MUD Coffee: A Cup of Community in the Heart of East Village

If you go to Grace’s High School, chances are you’ve walked by the MUD Coffee Hut. We’ve all seen it, whether it be before school, after school, during lunch, or during advisory (if you are lucky). 

Located just steps away from the entrance to the high school building, many stop at MUD daily for a quick bite or a cup of coffee. However, what many don’t know is that the MUD Hut’s origins date back to the year 2000. 

Its founders, Greg Northrop and Nina Berott, then a recently married couple, took $70,000 in loans from their friends and family to open the first MUD Truck. Ms. Berott drew the famed logo in 1999, with its ever-popular name forged from Mr. Northrop’s Italian mother’s nickname for coffee, “MUD.” 

Their truck, a refurbished Con Edison vehicle, was parked feet from the Astor Place station. It was the first of its kind, the only specialty truck in New York City. With its hippie-style branding, loudly colored orange paint, and unique coffee styles, the MUD truck gave The East Village its new local coffee spot. 

The neighborhood staple parked its wheels a mere 384 feet away from Starbucks, a global corporation and competition for most local coffee shops. Its parking place, combined with the brightly colored branding, stood as a protest to the establishment, playing into The East Village’s youthful market. 

The odds were stacked against the MUD truck, but, following a decade of success, Ms. Berott and Mr. Northrop opened the MUDspot, a quaint cafe with a mystical back garden on the corner of 2nd Ave and East 9th Street. According to a New York Times interview, the MUDspot was built with the goal of constructing a coffee empire, all while honoring its East Village roots. 

Their permanent home is distinct from the famed truck, as its day-long brunch, alcoholic beverages, and various coffee and tea options provide a new dimension to MUD’s business. It became a haven for the East Village’s coffee and brunch lovers, serving as a cheaper meal option in the ever-increasing Manhattan economy. The restaurant even gained tabloid attention in 2013, when former Suite Life of Zack and Cody star Dylan Sprouse, admitted to working at the East Village restaurant to feed his “over- bountiful video-game addiction” at NYU.

In 2015, the iconic MUD truck was forced to close due to the Health Department issuing violations for “not having potable running water, inadequate refrigeration equipment to maintain food temperatures, and cold food not being held at proper temperatures.”  reconstruction of Astor Place. This sudden change signified the end of an era for Mr. Northrop and Ms. Berott’s business, with the company’s most iconic location being shut down. The MUD truck had long been a staple of the East Village, giving commuters and students alike a cheaper alternative to the corporate enterprises plastered around the neighborhood.  

Fortunately for them, MUD’s dismissal from Astor Place wasn’t long-lasting. In 2017, Astor Plate, a food and beverage catering business, opened a kiosk at Astor Place, partnering with MUD to revive the iconic establishment. This stall opened on the far left corner of Astor Place, immediately establishing itself as a staple of our high school. 

Self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, Brewer W. ‘24, describes the hut as an “Outpost of Grace,” and a “place where people gather after school to eat and socialize.” 

There’s no doubt that MUD’s presence in the community is felt daily, even more so with its absence. 

Much like when the MUD truck departed from Astor Place in 2015, the recent departure of the MUD hut has left a gaping hole in the lives of students and staff. 

According to a former employee, the small kiosk closed temporarily until March due to a permit dispute with the city. Its diversity of food options, combining some of New York’s most iconic deli orders, such as a BEC (bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich) alongside a manifold of coffee options, has long provided Grace students with a favored alternative to bigger corporations like Starbucks and Dunkin. The MUD Coffee business is more than just a place for a quick caffeine fix. It stands as a symbol of the East Village community and the enduring spirit of New York City. 

From its early days as an orange truck to its current status with multiple locations, the journey of MUD Coffee is one to admire. Its story isn’t defined by its delicious coffee or perfectly toasted bagels; rather it’s about the creation of a space where the neighborhood can come together, united by the simple joys of a cup of coffee. 

As we enter the depths of the winter without our precious MUD hut, awaiting its return, we are reminded of the role of a simple coffee stall in our Grace community and the history that enriches it. 

Alejandro Izurieta is the photo editor and a staff writer for The Grace Gazette.