The aptly named Hole in the Wall (420 Fifth Avenue) coffee shop builds on several themes of New York’s coffee growth in the last couple years: the proliferation of quality java spots in midtown and the dominance of Aussies opening them. In addition, the café may be continuing the trend of closet-sized specialty shops inside midtown office building common spaces, joining similarly tiny Bluestone Lane.
Hole in the Wall opened in mid-June, but Australian owner Barry Dry already ambitiously intends to expand the concept to another location in Midtown West (thankfully) before a third in the financial district.
Like Bluestone Lane, Hole in the Wall introduces to New York a relatively small roaster previously unavailable in the city (Denver-based Novo), though it will also feature guest roasters on a monthly basis. The first roaster in rotation is Red Roasters of Coffee, founded in Brooklyn by Kaffe 1668 last November.
As for drinks, the shop has the usual line-up of espresso-based options, including a macchiato lightly kissed with steamed milk, cappuccinos, and the now ubiquitous flat white. There are also several brew-to-order options, and, of course, since it’s summer, cold coffee, currently flash brewed (baristas are now experimenting with a cold brew version, too).
On a recent visit, I sampled the espresso: It was a seldom encountered complex cup, with flavor notes of tart berries, good acidity, substantial body, and a long finish. The iced coffee was vibrant and refreshing, undoubtedly the result of quality beans coupled with the flash brew method.
A small but appealing collection of treats telepathically say “eat me” from beneath the counter. Butter-rich, flaky croissants come from Balthazar, and the ridiculously good looking donuts — so good looking I almost lost my mind and ate one — are from Dough.
One unusual feature of the café is the option to order drinks in advance through the SquareUp App, which automatically awards users a loyalty stamp and provides an estimated pick-up time. This may work particularly well here: There are no seats in the cafe nor benches in the atrium, though Bryant Park is just two blocks north. However, if your order for pick-up, you may miss out on friendly banter with the baristas. (Those Aussies again!)
Hole in the Wall is a place for regulars and those in the know. The building’s ground floor retail outlets don’t lead to the café, the shop is not visible from the street, and there’s no sign outside either of the two entrances, one on 37th and one on 38th Street just west of Fifth Avenue, leaving it to become your secret coffee oasis in midtown.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 9, 2014