An anonymous Clinton Hill fan recently set out on a quest to discover the best coffee/croissant combo in the nabe (based on both pricing and taste). She's kindly sent us her analysis: When I first moved to Clinton Hill in the beginning of 2001, the only café in the area was Tillie’s. Now, there are a lot more options, so I decided to venture out for my morning calories and try some of them. My goal was to procure a croissant and a large cup of coffee and compare availability, price, service and taste.
Connecticut Muffin, Friday, 9:30am Availability: Yes. Price: $3.85. Service: Friendly staff. Taste: OK croissant and very burnt-tasting coffee, which is a shame because they give lots of it (20oz). Comments: No line.
strong>Choice Market, Sunday, 10:01am Availability: Yes. Price: $3.25. Service: They are too harried to say hello or even look you in the eye. Taste: Excellent and fresh for both coffee and croissant. Comments: As always, this place is mobbed! I don’t understand it. The food (sandwiches, pastries, etc.) is good but expensive, and they have sometimes messed up my order in the past. However, I am pleasantly surprised that my croissant and large coffee (160z) comes to $3.25, which I predict will be the lowest price of all the cafés. Except for the horrid line, I am very happy.
Smooch, Monday, 9:45am Availability: Yes/No. Price: $5.75. Service: Friendly, but very slow. Just because they are slow period doesn’t mean I don’t need to rush to work. Taste: Excellent and fresh. Comments: This newcomer has an earthy collegiate ambiance, so I am shocked at my total price for a muffin (they didn’t have croissant) and a large coffee. The coffee takes a while to make (and I was the only one in line waiting for anything) and is small (12oz) for a large size. It’s good coffee, though; it’s possible I was given an Americano. Even though it’s not what I wanted, they have interesting muffin flavors; I got granola-pear. Drink card—free coffee after you buy 10.
Tillie’s, Tuesday, 10:45am Availability: Yes. Price: $4.25. Service: Fair. Taste: Not so much. Comments: It’s been years since I ventured into Tillie’s for coffee purposes, so I am looking forward to trying them again, hoping to have a better experience. I am pleased that they have a choice of coffees that appears to change daily. I go for the house blend, because the barista says it is the darkest roast of the two they are offering. The total is $4.25. The croissant is decent. The large coffee is generous (20oz) but not good. (I’m beginning to see a trend, the larger the cup, the worse the coffee). Unfortunately, it tastes like watery dirt, even when I put cream in it. This is why I stopped going to Tillie’s for coffee in the first place. Drink card—free coffee after you buy 10.
Grand 275, Wednesday, 11:00am Availability: Yes. Price: $3.48 (normally $3.85). Service: Terrific, friendly and swift. Taste: Fair. Comments: The staff is always friendly and this morning is no exception. They’re out of regular coffee (they also offer hazelnut) and offer me a large coffee—that was missing about around an ounce or two of its 16oz size—at the medium-size price. So I pay $3.48 instead of the usual $3.85 for my breakfast. The croissant is fresh but doughy. The coffee is a good, solid cup, and before I leave, they top me off with some fresh brewed coffee. That’s some neighborhood “gets-to-know-all-their-customers” service. All-in-all, another happy coffee run.
Brown Betty Café, Thursday, 11:00am Availability: Yes. Price: $3.70. Service: Gruff. Taste: Fair. Comments: This place has a very appealing interior decor, but you have to wade through our local drug trade to get there. This actually sounds worse than it is, but if you’re female, I recommend wearing a coat that covers your ass for a more enjoyable stroll. 16oz large coffee.
Marquet Patisserie, Friday, 9:45am Availability: Yes. Price: $3.15. Service: Friendly and swift. Taste: Fair. Comments: Despite this café’s quaint name, good location and nice interior atmosphere with friendly service, the croissant and coffee (16oz for a large) are only average, albeit fresh. I expected more with such a set-up. But what pushes this place into my top three is the price, the winner in that category at $3.15.
There are other places I have yet to try: Pillow Café on Myrtle and Le Gamin on Vanderbilt, for example. But for now, I feel I’ve sampled the goods within the radius where I spend most of my time.
I am shocked at who I feel is the best overall place—Choice Market (perhaps this explains the lines). When they moved into Clinton Hill, I was unhappy because I felt their Soho vibe was out of character with the neighborhood, but now I feel they are a nice addition to the neighborhood.
If you’re a coffee-fueled foodie, you’ll probably enjoy Choice or Smooch. For value, try Marquet or Choice. For quantity but not taste, try Tillie’s or Connecticut Muffin.
However, for me, Grand 275 was my favorite. It wasn’t the cheapest or the best tasting. But their solid cup of joe, super friendly atmosphere and lack of frenetic lines make it my destination of choice for a coffee, either to go or to sit and sip. Thanks! I'd add Outpost Lounge to this list as well. Hopefully our coffee/croissant fan will expand this review in the coming weeks, esp once Pillow moves to its new location.