Though some of us are so caffeine-addicted we'd prefer to take our lattes intravenously, this city has plenty of endearing non-Starbucks spots that invite you to savor their drinks, not just shoot them up and shoot on out. Here are our favorite coffee shops in town; as always, leave yours in the comments.
BEST FANCY COFFEE
Stumptown: If you prefer your coffee-ordering process to better resemble that of ordering a high-end cocktail, Stumptown is the place for you. Drip and espresso are but two of the brewing possibilities at the coffee bar’s two New York locations; there’s also French Press, AeroPress, Vacuum Pot, Kalita Wave, Hario V60, Filtron, Chemex, and Bee House. Confused? Us, too. But don’t fret: the concierge-style baristas will guide you through your coffee “experience,” elevating you to a new level of coffee snobbery in the process and leaving you with a solid caffeine buzz. (Miranda Katz)
Stumptown is located at 30 West 8th Street in the West Village and inside the Ace Hotel at 20 West 29th Street in Flatiron (212-679-2222, stumptowncoffee.com).
La Colombe: Despite having five locations in this city, La Colombe is not just another crappy chain, as evidenced by their long lines full of faithful patrons. Serving up lattes, cortados and bottled cold brew alongside standard pastries and delicious savory treats, the folks at Colombe know how to impress with the showmanship of their made-to-order coffee and skilled foam art. As a bonus, their coffee shops boast sleek wood paneling and marble counters, making the caffeination experience here all the more elegant. La Colombe also offers coffee subscriptions (available online) and hosts Latte Art and Dragon Brewer classes at their Tribeca location. (Melique Williams)
La Colombe has a number of locations in the city; visit their website for details.
Blue Bottle: This global brand boasts shops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, and they know what they're doing. Walk into any Blue Bottle Coffee location and you'll find yourself in a stark white room filled with marble table tops, the signature blue bottle logo, and beans roasted in under 48 hours. Pour-over stations offer made-to-order drip coffee, plus there are bites like ham and cheese baguettes and an assortment of cookies and sweets for those looking to pair their drinks with a tasty snack. The lines sometimes get long, but the best java comes to those who wait. (Melique Williams)
Blue Bottle has a number of locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn; visit their website for details.
Birch: Anyone who frequents one of the key neighborhoods that Birch calls home (UWS, Flatiron, SoHo, UES) knows that the brand serves up some damn good coffee. Beans here are sourced from Africa, South America and Asian regions, and the resulting roast is the stuff of dreams... wide awake lucid dreams. Even better, though, is that Birch's outpost aims to foster a real, intimate environment. The shops are fairly small, but they offer a free library, conversation starters you can post on your table, live music and their constant reminder that "Birch Loves You" makes up for the lack of lounge space. (Melique Williams)
Birch has a number of locations in the city; visit their website for details.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Intelligentsia, Toby's Estate
BEST LOCAL HAUNTS
Queens Kickshaw: This Astoria spot serves one of the most kickass grilled cheese sandwiches in the city, but ne'er forget that the manchego & ricotta can be paired with Counter Culture coffee, and the results are spectacular. Though Queens Kickshaw errs more towards eatery than coffee shop, the specialty coffee and communal atmosphere here goes above and beyond basic gastropub, plus the hot chocolate here is made with Mast Brothers cocoa, so there's that. Pair your cup with a sandwich of your choosing or a tomato soup and settle in for the day.
The Queens Kickshaw is located at 40-17 Broadway in Astoria, Queens (718) 777-0913, thequeenskickshaw.com).
The Chipped Cup: This charming little uptown coffee shop might not boast much in the way of space, but what it lacks in roominess it far makes up for in attitude and ambiance, doling out delicious cups of Counter Culture coffee and delectable pastries to fiercely loyal clientele. Though the small space fills up with local freelancers looking to get in on free wifi, an outdoor patio offers extra room in good weather. On quieter days java drinkers can hole up on vintage mismatched chairs and couches and caffeinate in peace.
The Chipped Cup is located at 3610 Broadway between 148th and 149th Streets in Hamilton Heights (212-368-8881, chippedcupcoffee.com).
Ninth Street Espresso: The 7-Elevenification of the East Village is seemingly unstoppable, but this beloved spot, which has recently expanded to Midtown and Gowanus, is thankfully still kicking. Though the decor here is nothing fancy—there's not much more than a counter, a couple chalkboards and some serviceable tables—the espresso/drip coffee here is smooth, almost buttery perfection that need not be sullied with gimmicky syrup and caramel. Fancier espressos here are a little pricey, but the brews are strong enough to tide you over for at least as long as that $5 chemical energy drink you might have splurged on, anyway.
Ninth Street Espresso has two locations in the East Village: 700 East 9th Street between Aves C and D (212) 358-9225, ninthstreetespresso.com) and at 341 East 10th Street between Aves A and B (212-777-3508, ninthstreetespresso.com). They also have a location at 109 East 56th Street between Park and Lexington Aves in Midtown East (646-559-4793, ninthstreetespresso.com), one in Gowanus, Brooklyn at 333 Douglass St.
Between 3rd and 4th Avenues, and a stall at Chelsea Market.
Culture Espresso: Midtown seems overwhelmed with chain "coffee" shops (and chain everything, for that matter). Luckily there's Culture, a hip little cafe that seems almost out-of-place so close to Bryant Park. Culture doesn't roast its own beans, but it does serve super strong-and-dark espresso, though if that's not quite your cup of tea, so to speak, the taste is tempered down in a latte or cappuccino. For something a little different, try a flat white—an Australian latte made with an even mix of froth and liquid—and pair it with one of their fresh cookies baked daily. Expect a long line during the Midtown workers' lunch breaks, for this is their caffeine Eden.
Culture is located at 72 West 38th Street between 5th and 6th Aves in Midtown (212) 302-0200, cultureespresso.com).
Little Skips: Little Skips was my all-time favorite coffee shop when I lived in Bushwick, even though trying to get a seat here on a Saturday was a grueling experience. They brew Counter Culture coffee here, artfully turned into lattes, cortados, Bom Bons, and Buck eyes. For those who eschew coffee, the dirty chais are nothing to sneer at, either. Enjoy sandwiches like the Norwegian, made with goat cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, avocado, red onion, mixed greens & honey-lemon vinaigrette, and the M Train, goat cheese, pesto, sliced turkey, tomato, mixed greens, honey, red onion & hard boiled egg on wheat toast—double bonus points for the copy of The Runaway Bunny hidden somewhere on their shelves.
Mud: Since the Mudtruck bid farewell to Astor Place last summer, the prime place to get some Mud in the East Village has been at its stationary sister café Mudspot, where you can take their extremely powerful coffee neat, sweetened with maple or mocha, or in any number of espresso varieties. That’s on top of an ample food and drink menu, which also offers a $17.50 weekend brunch, including an entree, coffee, and your choice of mimosa, tap craft beer, or orange juice. If chasing down a truck pre-caffeination doesn’t sound like too much of a headache for you, you can look forward to Mudtruck’s return in 2016. (Miranda Katz)
Mud is located at 307 East 9th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in the East Village (212-228-9074, onmud.com).
Sit & Wonder: Outdoor season is (presumably) coming to an end soon, but there's still time to enjoy this Prospect Heights coffee shop's exemplary backyard, where you can consume Stumptown drinks and nibble pastries and sandwiches in the presence of sunshine and potted plants. Even if you can't get outside, Sit & Wonder's aesthetic is lovely indeed, complete with old books, benches, plush couches, and more potted plants. Come for the lattes, stay for the friendly baristas and Doughnut Plant doughnuts.
Sit & Wonder is located at 688 Washington Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-622-0299).
Steeplechase Coffee Shop: This lovely Windsor Terrace spot is one of the few coffices (i.e., "coffee shop office," for those unfamiliar with the fun world of freelancing) in the neighborhood, making it a welcome oasis for remote workers and anyone weary of the child-packed spots in the cafes nearby. They've got everything from free wifi to local art to a selection of Dough doughnuts, and the music choices are always solid. They use Brooklyn Roasting Co. beans, keeping the coffee game local; plus, they're located next door to Brancaccio's Food Shop, which one Gothamist staffer has deemed the Most Important Pre-Prepared Food Place of Our Time.
Steeplechase is located at 3013 Fort Hamilton Parkway between 2nd and 3rd Streets in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn (347-799-2640, steeplechasecoffee.com).
Kaffe 1668: Swedish coffeemakers Kaffe 1668 has been wowing Tribeca with their lattes and the like for some time now, and have since expanded to Midtown. This is good news for everyone, since baristas here know what they're doing with a cup of joe—Kaffe 1668's coffee is something fierce, whether you opt for a cold brew, cortado, or complex espresso. And while Kaffe's decor is sparse, its locations still offer plenty of space for lounging/writing/reading/chatting and consuming Swedish raspberry biscuits.
Kaffe 1668 has three locations in Manhattan: 530 5th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets in Midtown West (646-559-2637, kaffe1668.com); 401 Greenwich Street between Beach and Hubert Streets in Tribeca (646-559-2637, kaffe1668.com), and at 275 Greenwich Street between Murray and Warren Streets in Tribeca (212-693-3750, kaffe1668.com).
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Sweetleaf, Cafe Grumpy, Variety Cafe, Budin, Oslo Coffee Roasters, Pushcart Coffee
BEST LOCAL BREW
Brooklyn Roasting Company: With more and more office drones flooding Dumbo daily, it's no surprise the neighborhood is being serviced by more than just dollar bodega coffee. BK Roasting Co., which has a flagship shop on Jay Street in the neighborhood, offers up fierce brews out of a capacious warehouse. There's no need to spring for a fancy latte here, since basic blends like Columbia Santa Barbara, Guat Antigua and Iris Espresso stand strong with nothing more than a dash of milk, though you won't be disappointed with, say, a cortado, for instance.
Once you've maneuvered through the highly uncivilized and often maddening dual-line ordering system, there's lots of room to set up a laptop and sip drinks all day, with tables and decor furnished from recycled paraphernalia a-plenty. There's also a very nice BK Roasting outpost across the street from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, another location in Dumbo (inside West Elm), and one in Flatiron for Manhattanites in need of a fix.
Brooklyn Roasting Company has three locations in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan; visit their website for details.
Caffe Reggio: Your bone-dry super-skim decaf Starbucks mochaccino can trace its ancestry to Caffé Reggio, which in 1927 was the first coffee shop to serve a classic Italian cappuccino. The interior resembles a classic European cafe, with the aesthetic only enhanced by Renaissance-era artwork and the cafe’s original espresso machine. The joint has been featured in several movies, including Inside Llewyn Davis and Godfather II, and John F. Kennedy gave a speech from outside its doors in 1959. They’re open late nights (until 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4:30 a.m. on weekends), and, on top of coffee, offer a full menu of sandwiches, desserts, and breakfasts. (Miranda Katz)
Caffe Reggio is located at 119 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village (212-475-9557, caffereggio.com).
Joe Coffee: Starbucks and Dunkin can GTFO—NYC and Philadelphia family-owned spot Joe Coffee serves up the best chain coffee on this side of the Hudson. Coffee here is house-roasted, reasonably priced and served up inside adorable little shops by baristas that, according to breeder Jen Chung, are kind to children, if you care about that sort of thing. Say no to the Green Mermaid, say yes to Joe.
Joe has a number of locations in NYC; visit their website for details.