Downtown Lunch: Classic Coffee Shop

Midtown workers shouldn’t have all the fun, so to even the score, I’ve brought on Daniel Krieger as an official Downtown Lunch Correspondent to write up some of the tasty stuff you can get in the lower half of Manhattan. He’s a great photographer (insuring good food porn), but more importantly he is a lover of cheap, unique and delicious eats (or as I like to call it- Midtown Lunch’ish food). This week Daniel is in the Lower East Side at the Classic Coffee Shop… 

Downtown Lunch: Classic Coffee Shop

When you want the kind of sandwich you can make at home, but you’re not home and you don’t want to go home to cook, try the Classic Coffee Shop located at 56 Hester street. Only open weekdays, this thin slice of a store has been owned and operated for the past 32 years by Carmine Morales. The food here is as basic as you can get- think turkey sandwich, ham and cheese, tuna melt, or pb&j. The food is good, but the quaintness, sentimental value, and prices are enough reason to go in here and grab a quick lunch.  

 Downtown Lunch: Classic Coffee Shop
Downtown Lunch: Classic Coffee ShopWhen you walk in, chances are you’ll find Carmine making everything to order at the counter, all the while listening to a wide range of music (Ella Fitzgerald to Mariah Carey) and all on cassette (old school, right?).  It says right on the menu that he’s been serving “real lower East Siders” since 1976.  I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu- a $4.75 pan fried tuna melt, plus a small bag of ruffles, and a diet coke- all for the grand total of $6.10. The one downside is that the place is BYOP (Bring your own Pickle), but luckily you’ll find the Pickle Guys right around the corner.  I had stopped by before hitting up Carmine’s and was treated to one of the best full sour pickles I’ve ever had. The pickles there are currently 50c but that will jump up to 75c soon according to owner Alan Kaufman.

Back at Carmine’s the one thing I didn’t have was the $1.50 egg cream.  For $1.50 it seems like a pretty good deal, and if you don’t exactly know what an egg cream is he’ll be more than happy to discuss it with you (hint — there’s no egg in it.) So if you want an old fashion school lunchbox sandwich this is a place to check out. “No soy, no foam, no pretense,” is also written on the back of his menu. Damn straight.

Classic Coffee Shop, 56 Hester Street (btw Orchard and Ludlow), 917-685-3306

The Pickle Guys, 49 Essex Street (nr. Grand), 212-656-9739

Photos and post by Daniel Krieger



  • who cares about tuna melts and pickles, how did you not order the egg cream?

  • I love places like this. No frills coffee shops are the best sit down lunch b/c you can meet up with your friends who work in different offices and you can talk all the smack you want about your bosses b/c you can be sure they won’t be strolling in the door to a place like that any time soon. There’s a good one on Madison and I think, 32nd, but that’s out of bounds for ML, right? They have good baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese there. That plus some iced tea and a little venting can be the perfect lunch hour sometimes.

  • I know it’s different in the states, but why anyone would rather go into a coffee shop here instead of a nice pub is beyond me.Unless they’re tea total, which is again , beyond me.

    As an aside; has Zen Burger been yellow poster’d by the DOH for a fuckwit infestation?

  • Matt – I didn’t notice the Egg Cream till I was on my way out.
    Rudy – There are some Pubs I like downtown like South’s on Church street…but the prices are a bit higher and there’s nothing really interesting/unique about it so I would never really feature it in a post.

  • Daniel, please don’t address Rudy directly under any circumstances. It will only lead to pain…

  • this column kinda feels like an ad section. nice photos, but where’s the objectivity? how could you not get the freakin egg cream to go? and no offense, but i don’t wanna see a posed image of dude at the counter… it should be about maintaining the angle of a customer throughout the visit and not the angle of giving them free coverage with a flattering headshot on account of a halfway decent tuna fish sandwich. i don’t frequent this site for just another glossed over review with pretty pretty pictures.

  • LOL! Damn Zach.. don’t be a hater

    What else do they have on the menu there? any pastrami? decent burger?

  • Shauna D.

    How about you just ‘don’t frequent this site’ then.

  • cute, mamacita. i was just being honest.

  • Fight! Yeah!

    The sad truth I have found, Rudy, is most bar food in the midtown area is completely intolerable. Now I’ll gladly forgo a decent sandwich for some fries and a beer for lunch, but not everyone feels the same. Handsdown, best lunch spot ever for booze and food was this place Galleria Umberto in Boston– great pizza, great calzones, nothing over $4, and $.50 cups of wine from a bucket. Perfect. Also a place you’ll never have to deal with running into your boss at.

  • I’m not really a food critique or a writer Shauna, I’m a photographer. I’m just looking for interesting places to eat, and the photos come first for me. This place is more about the owner and the atmosphere rather than the food.

    My posts are not really like Zachs, which is obviously what you’re looking for. And if you don’t like the downtown section you can easily skip over it, it’s only once a week.

    Mama – thanks. No burgers here. The entire menu is what you see on that top photo, seriously!

  • This blog is going down the crapper. It’s now all about advertising revenues and bringing more people to the site. Why bother with downtown lunch options? This is midtown lunch. If you are so interested in making money, at least create a new blog for the downtowners.

  • Actually, use regular poster are doing our best to discourage new visitors by throughly attacking all their sensibilities and their core values.

    Up Scumbag, OY!

    (young ones reference)

  • Shane, don’t you know that its CallingYouOut’s job to accuse Zach of making millions of dollars on this blog? You’ll have to find another stance, that one’s taken.

    Also: New Friday ML drinking game. Drink for every time someone critiques Downtown Lunch by being like “Argh this blog is called Midtown Lunch!!! ARGH!!!”

    Drink again if they are also pirates. Arrrrrrgh….

  • Heck with the egg cream, I want to know about the menu item listed as “TUNA-INDIVIDUAL CAN.”

  • Mamacita, for your Young Ones reference you have my heart, if not my wallet.

    Sarah is now my Keira Knightly, arrrrgghhhhhggggg jimlad.

  • Nice Daniel, if you run out of spots, there used to be a pretty awesome Blarney Stone on Fulton east of Nassau.

    The flamebroiled burgers/steaks were obscene, although the atmosphere was a little more refined than the one on 45th st (individual tables as opposed to the communal trough ambiance) yet it still could be catagorized as a dive replete with lushs, vagrants and barflys amongst the blue collar workers and occasional (in the know or just lost) Wall st type.

    Other than the Ravioli Faire truck, Rosarios, YIPs and the old KC Meat exchanges (okay I’m dating myself) I can’t think of many more places worthy of a visit in the Financial District.

  • Can we also drink anytime Rudy professes his Mamacita love and/or pretends he’s a pirate?! Then I’ll be happily buzzed when it’s time to leave!
    Daniel, I think the picture of that tuna sandwich is gorgeous. Looks just like the grilled tuna sandwich my mom makes me and they’re delicious.

  • A shot each time Liv Tyler comes up and two shots every time Doc Chuck ‘excites’ us by mentioning his doctorate.

  • Blondie, from your stunning profile pic,you’re mum could only be in her late 30′s at the most.

    Argggghhhhhh,me comely wench.

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