The space comes inspired by the design of the Empire State Building.

GOSSIP & RUMORS: Inside the Empire State Building’s new Starbucks Reserve

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Coffee titan Starbucks’ triple-decker Reserve location that opens Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Empire State Building has something for everyone — including public bathrooms, Instagrammable areas, cocktail and coffee concoctions, pizzas and even polenta fries.

Yes, you read that right — these are fry-sized polenta sticks baked with rosemary and parmigiano reggiano cheese, served in the second-floor restaurant with a side of lemon aioli dip for $12.

The comfortable café and cocktail bar was inspired by the Empire State Building’s 1931 Art Deco architecture — and is sure to become a favorite for tourists and locals alike, especially as more of the latter continue returning to their Midtown offices for in-person work.

This week, I was among the first to get a look inside the dazzling new destination.

Sure, you can get your fave Frappuccino and Macchiato hot, chilled or to go — but this 23,000-square-foot space is a playground for your palate, and a respite from the rigors of work and city walking.

The space comes inspired by the design of the Empire State Building.
Matt Glac
The triple-decker space boasts jaw-dropping design at each turn.
The triple-decker spread boasts jaw-dropping design at each turn.
Matt Glac
A bar for coffee.
A bar for coffee.
Matt Glac

“Starbucks Reserve locations are designed to spotlight our exquisite [Starbucks Reserve] coffee and showcase our heritage, expertise, and dedication to coffee craft through interactive coffee experiences where barista craft is the cornerstone,” said Mark Ring, SVP of US retail at Starbucks. “The Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building store is a one-of-a-kind destination that highlights our commitment to push the boundaries of coffee craft and offer our customers new, immersive and multi-sensory coffeehouses that are designed to inspire and create moments of connection in this special space.”

Since my idea of morning coffee is a quarter teaspoon of generic instant with two scoops of hot chocolate powder — plus I don’t like lines — my Starbucks encounters have been few and far between. But this truly is an experience.

A bar for adult beverages.
A bar for adult beverages.
Matt Glac
The Reserve will cater to tourists and nearby office workers alike.
The Reserve will cater to tourists and nearby office workers alike.
Matt Glac
Murals abound inside.
Murals abound inside.
Matt Glac

Walk in from the street and shop the special Empire State Building mugs and coffee-brewing gifts, or simply take a selfie with the colorful mermaid created by local artist Jade Purple Brown.

Naturally, grab-and-go coffees, along with quick bites and croissant sandwiches, are ready to roll out the door.

Most brews here start with the location-specific Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building Microblend coffee, while its seasonal Peppermint Mocha is on tap for the holidays. It’s all locally roasted at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the Meatpacking District.

Up the stairs and past a colorful mural, a complimentary cold brew is served to guests in the café where one is advised first to smell, then loudly slurp before thinking about where the taste is located in your mouth — and then trying to describe the earthy, chocolatey or fruity overtones.

Indeed, the baristas here all know their cold and hot brews, having been plucked from other locations and then trained for several months on the menu, which is full of other items that are not to be missed.

A bag of the Empire State Building Microbrew for sale.
A bag of the Empire State Building Microbrew for sale.
Lois Weiss
The Empire Affogato Flight.
The Empire Affogato Flight.
Lois Weiss

For instance, the coffee-toned space with bronze insets and walnut furniture serves up an Empire Affogato Flight as a yummy trio of cold brews with gelato and trimmings for $25.

The Whiskey Barrel-Aged Affogato (affogato being a typical Italian dessert with gelato, and a shot of espresso and cream) comes with white chocolate curls and a spiral chocolate stick meant to reference the building’s antenna located 100 stories up.

To start, the restaurant will be serving Rocco Princi’s freshly crafted lunch and dinners with items like small pizzas, chicken cacciatore, and labneh yogurt with either blistered tomatoes or roasted carrots — plus salads and desserts from 4 to 10 p.m.

When it adds breakfast, lunch and brunch, try the Princi sourdough waffles with roasted apples, whipped cream and coffee-infused maple syrup for $16. The mushroom frittata for $12 is another standout that stays moist and fluffy from the shiitakes.

When it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, cocktails from the mixologists include a Starbucks Reserve Espresso Martini Flight for $27. A Roastery Old Fashioned will set you back $23, while an Empire Negroni served for two to four people can be yours for $100.

The Big Apple Blossom is poured for four as an “experience” from a special glass-serving carafe with Dorothy Parker gin, pear brandy and other liquors — plus an edible apple blossom flower that’s a pricey $140 or $190 to serve eight to 10 sippers.

But, for beer, a Brooklyn Brewery Seasonal selection or a bottle of Peroni Nastro Assuro is a mere $9.

The Big Apple Blossom, which serves multiple people.
The Big Apple Blossom, which serves multiple people.
Lois Weiss
The Piccolini Dessert Collection.
The Piccolini Dessert Collection.
Lois Weiss

Away from adult beverages, the Piccolini Dessert Collection with five different items including a cream puff and a pistachio cannoli will keep kids of all ages happy for $18.

But it’s the lowest level downstairs where the experience turns from just another day at the local Starbucks to a tasting bar and café that has private rooms to reserve, as well as dedicated tasting experiences.

Its large selfie space has ongoing video backdrops with beans and swirls, while a 25-foot-long gilded Starbucks Siren mural shines on a side wall and was designed by Brooklyn artist Marcos Chin.

Here, four different coffee-making and tasting workshops can be booked from $40 to $125 per person — and run 30 to 60 minutes each.

Using a scale to measure ingredients, one workshop teaches participants how to use a Chemex pour-over brewer to create a cold brew. (Who knew that a piece of shortbread or dark chocolate in your mouth will take away any acidic overtones?)

Another workshop is more taste than work, as it’s the baristas who brew up the multiple drinks using its special, cold-pressed espresso. These are all hefty glasses full of brew and gelatos — yet still ends with an even larger, “full-sized” drink of your favorite.

Finish up at one of the gender-neutral bathrooms that are easily accessible via elevator or stairway, and pick up a bag of coffee to try out your new barista skills at home.



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