The age-old question: of the two Plowshares Coffee locations near campus, which reigns supreme? Bwog has the answer.
On the outskirts of the Barnumbia bubble, there lie two coffee shops: Plowshares Coffee West Harlem, and Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale. They are oftentimes forgotten by students—both are about ten blocks from campus, far too far for someone only looking for a hit of caffeine. But for people who are looking to not just drink coffee, but truly enjoy it, the two Plowshares cafes are some of the best around. How do you choose between them? One might be to the north, and the other to the south, but is there something more? We have attempted to find out.
Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale
Located between 104th and 105th on Broadway, the chain’s Bloomingdale shop is somewhat of a hole-in-the-wall. With only an old-school banner framing its entrance, it is the kind of place you might miss if you’re walking too quickly. Yet although the outside is understated, the interior of the cafe is almost always busy and bustling. If you arrive in the earlier part of the morning, there will likely already be a line (nothing too lengthy, but worth noting). The baristas at Plowshares are always knowledgeable and friendly, and my ordering experience at the cafe is always pleasant.
To test the coffee, I chose to order the traditional espresso beverage: a cappuccino. At Plowshares, one will set you back somewhere between $4.50 and $5.00, varying depending on your size and choice of milk. And although this isn’t cheap, by New York City prices, it is fairly common and even on the lower side. In my opinion, it is wholly worth it. I chose to order a to-go cup, but if there happens to be seating available, I would recommend anyone to take advantage and enjoy their coffee seated.
The coffee here has a lot of nutty and earthy undertones, with a smooth texture that indicates that the espresso has been made competently. As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the more light and fruity coffees that are common in the campus area cafes, I appreciate Plowshare’s darker roast and choice of beans. So what is my rating? 8.5/10. New York is an amazing place for any coffee drinker, and there are truly phenomenal coffee shops if you choose to explore all areas of the city. However, if you want to avoid using the subway, Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale is one the best places to make an on-foot journey. It really only has one competitor…
Plowshares Coffee West Harlem
The newer of the two cafes, Plowshares Coffee West Harlem can be found on Amsterdam, between 125th and 126th. This is a similar distance as the Bloomingdale location from the main campus, but it is worth noting that is significantly closer to the Manhattanville campus. The exterior here gives a much more sleek first impression, choosing to adopt the more modern cafe style. And here, the inside is massive. With more seating than I’ve seen in almost any coffee shop here in the city, there is always space to sit down, being able to either work or just drink coffee in peace. If you are looking for some entertainment, you can watch their vintage coffee roaster in the back do its work. Here, the service is equally as great as in Bloomingdale, with possibly a bit more staff on hand, which speeds up the process. I have never had to experience a line at the West Harlem location, but I also have not gotten the chance to visit at peak hours.
Once again, I ordered a cappuccino, with the prices being the same as previously. The warm day and peaceful environment encouraged me to drink my coffee there, with a nice cup and spoon being provided by Plowshares. It is possible that the to-go and to-stay cups vary in size, but I did not notice a significant difference in volume.
The cappuccino here had very similar flavors as before, with both of the locations using what is likely the same blend of beans and roast type. However, it could be a placebo, but I felt as though the coffee at West Harlem tasted a bit more fresh and deep since the beans are roasted on-site. The construction of the cappuccino was also a bit better than at Bloomingdale, with the foam having an improved consistency. The overall experience for me was a 9/10. I enjoyed the coffee a bit more at the West Harlem location, and the cafe, although a little less cozy, had an expansive modern style that I loved. But really, I would recommend both of the Plowshares Coffee Roasters shops, depending on which direction you desire to head. Both have some of the best roasts the Barnumbia area and even the Upper West Side have to offer.
Images via Yacob Melman.