By: Yitzchak Fried  | 

Filtered Joins the Neighborhood

Until recently, Washington Heights could claim proud possession of exactly one specialty coffee shop. The Starbucks on 181st and Fort Washington Avenue stood as a sole witness to the Heights community of young professionals, even as it hugged the edge of the Hudson so as to stay as close as possible to Fort Tryon Park. As of December, gentrification has made new inroads: Filtered has joined the neighborhood, pushing the yuppy boundary past Bennett, all the way down to 183rd and Broadway.

The new coffee shop (one of two in Manhattan), currently takes up a line of store fronts on Broadway, and marks a presence to rival Starbucks’ corner franchise. But, as the man behind the counter informed me, this is only for the next six months. The space is being transformed into a food mall, where Filtered will be one of several proprietors. Until then, though, the space is theirs, and Filtered uses it to good effect. Inside, it forms a long strip of a shop, gently lit by tall storefront windows and low hanging lights. The site is still under construction, which is probably the reason for the bare concrete floor and the gaping ceiling’s exposed steel rafters. But, as it is, the décor works; it’s just finished enough to make you wonder if the warehouse-look might be intentional and here to stay.

Filtered is a coffee shop, so basically they sell coffee. They also offer a small selection of breakfast items: bagels, croissants and baby-muffins. The store isn’t under rabbinic supervision, so for those who eat strictly kosher, the food is off limits and the coffee is the main attraction. In this department, the store offers a line of “counter-cultural coffees,” a changing selection of bean blends from around the world, which are offered as either coffees or expressos. I sampled a coffee from Rwanda, whose label identified it as bearing notes of sun-dried raisin and black tea. The barista sheepishly told me that most customers can’t make out the coffees’ associated flavors. He was right; I couldn’t. But labels aside, the coffee was interesting: sour, without being offensive, and richly bitter. The berry flavors of the expressos, he assured me, are more readily detectable.

Reminiscent of Starbucks, Filtered offers a condiment station where you have your choice of milk, sugar and stirrer (stick or spoon?), minus Starbuck’s selection of powdered flavors. As its own shtick, Filtered gives you the option of adding honey to your drink and has a bottle of sugar syrup for iced-coffees. It also serves food on real flatware, another specious mark of class that makes for a more polished sit-down experience.

One touch that I did appreciate was that, in addition to the overhead lighting, each table along the shop’s muraled wall has its own lampstand, that you can choose to turn on or off. As someone who likes to sit and work in coffee shops, this is no small thing; good lighting is the difference between squinting at a book for an hour or studying in peace. Filtered may just become my new favorite study spot – if they ever get their wiFi properly set up.