It's always surprising when you look at a place and think that you would never be caught dead in there, but then find out that it actually has something worth going in for.
This is what I found with Aroma, an espresso bar on the corner of Houston and Greene in New York. Looking in from the glass windows, Aroma resembles a modern European Internet cafe with its limited palette of red, white and black decor. The place looks like it is trying hard to impress - it almost looks too clean to be a good coffee place - it makes my skin itch.
So, one afternoon after lunch, I went with a couple of friends to get our daily latte. They said they found a new coffee shop to go to and that it was better than our regular spot. But, I protested, the atmosphere is so much better at Cafe Cafe!
But they said the coffee is better there. Also, they give you a free piece of chocolate with your purchase. I decided to give it try.
The latte I got (even though it was kind of expensive for a small - I mean $2.95! Come on!) was surprisingly good. Full bodied and rich without being too rich. You can still taste the espresso part (I found that many lattes taste too milky). I was impressed and I liked my small piece of chocolate. I guess it's a consolation for their prices.
This isn't to say that I like the place. There are a lot of things that bother me still. For example: they have different prices for items if you're staying there or taking it to go (which is good if you're taking it to go, but not if you're staying, but I guess I wouldn't be staying there ever); when you walk in the front door, you come right to the cashier counter and it feels awkward because you have nowhere to stand especially if there's already a line; the service is kind of mediocre; it feels really branded and chain-like and lacks that small coffee house feeling (maybe because it's an Israeli coffee mega chain!); AND here's the kicker - they've asked me for my name (to call out when when my latte was ready), and I spelled it out for them both times I've been there, and it's been spelled incorrectly both times on my receipt.
Which isn't a huge deal, except I feel chains do this thing where they insist on using names (instead of numbers) to connect with the customer, but when your employees aren't listening to the customers, then there's a problem.
This isn't going to prevent me going back for that good cup of latte and also to see when they will spell my name correctly. I'll keep you posted.
145 Greene St (actually on Houston)
New York, NY 10012