Artichoke Cafe is dead – Long Live Ramini Espresso Bar
West 37th is my old stomping grounds, having worked at an IT managed services provider. In between financial professionals screaming at us about Bloomberg having an unacceptable – UNACCEPTABLE – half-second lag and otherwise-quite-nice people reduced to blood-curdling rage when we informed them a nationwide Blackberry outage was beyond our control to resolve and no, we didn’t have an ETA to resolution – the need to take a break is always omnipresent, and the chance to do so with concentrated, swiftly-consumable caffeine, pounded in a shot like cheap pregaming vodka to burn the throat and take away the mental pain, is always much appreciated. An ML tipster passing by the old home turf sent us word of an espresso joint opening up. Worth a look!
Our tipster pointed us at Ramini Espresso Bar cropping up out of nowhere next to an amazing literal hole-in-the-wall Latin food joint, El Sabroso (not for nothin’ but it’s well worth a short trip if you’re in the area, their prices and quality/quantity cannot be beat). From the outside, it looks like a sudden bit of West-50s-and-Park glitzy was teleported into the questionable-labor-practice-based wholesalers of the Garment District.
Either this is the rumored Rube Goldberg espresso maker or the most elaborate “tobacco only” device displayed for public consumption. Am I the only one thinking of the background music from the opening of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure by looking at this contraption? Here I was thinking the Chemex was the most convoluted coffee percolator made by human hands, but this thing, fugeddaboudit (and I say this with all homegrown Jersey sincerity here). The interior is all spic and span with what looks like upstairs seating, and it looks darn near ready to go.
I poked my head in, but the last thing I expected to see was the guy who runs Artichoke Cafe across the street, which was simply our neighborhood cramped generic tossed-salad-hot-foods-soups-and-espresso joint that just happened to serve amazing macarons. He had closed down the small shop (which really, really was cramped – you would get to know the people in line rather intimately if you wanted to proceed to grab a bottle of soda) and opened this space. He’s going to be doing more cafe-style food, and was quite mum on the specifics but definitely confirmed that macarons would still be on the menu. This is a good thing, because Macaron Cafe is great but tiny, and its fabulous coffees and small plates kinda make you feel unpretentious to the tune of an uneducated peasant by walking through the door. It’s still the closest macaron competitor, though. Artichoke was a decent but unremarkable place to grab a salad or some soup that wasn’t Hale & Hearty crap.
With an experienced guy behind it, this could be a decently classy place as you walk up 8th for whatever reason. Non-Starbucks coffee options are always a plus so long as it’s not corporate coffee crap, and I know that the guys at my last job would definitely be okay with decent chow very close by. Their grand opening is September 10th – we’ll know pretty soon if their menu passes muster or if it isn’t much difference than the old place.
Edit: The soft opening is today but it’s not really open-open… Rafi recognized me and let me in, and I chatted up the baristas who were practicing in the space and slinging coffee. Details will be in the major review but as of now, the real opening is going to come as soon as all the permits are in. For the record, that crazy freaking contraption is an iced coffee percolator.
Ramini Espresso Bar, 267 West 37th St. (between 7th and 8th)