Deep, deep in the heart of Brooklyn it’s hard to find a decent coffee shop. It’s amazing that there’s parts of the borough where great coffee shops are literally on every block, while in other neighborhoods you have to actually hop on the train and travel to find some great coffee.
It’s probably one of the reasons I feel so much sympathy for people in cities where great coffee isn’t easily available to them, and going to a great coffee shop is a road trip.
Orso Coffee, which opened no more than 6 months ago, is like a desert flower sprouting on the skin of a cactus. I mean that because the surrounding neighborhood, Sheepshead Bay, was taken out of the pages of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which was set in 1920s Brooklyn).
And I should know, I live here.
The neighborhood is old. Not just old in it’s sensibilities, but old like the lines of chairs full of old people that line the sidewalks. Adding to it’s particular charms are the stores whose signage is only in Russian, and where you can buy smoked fish in more places than you can find pancake mix.
Orso Coffee may be the only specialty coffee store in a 4-mile radius, which to people living in a car driving city may not seem like a big deal, but in Brooklyn that’s like living in a different county.
On the other hand, despite what might seem to the contrary, Orso Coffee might actually be the opening notes of an oncoming rejuvenation for the neighborhood.
First off, Orso Coffee is a beautiful coffee shop. It’s clean and simple ascetic creates a pleasing and enjoyable atmosphere. The simple white walls even have a graffitiesque bear mural.
Even though the coffee shop is relatively small there are two main seating areas: a couple of small tables and windowsill high chairs. Which I’ve never seen full.
When the store first opened the sun coming through the giant window of walls was unbearable (pun not intended), and thankfully they’ve installed long shades to take care of the problem.
Their gorgeous black and silver highlighted La Marzocco coffee maker sits front and center on their white counter top, and they’re fully stocked with teas, coffee, and delicious pastries – including jelly and cream filled donuts.
They also have Cold Brew and Kombucha on tap, which I’ve honestly never seen before.
While the coffee bags are labeled with the Orso logo, I suspect that they’re not roasted by the company. Nonetheless, it’s a great espresso bean.
It’s not quite what you’d get in a super modern coffee shop like Brooklyn Roasting Company or Nobletree Coffee, leaning more on a traditional medium roast than the en vogue lighter bean, but it suits the neighborhood.
One of the most surprising aspects of Orso is their incredibly competent and skilled barista crew. Because the neighborhood probably isn’t as specific about their coffee, like other, fancier neighborhoods to the north, it would’ve been understandable for Orso to have hired a novice barista staff and let them prepare average coffee and espresso drinks.
But Orso didn’t cut any corners, and have terrific baristas that even make fantastic latte art, and are surprisingly knowledgeable.
And if anything, that’s the best part of Orso. In an area where the other competitors are national chains, Orso Coffee could’ve opened a nice looking coffee shop, but left off the details that make a modern coffee shop so special. But they didn’t, and it’s fantastic.