On Saturday, the weather took a brief and unexpected turn into iced coffee territory and I found myself craving the city’s most delicious and instantly effective caffeinated beverage: the coffee seltzer at Northern Spy Food Co. But as fate would have it, the seven-year-old brunch standby had closed just days earlier. Somehow I had missed the heads up, a couple of weeks prior, from owners Christophe Hille and Chris Ronis.
“2015 was a tough year and we did not manage to pull the nose up to restore the flight altitude we once enjoyed,” they wrote in a message to customers, going on to thank alumni who “have gone on to open great new restaurants and businesses of their own, among them Fancy Nancy, Dimes, and Metzger Bar & Butchery.”
In a subsequent Facebook post, one of the owners wrote, “7 years ago I convinced my business partners to take a chance on a space in the East Village which had been my home for 10 years already. I made the right decision and I hope to think we made our mark and solidified a (however tiny) place in the history of this weird and wonderful neighborhood.”
Northern Spy certainly earned a place in East Village lore the day it offered up a free “sidewalk smorgasbord” during the power outage that followed Hurricane Sandy.
After the announcement, the outpouring of “Noooos” was more or less immediate, with one customer asking: “Please just tell me why????” The answer: “It’s really just a difficult business in which to make ends meet, even when a place seems busy and popular.”
Apparently so: the restaurant’s NoCal-influenced New American menu won it a loyal following (even if it took some lumps for its $18 carrot plate) and there were always lines out the door for brunch. It was the kind of place that routinely ended up on lists of, say, “Seriously Transcendent Takes on Oatmeal.” Some will mourn the passing of its kale salad, but the thing that kept me going back was that coffee seltzer. The thick, sweet, fizzy combination of iced coffee, seltzer, chicory, cream, and simple syrup was an instant eye-opener– like a gourmet Manhattan Special espresso soda. It never failed to do the trick, even on those mornings when the shakerato over at Tarallucci would’ve failed to jolt me back to life.
It just won’t be spring again without those coffee seltzers, and I worry I’ll end up filling the void with yoga or transcendental meditation. My God. Someone please email me the recipe.