This is where it all began for me, my civilized addiction to a daily dose of great latte - hot in the winter, iced in the summer, and always to-go - right over to my office, every morning on my way to work. I would nurse it through the entire morning, at desk or in meetings, and I am sure I was known for (among many other things) having a Culture Espresso latte with me wherever I was.
A couple of years ago, I randomly walked by and "discovered" it, its big window and large espresso machine beckoning. Back then, it was always empty; I prayed it would not go out of business before it found its following. It didn't (go out of business, that is) and it has (found its following, that is, big time). They are serious about excellent espresso-making here, first and foremost. It's probably the best I've found in Manhattan.
Not only could I buy my caffeine fix and know that it would always be amazing, right around the corner from my office in the middle of the quality dining wasteland otherwise known as the Garment District (excuse me, The Fashion Center, as its neighborhood BID would prefer it be called). Culture also features homemade sandwiches and, back when it first opened, they had a truly creative pastry chef churning out, on premises, the most beautiful things I wouldn't dare let myself indulge in (too much/too close). But I loved seeing what she was making every day; if one could gain weight just by looking.... Though that pastry chef has since left and Culture now features baked items from Sullivan Street Bakery (also very good but more predictable), I did notice when I was there on a recent weekday afternoon that a huge group of patrons arrived around 3pm and started a line going out the door to buy fresh-baked, still hot, chocolate chip cookies. They were definitely in the know, these neighborhood workers in the fashion business or whatever else - and it's quite varied - these folks are doing.
Culture uses Intelligentsia Coffee; every espresso-based drink is a triple shot. The sandwiches (which run out by early afternoon) are also fantastic. I'm partial to the Chipotle Chicken, but I hear Figgy is good, too (maybe I just think the name is cute).
There is room for seating at small tables, so conversation is definitely possible, as well as one long high table in the middle of the room. They also have free wifi and play LPs on an actual turntable - remember those?!
For tourists (who pretty much haven't found this place except on Thanksgiving Day when the parade crowd falls in), I would advise remembering it as an excellent pit-stop on the walk between Times Square and the Empire State Building. There it is, on 38th just off Sixth, about half way between them.