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Pennylane: Where the Blue-Badged Go to Caffeinate


Has the United Nations never had a hangout? It does now.

Drop by Pennylane Coffee just about any time of day and you’ll see that nearly everyone is sporting the blue UN badge.

Pennylane Coffee
Pennylane Coffee, where UN staffers and the like rejuvenate in the afternoon. IRWIN ARIEFF

The storefront bears no name or street number, so take a walk down 45th Street between First and Second Avenues and look for big glass folding doors and a sandwich board out front posing an existential question like “Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee?”

Here, that might be an energy-infusing cortado brewed with one of Stumptown’s notoriously intense roasts.

The interior is all black and white with little else beyond coffee-making equipment and a friendly young staff. There are barely a dozen seats, most of them around a communal table where you can balance your iPad while rubbing elbows with other UN cafeteria refugees. The seats are comfortable, but are not enough to make you want to linger, and there are no lounge chairs where you might curl up and, say, read a novel. There’s music pulsing, but the sound quality is excellent and the volume is soft enough to allow conversation.

Pennylane Coffee
The coffee? Stumptown. IRWIN ARIEFF

Pennylane offers the usual espresso concoctions, ranging from $2.50 to $4.50. Keep in mind that it takes a good five minutes to properly prepare a pour-over, so settle in: the beans — Stumptown’s Guatemala Finca El Injerta-Bourbon during my last visit — must be freshly ground, the paper filter dampened and set into a cone, the water heated to order, a dash of it dripped onto the grounds to soften them up, then the rest slowly poured from a needle-nose kettle — all this to maximize your coffee-drinking experience.

Makes me long for the days of the quickie Melitta fix, but if you want to try this at home, Pennylane can help out with to-go beans, filters, cones and the de rigeur Buono kettle.

You’ll also find a sampling of teas, coconut water and delicious fruit juices from Red Jacket Orchards. There’s nothing in the way of food apart from smallish pastries at $1.25 to $4.50.

And, alas, no bathroom. So all too soon, you’ll probably need to get back to work.

Pennylane Coffee is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located at 305 E. 45th Street between First and Second Avenues. (917) 797-5133.

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Irwin Arieff is a veteran writer and editor with extensive experience writing about international diplomacy and food, cooking and restaurants. Before leaving daily journalism in 2007, he was a Reuters correspondent for 23 years, serving in senior posts in Washington, Paris and New York as well as at the United Nations (where he covered five of the 10 years that Sergey Lavrov spent in New York as Russia’s senior UN ambassador). Arieff also wrote restaurant reviews for The Washington Post and Washington City Paper in the 1980s and 1990s with his wife, Deborah Baldwin.

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Pennylane: Where the Blue-Badged Go to Caffeinate
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Joyce Sulahian
Joyce Sulahian
7 years ago

It was ridiculous to close the UN cafeteria, thus forcing everyone to leave the building to grab sustenance. And what about staff who service meetings? They don’t have the luxury of leaving the building to get something to eat in between their responsibilities that often chain them to meeting schedules. Having ben there, I know what I am talking about!

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