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New York's Secret Cigar Shops
When you set foot in Manhattan, you have plenty of cigar choices. Davidoff has two stores in the city – not including De La Concha, which it also owns. There are a handful of Barclay Rex stores, and downtown's Wall Street Humidor is a must if you have jury duty (it's closer to courts than it is to Wall Street). Limiting your cigar-smoking to these major retailers, though, is like visiting only the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Times Square. The city has much more to offer.
Dotting Manhattan are small cigar shops that focus on their own brands, often rolled on the premises while you watch. Some carry a few major names supplement their own stock, while others stick strictly to the store brand. Dig into this side of the city's cigar culture, and you will find some hidden gems.
Taino Cigars, on 9th Ave (between W 38th St and W 39th St), offers a wide selection of house brand cigars – from light and mild to a maduro that blends leaves from several countries and offers a fair degree of complexity. The store itself is decidedly austere. It's easy to miss from the street, and inside, there are only a couple of chairs in which to sit. But, the cigars are incredibly inexpensive (corona-sized tend to be around $5), and the discounts for bundles of 25 cigars are generous.
Martinez Cigars is another diamond in the rough, on W. 29th St (between 6th Ave and 7th Ave, closer to the latter). Again, the small storefront is easy to pass by, so look carefully. Inside, you'll see cigar rollers at work, and a small display counter up front offers you a decent selection consisting only of the store's brand. If you like a fairly full-bodied cigar, go with the Martinez Pasion 750. In general, they tend to cost less than $10 a piece. Taking them for the road is your best bet (smoke them in Madison Square Park, which isn't far away), as seating is quite limited. This is a destination strictly for cigars (like Taino). Part of the reason for the low prices is the salient lack of overhead.
The small hand-roll shops do stack up well against major middle-of-the-road brands. They are constructed well enough and do offer some interesting flavors. But, they still don't compare to top-tier cigars like the upper-end Davidoff, Padron and Fuente cigars.
If you're visiting New York, pick up a bundle from a small, local tobacconist. You'll have a great conversation piece when you get home.
[Map shows Taino's exact location]