With all New Yorkers age 16 and older now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, more and more New Yorkers will feel safe venturing to their favorite restaurants and coffee shops after more than a year of health uncertainty. Rather than burrowing in your bed or stacking more coffee mugs at your desk, visit a cafe to inspire yourself by a change of scenery and new ambiance. Check out these 10 New York City cafes frequented by influential authors throughout history and the present. Maybe you will be the next inspirational author!
1. Hungarian Pastry Shop
Nestled in Morningside Heights, the Hungarian Pastry Shop serves intellectuals of all forms. Influential authors such as Julia Otsuka, Thomas Merton, Rachel Hadas, and William C. Rhodes have found inspiration in this spot minutes from Columbia University, across the street from the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. There they can enjoy an authentic Hungarian Coffee or a slice of flourless chocolate cake.
As customers enter the quaint shop, the smells of freshly baked pastries and deep coffee fills their noses as the their eyes scan the walls full of photos of books that have been written within the cafe. Influential authors, such as Julia Otsuka, Rachel Hadas, and William C. Rhoden have found inspiration in this spot minutes from Columbia University. Ta-Nehisi Coates, influential author of Between the World and Me, frequents the shop as well.
Hungarian Pastry Shop – 1030 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
2. Caffe Reggio
Caffe Reggio prides itself on being the first cafe in the United States to serve Cappuccino. Founded in 1927, this joint located in Greenwich Village is located only a block and a half away from Washington Square Park. The walls of the cafe are adorned with pieces of art, some of which can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance.
When original owner Domenico Parisi opened the caffe, he purchased an espresso machine that is allegedly the oldest espresso machine in New York City. Although it is unknown if that fact is true, the espresso machine still finds its home in the back of the coffeehouse. Not only has this flashback in history been featured in movies such as The Sun is Also a Star, The Godfather Part II, and The Kremlin Letter, but many authors have found creativity behind the bright green awning of Caffe Reggio. Influential authors and members of the Beat Generation, such as Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsburg frequented this spot in Greenwich Village. It was here that they tossed around ideas for their next pieces of writing.
Caffe Reggio – 119 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012
3. McNally Jackson Books Cafe
McNally Jackson Books, finding its home in Nolita, Williamsburg, Seaport, and Downtown Brooklyn, sells books ranging from Black American Literature to Modern Classics. While munching on baked goods from Ovenly, Balthazar, Murray’s, and Sarabeth’s, customers can enjoy an array of beverages including espresso and cappuccino.
After stopping at the cafe, writers of all levels can participate in writing workshops within the various McNally Jackson Books locations. However, these workshops currently take place virtually due to COVID-19. Some of the influential authors who have held workshops or events in these locations include Gina Apostol author of Insurrecto, Ander Monson author of Other Electricities, and Yoko Tawada author of The Emissary.
McNally Jackson Books Cafe – 52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012
4. Dear Mama Coffee
Dear Mama Coffee expanded past its original East Harlem location when it opened its second location in Manhattanville in 2020. A vessel of community in northern Manhattan, the East Harlem location is a place where coffee lovers and art lovers can join together to enjoy a macchiato or iced latte as they take in the latest in-store art exhibit. Most recently, the Manhattanville location has started serving pizza with flavors such as “Mama’s Margherita” and “Everyday We Trufflin’.”
Past the wandering artists frequenting the cafe, authors can enjoy this community space to fuel their creative juices. In addition to the Columbia University professors who visit the cafe in between classes and writing their next book, authors occasionally hold events at Dear Mama Coffee. An influential author who has held events at Dear Mama Coffee is Ken Foster, author of City of Dogs. Actress and producer Jenny Paul, known for her roles in Adulting with Jane and Jessica Jones has enjoyed their products as well.
Dear Mama Coffee – 611 W 129th St, New York, NY 10027 and 308 E 109th St, New York, NY 10029
5. Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Although events at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe are currently occurring virtually due to COVID-19, customers can still support this center for poetry, music, theater and visual arts by attending events. Since beginning in Miguel Algarín’s apartment as a living room salon in 1973, budding poets as well as established theatrical, jazz, and poetic stars have frequented this creative haven in the East Village.
Other than influential author, poet, and writer Allen Ginsberg who was noted saying the cafe was “the most integrated place on the planet,” this space is a breeding ground of talent. Their book Aloud: Voices of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe won the National Book Award in 1994. Artists of all shapes and sizes can share their work at the All That! Poetry, Hip-Hop & Jazz Open Mic, Words: Hip-Hop, Poetry & Jazz Open Mic, and Urbintel Presents: “Verses” Open Mic.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe – 236 E 3rd St, New York, NY 10009
6. Café Con Libros
Currently open for socially distanced browsing, Café Con Libros is the intersection of social justice, books, and coffee. Labeling itself “An Intersectional Feminist Bookstore & Coffee Shop,” Café Con Libros strives to make every customer, especially female-identifying customers, feel comfortable. A lively community of book lovers characterizes this cafe as it is fostered through its Feminist Book Club and Womxn of Color Book Club, which are currently held over Zoom.
Recently, influential author Cherie Jones held an event at Café Con Libros to discuss her new book How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Events like these happen often in this book haven in Brooklyn, allowing book lovers to engage with budding and established influential authors. On Tuesday, March 30, Salamishah Tillet discussed her book In Search of the Color Purple.
Cafe Con Libros – 724 Prospect Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11216
7. The White Horse Tavern
The second oldest pub in New York City, the White Horse Tavern is an unconventional workspace for writers. However, it has been the hotspot for influential authors throughout history. Customers can venture to this spot in West Village to enjoy a Double Smash Burger or New England Clam Chowder. After temporarily closing due to violation of social distancing requirements, the White Horse Tavern reopened its door in September 2020.
Since opening in 1880, the White Horse Tavern has served intellectuals of all forms. From influential authors like Jack Kerouac to James Baldwin, the Tavern cannot seem to free itself of the greatest minds in New York City. Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas famously died after leaving the White Horse Tavern after a heavy night of drinking.
The White Horse Tavern – 567 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Although currently closed due to COVID-19, Bluestockings is a spot where customers enjoy coffee and tea while searching for books on topics such as feminism, queer and gender studies, and police and prisons. Located at 172 Allen Street, Bluestockings is a space in the Bowery that is dedicated to “empower all people to challenge oppression and participate in creating a society which is equitable, cooperative, and free.”
In addition to their Feminist Book Club and YA Book Club, Bluestockings succeeds in accomplishing this mission through their author events. Influential authors Tauno Biltsted author of The Anatomist’s Tale and Yao Xiao author of Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid have held Zoom events through Bluestockings. This center of books, coffee, and passion also provides spaces for discussion, such as their Off the Binary discussion space for nonbinary folks.
Bluestockings – 116 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002
9. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Although the cafe section of the Housing Works Bookstore is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, customers can still wander around the bookstore to purchase books donated by New York city residents. All proceeds are donated to Housing Works, so they can continue their services that include housing, health care response, and legal work.
Along with many events focused on activism at the Housing Works Bookstore, such as A Feast for the Books, an event that celebrates chefs in the bookstore atmosphere, there are also author events. Whether this event is a book release or a celebration of an influential author, customers will hopefully be able to enjoy these events as soon as COVID-19 concerns decrease. In the past, Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez discussed the release of their book Legendary Children, along with other authors. At the height of the pre-COVID era, the Housing Works Bookstore could hold 200 standing guests at events.
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe – 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012
Honorable Mention: A Novel Kitchen
A Novel Kitchen opened in Brooklyn at 151 Atlantic Ave. in March of 2021. Born out of the pandemic, the melange of a book store and a cafe offers books, records, and dining for its customers. Some of their dishes include “Stuffed Challah Bread French Toast” and “Baconeggandcheese.” As they continue to grow, they hope to host poetry slams and events where local artists can display their work. This will be the new place where influential authors travel to create their next masterpiece.
A Novel Kitchen – 151 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201