New Yorkers take their coffee seriously. Street corners are dominated by Starbucks, and city favorites include Stumptown Coffee, La Colombe, East Village espresso bar Abraço and California import Blue Bottle Coffee. But it’s not just about the coffee, but also the people and atmosphere. Check out ten of our favorite neighborhood coffeeshops in Manhattan below, and share your favorites with us!
Located in the Gaudi-esque Gershwin Hotel, Birch Coffee offers an equally quirky atmosphere. Seating by the counter is often packed, but walk into the Gershwin lobby and up some dark stairs until you find The Library. Tucked upstairs in a small loft, the Library offers a respite from the Midtown noise outside with its mismatched couches and chairs. Choose a book left behind by one of your fellow coffee drinkers, or leave one behind for the ones to come. Birch features monthly single-brew coffees and serves local and sustainable food as well, though it’s on the pricey side ($10 + for some sandwiches) for coffeeshop fare.
Photo by Edward Chan Photography
Early last year, we reported on unique cafés in Seoul, Korea, where modernity meets creativity. Caffé Bene is on the mainstream end of Seoul’s offerings but nonetheless represents a dedication to design that is fresh in New York City’s scene. With its natural interior, industrial hanging lights and bookshelves, you might almost forget you’re just next to Times Square. Lots of outlets, good coffee and great waffles–but a little overpriced.
With all the new coffee joints in town, sometimes it’s easy to forget the classics. Caffe Reggio has been a Greenwich Village mainstay since it opened in 1927, and not much seems to have changed since then. The interior transports you to Italy, with its Renaissance artwork, wrought-iron fixtures and even quotes from Dante’s Inferno inscribed on the walls. This is supposedly where cappuccinos were introduced to America. The star decoration is the café’s impressive espresso machine, dating back to 1902. If it’s old-school charm that you want, you’ll get it here.
While cozy coffee houses are no rarity in the East Village or Brooklyn, they’re a bit of a rare find in Harlem. The exposed brick interior is airy and bright with a vintage feel thanks to the repurposed furniture. (One of the tables is made from a Singer sewing machine.) There’s a garden out back, too. Chipped Cup serves Counter Culture Coffee and Kossars bagels.
Source: The Cool Hunter.
It looks like the world was turned sideways in this Midtown shop, which we think tops the list of coolest interiors of those on this list. The light fixtures protrude from the walls, and the floors and ceiling appear to be lined with books. D’Espresso serves top quality Illy Italian espresso. There’s also a gelato bar and pastries in case a sweets craving hits. Update: Sadly this shop and the other ground floor stores of this building are closed because the building is being redeveloped.
This café can get really crowded, but the atmosphere is relaxed nonetheless. Take a seat at the bar and watch the speedy baristas serve up your order, or choose one of the wooden tables and benches–reminiscent of picnic tables–on which to sit. When it’s sunny, the doors open out onto a little courtyard where you can hide from the business of Soho. Ground Support brews Intelligentsia Coffee and serves delicious sandwiches for a quick lunch.
You could spend days in this bookstore browsing the donated titles with breaks for caffeine (they brew Intelligentsia Coffee), baked goods, savories and even alcohol at the on-site café. The entire store is staffed by friendly volunteers, and all profits go to Housing Works, a nonprofit that fights homelessness and AIDS. The bookstore has an upper level with smaller tables to hide from the crowd. The café space is rented out for events. You also get a couple free perks: wi-fi and condoms in a basket by the register (in keeping with Housing Works’ mission, “no glove, no love!”). Housing Works also made our Top 10 Bookstores in Manhattan list.
Source: I Am Coffee.
This tiny espresso bar just opened last fall, but is quickly becoming a local favorite. The decor looks handmade Italian, and that’s because it is–the small counter and fixtures were shipped from Lombardy, Italy. This is artisanal coffee at its best, with no frills. It’s not a place to park yourself for hours, but there’s standing room to linger over an espresso for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up. Try the Shakerato: ice, espresso and sugar shaken by hand in a martini shaker until it combines into frothy goodness.
Source: Smith & Ratliff.
This quirky café, opened by two Swedish brothers, might seem a little out of place in TriBeCa, close to the Financial District, but it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The shop’s mascot is the sheep, and its whimsical decor includes stuffed sheep and pictures of sheep on the walls. There’s a large basement that’s almost like a cave, a contrast to the bustling shop above. Along with Intelligentsia Coffee, Kaffe also serves homemade fresh pressed juices–and wine and beer at its 401 Greenwich location. Only 275 Greenwich has wi-fi, which is one of the fastest of Manhattan’s free hotspots.
On first glance, it seems as if this Soho shop has an identity crisis, as it sells surf gear, men’s clothes and books along with coffee. But somehow, it all works. The front of the Crosby Street space is devoted to a rack of surfboards and a coffee bar that sells the shop’s signature blend of La Colombe coffee. Clothes and books are displayed in the narrow hallway leading to the shop’s best feature: the airy garden out back where you can chat and sip your brew after some browsing. The crowd is a mix of surfers and artsy people who seem productive even when they’re just hanging out. The garden isn’t a place to be antisocial! There are plush couches or free wi-fi here, but you could spend just as many hours chatting. Cash only.
Get in touch with the author @catku.