Ray's Cafe & Tea House
Ray's Cafe & Tea House
Where: 141 N. 9th St.
The lowdown: Ray's started selling compelling cups of coffee - yeah, that's right, we said compelling - long before the city developed its suddenly thriving coffee scene. They've been on 9th Street near Race for 25 years.
Backstory: Owner Grace Chen runs the small, old-fashioned shop with her sons, Lawrence and Randy Ray. They offer something that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the city: siphon-brewed coffee. Cups are individually brewed in glass bulbs that look borrowed from a bygone era. "That's our specialty," Chen said. "You can control the temperature and the flavor. The aroma is very rich." The shop features an equally eye-catching ice-coffee machine, which requires a 12-hour, slow-drip brewing process.
The beans: Chen gets her beans from BK Specialty Foods, in Swedesboro, N.J. Ray's house blend is a favorite among regular customers (many of whom can be found in the Daily News' newsroom). It combines eight different coffee beans that Chen selects herself. "She's the only one who knows what's in that blend," Lawrence Ray said. More than a dozen other blends are offered as well.
Ambience: Ray's is situated among a handful of nondescript storefronts along 9th Street. The shop unfolds in a backward-L-shape that holds a smattering of small tables and chairs. The neighborhood - and Ray's clientele - have evolved in the last few years. "The younger generation has moved into the area," Chen said, smiling. "It's a lot different from when we first opened."
Beyond the beans: Ray's offers an extensive lunch and dinner menu. Chen says customers seem to favor the sesame chicken with broccoli, which includes a fresh spring roll and a cup of coffee for $16. Among the many other items available: shrimp spring rolls ($4), wonton soup ($3 for 16 oz.), dumpling samples ($8.75), beef with vegetables ($12.99 for large) and sweet and sour chicken ($11.99).
Prices: Coffee or tea to go, $1.50 for 10 oz., $2.25 for 16 oz., $2.75 for 20 oz.; cappuccino or chai latte, $2.75 to $5; flavored coffees (pumpkin, peppermint, caramelccino), $3.25 to $5.50; smoothies, $3 to $4; iced coffee, $4 to $5.50; milk shakes, $5 to $6.
Hours: Weekdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Social stuff: rayscafe.com.
"Coffee Break" reviews a local brew shop every other week in the Daily News food section. This week's is by Staff Writer David Gambacorta. According to various "scientific" studies, he drinks enough coffee every day to live another 200 years.