Your guide to the best coffee in NYC.
As the city that never sleeps, coffee is key to keeping the Big Apple buzzing, and with more and more expert baristas, skilled roasters and energetic coffee enthusiasts taking root around the city, NYC’s coffee scene is better than ever. In our March/April 2012 issue, writer Sarah Karnasciewicz explores the history and evolution of coffee in New York, but we couldn’t stop there. From a killer cappuccino to a kegged cold-brew, here are a few of our favorite spots to sip coffee across the city.
Best no-frills coffee: Ninth Street Espresso
Don’t expect coffee syrups or flavorings at these three NYC cafés—in fact you won’t even spot a mocha on the menu. What you will find are flawlessly executed espresso drinks made with Ninth Street’s own house blend of Intelligentsia beans alongside single-origin house coffees brewed via Chemex, urn and cold soak.
Multiple locations around New York City
Most diverse brewing methods: WTF Coffee Lab
Sock pot, pourover, Chemex, siphon, cold brew—for the uninitiated, this Brooklyn café looks more like a chemistry lab that a coffee shop, but each delicious sip, no matter the method you choose, satisfies the inner coffee geek in us all.
47 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn
Best bagels + brew: Bedford Hill Coffee Bar
It’s easy to find good cup of coffee or a tasty bagel independent of each other in New York, but finding the two together can be a challenge. Enter Bedford Hill Coffee Bar, which serves up of Anodyne coffee and espresso drinks alongside toasted toothsome delights from New Yorker Bagels.
343 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn; 718-636-7650
Best-dressed baristas: Stumptown
While t-shirts and jeans tend to be common coffee shop attire, you’ll find the dapper baristas at Stumptown inside the Ace Hotel pulling shots of Hairbender espresso while decked out in pageboy caps, collared shirts and even the occasional tie and suspenders.
18 W. 29th St. New York City
Cleverest cold-brew: Upright Coffee
These days you can find almost any imbibable in a keg—beer, wine, cocktails—and now it’s coffee’s turn. Upright Coffee in Brooklyn cold-brews rotating beans from Brooklyn Roasting for 18 hours before transferring to a keg and hooking up to a chilled draught line for silky-smooth, low-acid iced coffee that’s deliciously drinkable any time of year.
860 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn; 718-215-9910
Most inventive coffee pairing: Beaner Bar
Coffee and tamales? Why not! This Williamsburg café serves up creamy Counter Culture espresso drinks and single-origin pour-overs with deliciously authentic tamales for a lunch that can’t be beat.
447 Graham Ave., Brooklyn
Best hole-in-the-wall: Abraço
Blink and you’ll miss this teeny East Village coffee counter—though the occasional line out front might clue you in (don’t worry, it moves quickly). Order a Counter Culture espresso drink (their cortado is divine) and grab a brioche cinnamon bun to go.
86 E. 7th St., New York City
Tastiest cappuccino and cake: Café Pedlar
Got a sweet tooth? Head to Café Pedlar in Brooklyn where you can score Stumptown espresso drinks and rotating single-origin beans brewed via press pot or Chemex alongside scrumptious sweets like stout or olive oil cake, buttery croissants and even the traditional German sticky buns known as schnecken, all baked at Pedlar’s sister restaurant The Bakeshop at Frankies Spuntino. In the mood for something more savory? Try a chewy, salted pretzels or one of their blistery thin-crust pizzas.
210 Court St., Brooklyn; 718-855-7129
Most creative coffee offerings: The Randolph at Broome
Coffee bar by day and cocktail den by night, this Little Italy bar brews up some of the most inventive cups around. Try one of their augmented coffees—like the Fountain Head with sarsaparilla, star anise, birch and cream, or the Holy Cow with curry, coconut and cacao—each of which can be spiked with booze for just a few bucks more.
349 Broome St., New York City; 212-274-0667
Best warm fuzzies: Birch Coffee
Coffee can make you feel all warm and fuzzy on its own, but at this Flatiron café inside the Gershwin Hotel you’ll feel even better about your morning cup knowing that a portion of the sales goes to humanitarian aid in the Congo.
5 E. 27th St., New York City; 212-686-1444
Best pre-theater coffee: Everyman Espresso
Tucked into the lobby of the off-Broadway Classic Stage Company theatre, silken Counter Culture espresso drinks and pour-over coffees get the star treatment at this East Village café.
136 E. 13th St., New York City
Classiest coffee kiosk: Blue Bottle
Take a stroll along the lower west side’s elevated High Line walkway during the warmer months and you’ll spy Blue Bottle’s concession cart doling out supreme espresso and coffee drinks, including their New Orleans-style chicory-infused cold-brew.
The High Line may be accessed at multiple spots, go to thehighline.org for details.
Best people-watching: Third Rail
Grab an espresso drink made from a rotating selection of specialty roasters’ beans, snag a seat in front of the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall front window, and watch the hustle and bustle of Greenwich Village and NYU go by. Or take your cup to go and meander through Washington Square Park, which is just a block away.
240 W. Sullivan St., New York City
Best rotating beans: RBC
While most cafés stick to brewing beans from only one roaster, RBC keeps things fresh with seasonal coffees from dozens of rotating roasters around the country. Order a single-origin espresso drink brewed on their prized Slayer espresso machine.
71 Worth St., New York City; 212-226-1111
Best commuter cup: Joe and the Art of Coffee
Commuters needing a little caffeinated kick head to Joe the Art of Coffee in the Graybar passage in Grand Central Terminal for expert on-the-go espresso drinks crafted by some of the best-trained baristas in the biz.
44 Grand Central Terminal, New York City; 212-661-8580
Best blends: Gimme! Coffee
Blending coffee is an art form, and Gimme! Coffee roasts up a handful of showstoppers like the Piccolo Mondo mix of rich Mexican and tangy Guatemalan beans and their super top-secret Leftist Espresso blend—the house bean for their cafés that dot the city.
Multiple locations throughout NYC and Brooklyn
Best place to unplug: Café Grumpy
For many people, the coffee shop does double duty as a remote office, but Café Grumpy’s Chelsea outpost pulls the plug on coffee and computing as one of the few cafés around town that doesn’t offer wi-fi or a place for patrons to power up. The result? A place where the public can take an actual coffee break (remember those?), replete with farm-direct, house-roasted coffee, fresh-baked pastries and some good old-fashioned coffee shop conversation.
224 W. 20th St., New York City (and with several additional locations around NYC and Brooklyn); 212-255-551
Read about the history of New York coffee in the March/April 2012 issue.