333 Houston Street
JULY 21, 2013



K’s Heartbreak is a 24-hour coffee shop. “It has to be,” says owner Kay Holland, “because heartbreak doesn't happen during regular business hours.” And Kay knows this best of all, describing having moved to the city with her boyfriend and breaking up only after a week. “I was in a Starbucks with a backpack full of clothes, ordering chocolate chip lattés, my phone charger connected to the outlet, sitting on the floor while I argued with my new ex-boyfriend, trying to think of places to stay, and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place specifically for this?’”

Maybe not a place for that, but a place for getting out of that. K’s Heartbreak is one part café, one part writer's retreat. In fact the sounds of keyboards clacking is like a hundred Fred Astaires. If you have recently found yourself in a broken relationship and need to work out the finer details of who will get their stuff out where and when, this is the place.

Like any coffee shop, there is a lot of art for sale on the walls, but unlike most coffee shops they tend to be text-heavy. My favorite was a print in the style of Keep Calm And Carry On that read Get Your Stuff and Go.

Like any coffee shop, there are regulars, (“Oh no, Jen! You're back”) and undesirables (“Sorry Brad. Having you here would be a conflict of interest”).

There are a number of books: He’s Just Not That Into You, What Smart Women Know, Breaking Up Is Actually Not So Hard to Do, Never Darken My Towels Again, a pamphlet entitled 50 Reasons Why Brad Can Never Know Love, and, puzzlingly, a few books by speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson.

Kay shrugs, “There aren't a lot of breakup books for dudes.” True. And perusing one of the books, I can tell you that's the most tear-stained volume of Cryptonomicon that I've ever seen.

Kay herself has moved on and is now married, her toddler Sadie runs through the coffeeshop at various times, usually to show someone a hand-drawn picture of a monster or a horse or a horsey-looking monster, oblivious to the fact that that this person might be on the phone with an attorney.

I expected the ambiance at K’s Heartbreak to be sad and liturgic like some kind of break-up monastery, but it's very lively at times, with alliances forming, lots of “Can you believe this?” conversations, and laughter. I attribute this to the massive amounts of sugar and caffeine that are coursing through the place. This is the first café I've seen that offers peanut brittle alongside espresso. There are flourless Oreo -looking cookies, roughly the size of hockey pucks; blondies that are sweeter and more gooey than anything else you'll find in the city; raspberry jelly donuts; peanut butter and chocolate pie; and brownies with a hint of orange peel that are served à la mode.

There’s also a strange looking chocolate-dipped marshmallow on a stick with purple and pink sprinkles, that looks like some kind of marshmallow sceptre.

“You can't buy that,” says Kay, seeing me staring at it. “It has to be awarded to you.”

For what? “It can be anything, really, but it has to be given to someone else.”

This puts a food critic in a curious situation. “Is there anyone who can tell me what it tastes like?”

“Ah,” says Kay, raising an eyebrow, “Anyone who has eaten it has not been back to K's Heartbreak. Yet, anyway.”*

“We like to keep energy up,” says one of the baristas, scooping a more than generous chunk of vanilla ice cream into a latté. “People forget, but it’s really exhausting breaking up with somebody.”

And perhaps that’s the devil in the details: while K's doesn't seem to be such a bad place to be, you don't necessarily want to have to go there. I watched a guy in his late twenties walk up to the front door, stop, and then check his iPhone to read a message, as if making absolutely sure that he had to be there. Sighing, head bowed, he crossed the threshold.

*I made a few phone calls, and was informed that it tastes a lot like a marshallow on a stick.


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