At a hole-in-the-wall cafe on the edge of the East Village, a wall of Asian snacks and ice creams faces a beautiful display of Italian- and French-inspired desserts and pastries. Sparkling rows of Chinese coffee mugs up for sale line the wall beside it, a rack of clothes from Korean designers just below them. A large floor-to-ceiling window illuminates the tables of people sitting inside, laptops open next to their drinks.
New this semester, Sammy L. Coffee has become a hotspot for NYU students. The coffee shop, which is downstairs from the Third North residence hall, is less than a five-minute walk from several NYU dorms.
NYU sophomore Sofia Hong has been a regular since the cafe opened three months ago.
“I find it easy to focus. There’s something about it… they have their little fireplace, the music isn’t too loud. It’s very calming,” she said. “When you’re in an environment where everyone is thriving and concentrating, you also want to do the same.” On her left, a pair of students sat across from each other, one typing away on his laptop while another scribbled notes on her iPad. Behind her, a man sat with his textbook open and notepad ready, headphones wrapped around his head. “You don’t want to fuck around and go on your phone here. You want to do work.”
Adela Vela, also in her second year at NYU, agreed that the cafe curates an environment where she can be productive.
“Sammy’s has decent-sized, ‘human’ tables, which I really appreciate because I’ve got a lot of shit,” she said. “Sitting in the same position for six hours doesn’t do it for me. I like to be able to fold my legs, put one knee up, just move around. At Sammy’s, I have my own space.” She gestured to the long bench that wraps around the tables, divided into individual seating units that are equipped with a cushion, a cup holder, and an outlet. Most drinks hover around $6 or less, and with the 10 percent discount for NYU and Parsons students, Vela said it is one of the more affordable coffee shops in the area. “It’s comfortable, the drinks are good, and it’s not too pricey. What more do you need?” Vela also praised the coffee shop’s long hours, saying it’s rare to find a good place to study after dinner, other than Bobst.
Open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and later on weekends, Sammy’s popularity has grown immensely since its grand opening on Jan. 23, and got an “A” on its initial health inspection. Several have taken to TikTok to promote the unique cafe, the “perfect spot to work,” as user oui.cafediaries said in posting her journey to find the best cafe in the city.
Sammy’s attempts to introduce a new style to the traditional NYC coffee shop scene by incorporating an all-Asian experience. The menu reflects the owner’s intentionally pan-Asian approach, consisting of Thai milk tea, flavored bubble tea, and coconut lattes, all popular Asian drinks, alongside the standard cold brews, drip coffees, espresso drinks, and various teas.
Miyu Peters, an international student at NYU originally from Tokyo, said she sees elements of home at Sammy’s.
“I feel so welcomed here, like it’s made for me almost. Your girl is Japanese and American. This coffee shop embodies me as a human.” She said the cafe captures more than the technical aspects of Japanese culture. “[Sammy’s] more translates the essence of Japan, which is very much you go to the supermarket and you grab a snack and you grab a coffee.” She liked that there is variety in what is offered and marvels at the low prices. “It’s nice to know that you don’t have to pay $40 for a good plate of sushi. In Japan, we have these bento boxes, which is kind of like sushi to-go, and it’s how your mom packs your lunch in the morning. Sammy’s has that.”
Sammy Lin, the owner of Sammy L. Coffee, said he is continuously inspired by the students that frequent his shop.
“I like to see the young people, the new generation… You guys bring me new ideas,” he said. “I don’t want it to be that nothing changes for 10 years. That’s not my style. I want to change every year, maybe every month.” The future of Sammy L. Coffee is up to its customers. “If you like a certain type of drink that we don’t have, then I’m gonna try and make it. I follow you guys.”
Last week, Lin said someone came in asking for hot food other than the paninis that are on the menu. A new sign is now propped up beside the register — Taiwanese pork rice bowls just became available.