Inside the new Starbucks Reserve in NYC’s Empire State Building

Spanning three floors, the newest Reserve location offers a full-service restaurant, craft cocktail bar, private dining rooms, an experience lounge and a host of unique interactive workshops.
Starbucks Reserve Empire State building
Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building opened Nov. 16 with several elements exclusive to this location. /Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building opened in New York City last week, the only one of the seven Reserve locations to boast a full-service restaurant.

The 23,000-square-foot store spans three floors, each steering customers toward different coffee experiences—several of which are Starbucks’ firsts.

Upon entering on the ground floor, one is immediately struck with how the space integrates the art deco design and landmark status of the iconic Empire State Building, ranked as the No. 1 tourist attraction in the U.S. by TripAdvisor. Starbucks restored original design elements and commissioned New York-based artists to create installations and murals that highlight the building’s spirit and history.

On this level, customers can purchase the coffee giant’s signature drinks to-go, all brewed with Starbucks Reserve coffee, as well as a selection of Princi baked goods.

A display also holds a coffee roasted exclusively for this location, appropriately called Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building Microblend. The brew, which has notes of fruit, vanilla and spice with a chocolatey mouthfeel, is used to craft beverages and cocktails served throughout the store. The beans and ground coffee are also available for purchase.

Have a look inside: 

Up one level is the full-service restaurant and bar. Currently, the restaurant is open only for dinner from 4 p.m.-10 p.m., but eventually will be serving brunch and lunch, too. Once seated, guests are treated to a complimentary “first sip” of Empire State brew while perusing the menu. On offer are Princi pizzas, shareable meat and cheese tasting boards and small plates, such as cauliflower fritters, saffron arancini and polenta fries. For heartier appetites there are large plates, including chicken cacciatore, lasagna and meatballs.

There’s also full bar service, with classic and unique Starbucks Reserve cocktails, like the espresso martini. Exclusive to this bar are shareable cocktails including the Empire Negroni, Siren Tea Punch Fountain, Starbucks Reserve Royale Experience and Big Apple Blossom. Inventive spirit-free cocktails are available as well, such as the Blood Orange Tea Spritz and Strawberry Balsamic Spritz.

“The restaurant hired a Princi chef, several cooks and mixologists to oversee the menus and there’s a completely equipped kitchen on this floor,” said a Starbucks spokesperson. There’s also a private dining room for group dinners.

The coffee experience

The lower or concourse level is all about the “coffee experience,” said the spokesperson, and showcases several elements unique to this Reserve location. An Innovation Bar features guided tastings daily, by reservation. Among the choices are an “evolution of espresso” sampling with cold-pressed espresso beverages. This is the only store with a cold-brew espresso machine.

With the machine, Starbucks’ patented brewing technology uses cold water to create espresso shots, and customers who sign up are treated to a multi-sensory tasting flight of several new beverages, including the Iced Apple Americano and Malted Milkshake with Black Lemon. Espresso martinis, available at other stations, are also on offer here.

While some of these drinks are exclusive to the Empire State Building location, the “brewtenders” at the Innovation Bar experiment with ideas that can possibly roll out to other stores.

The Innovation Bar is nestled into one side of the Experience Lounge, where more tasting flights and small bites are served. Here customers can also order signature tableside flights such as the Single Origin Brew & Bites Flight, Espresso Martini & Dessert Flight, Cold Brew & Sweets or the Empire Affogato Flight.

Guests can also sign up for hands-on, interactive coffee workshops. Included in the lineup are Whiskey Barrel-Aged 101, Starbucks Reserve Brewtender for a Day, Espresso Martini Flight Fundamentals and Fun with Spirit-Free Spritzes. Guided tastings and workshops run $40-$100 per person.

The concourse level also houses three reservable private meeting rooms where guests can enjoy private workshops, tastings and team building experiences.

“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,” Mark Ring, SVP of U.S. retail at Starbucks, said in a statement.

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