trail blazed here in Western Queens by places like Sweetleaf and Queens Kickshaw. Both Kinship and Caffino serve a sweet selection of Balthazar pastries to accompany their coffee. So, for that matter, does The Queens Kickshaw (shoutout to TQK for letting me order a sticky bun on Twitter this weekend!) on Broadway.
The coffee menus at Kinship and Caffino are mercifully short, with both places aiming to serve a perfected version of a few types of drinks, like espresso, cappuccino, cortado and the like, versus the gratuitous, head-spinning variety offered at chain stores like Starbucks.
Friendly staff slings shots at both coffee shops, although the folks at Caffino are so impossibly nice, I wanted them to hire me. Finally, both places feature the sort of pleasant, soothing decor that makes you feel a tiny bit better about hauling your ass out of bed in the morning and going to work.
There are notable differences too, of course. Although the spaces are relatively the same size, Caffino has minimal seating, making it effectively a grab and go kind of shop. Kinship, in contrast, has a lovely seating setup. I especially liked a little round communal table in middle of the space where perfect strangers were sitting in close proximity, forcing some refreshing, well, kinship in a city where we prefer to give each other ample space. According to a great profile by We Heart Astoria, Kinship plans to continue to make great use of their space by offering events including cuppings and how-to brewing sessions.
For now, Caffino uses La Colombe beans, which I slightly prefer to the Stumptown beans that Kinship employed when I stopped in. However, that’s just personal taste, and Kinship plans to use a variety of different beans moving forward. Caffino also has my favorite espresso drink on their menu, the Flat White – a steamed milk microfoam poured over two shots of espresso – although I imagine that the staff at Kinship could whip one up if I asked. Caffino also offers a small selection of sandwiches, making it a nice, new lunch on the run option for folks who live in the area and/or work at the hospital across the street.
So what can I make of Astoria’s recent baptism by total immersion in coffee? As a gentrifier who has a preoccupation with change, I tend to suspend critical analysis when it involves my greatest vices. As a four shots of espresso a day kind of gal, good coffee literally gets me through the day – or at least until 5 p.m. when I get a much-needed assist from beer. And I can totally imagine saying “I’m on Crescent, let me pop into Caffino,” or “I’m on Steinway, let me pop into Kinship!”
At some point I’ll be up to my eyeballs in coffee. At some point I’ll ask the question, is there room in New York City for good, ultra-affordable coffee for all? At some point my synapses will start firing properly and I’ll ask what this means for Astoria, a neighborhood very much in the throes of change.
But until then, I’m pretty grateful that the coffee tastes really great, the service is kind, and they are keeping me wide awake.
Caffino – 29-18 Crescent St, Astoria (near 30th Ave)
Kinship Coffee Cooperative – 30-05 Steinway St, Astoria (near 30th Ave)
Queens Coffee Bonus: DNAinfo’s Katie Honan published “The Best Places to Get Coffee in Queens” today, and it has an awesome borough-specific coffee map at the bottom that is not to be missed!