Hi, I’m Kelsey, and I am an addict. No, seriously, I have a real problem. I am in a coffeeshop arguably more than I am in my actual room. I may definitely hold the world record for visiting the most of them in one day.
As for the five listed here, you will probably find a coffee barista ironically wearing a beanie who is standing at the counter, and you may even see a tip mason-jar begging for money in seemingly clever ways. Yes, oh, yes. They are the motherland of Brooklyn wannabes and actual hipsters, self-proclaimed coffee connoisseurs like myself, and college students seeking refuge after being sexiled from their dorm rooms.
When I moved here, I was determined to find the best coffee shops in the city, which was a lot easier than it sounds. I suffered through the enormously crowded cafes, the constant lack of Wi-Fi and outlets, and even a few Starbucks when my new “finds” didn’t exactly pan out. However, after enduring numerous bad vanilla lattes and multiple coffee houses with no seating —#spoontip: coffee “bars” should never be a thing—I found them: some of the best coffee places in New York City with a killer French press.
As my love for the coffee houses grew and my number of punch cards entered into the triple digits, I discovered something beautiful at each of my new homes: each of them has something special about them. For example, one donates 10% of their money to local non-profits while another makes omelets in a cup. (Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.)
Here is a definitive list—in a non-definitive ranking—of my NYC coffee shop finds that do way more than just coffee.
1. McNally Jackson (Manhattan: Nolita)
When I first discovered this coffee shop find, I was on the best app ever, Yelp, and McNally’s was one of the first places that popped up. To be honest, I was a little hesitant because of its popularity. I’m not a huge fan of crowds, despite the fact that I live in New York City. Oh, the irony. But this coffee, book-lover hub doesn’t disappoint.
A major highlight:
A feature of McNally Jackson’s that no other place offers is a connection to the world of literature. The menu is filled with options for coffee lovers and non-coffee drinkers (aka the strangest people ever) alike and every option on the menu has a quote next to it that is somehow relevant.
My personal favorite? The quote next to their muffins from The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde: “Well I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.” You can also find the book in their bookstore online here.
2. Think Coffee (Manhattan: various locations)
Think Coffee is a coffee house chain that most New Yorkers are familiar with. Think has become my Starbucks and I am able to pop in whenever because they’re always open late. They also make killer Spanish lattes that are definitely Instagram worthy.
What makes them stand out:
For New Yorkers, Think is rather ubiquitous for their coffee, amazing bagels, and chill environment, but the company offers so much more than this. Not only do they make a constant effort to reduce their environmental impact by partnering with Action Carting, but they also work together with local farmers to obtain the best coffee. They have coffee projects around the world in Gearang, Indonesia, Bella Vista, Mexico, and the Amaro Mountains in Ethiopia. Find out more about these coffee projects and their social impact on their website.
Oh and also, 10% of their after-tax profits go to a local non-profit. East Manhattan shops donate to Grand Street Settlement and West Manhattan locations donate to Hudson Guild.
3. Panorama Café (Queens: Briarwood)
This hidden gem is a place most New Yorkers who stay inside the boundaries of Brooklyn and Manhattan, don’t know about. It is in Queens a few blocks away from St. John’s University (go Johnnies!) and the vibe is definitely unlike other NYC coffee shops. When you walk in, there is funky Indian music playing and the barista is a hipster sporting not a flannel but a sari.
Why it’s amazing:
While the Zen-like vibes and calming atmosphere are for sure highlights, the menu of Panorama sets it apart because of its organic and all natural options. Their organic tea selections are to die for. They offer natural detox juices and smoothies, and their food choices range from coconut oatmeal to a vegan Bliss burger to a quinoa salad. (Don’t worry you can still get your iced chai latte or medium mocha, nonfat milk, extra whip.)
Check out their online menu for more delicious options to consider before you visit.
4. Breukelen Coffee House (Brooklyn: Crown Heights)
Now, I am fully aware there are some pretty rad coffee shops in Brooklyn, the hipster capital of America. However, this is by far my favorite. They have a friendly staff who always joke around with their customers and have positive attitudes while giving optimal service. For me, this is a major plus in a city like New York where these interactions are rare. (#spoontip: Scout out other places around when you go to this coffee house like Unnamable Books, a stellar local used book store. You’ll discover some awesome finds.)
Huge reason to check it out:
OK, to start off, if you order anything while you are here, you have to get their chocolate cake–possibly the most heavenly dessert you will ever be able to get your hands on. Seriously, it is life changing. However, this isn’t the only thing that makes this coffee house stand out. Breukelen actually serves their own pretty cool invention: the Breakfast Cup. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like, and is the best option before you start your long day or are just looking for something funky and different. One of my personal favorites had Nitrate free bacon, a non-GMO egg, cheddar grits, and crispy sesame kale. Hell yes. Here’s a picture to prove just how amazingly awesome it was.
Side note—they also have Nutella Mocha’s. Yeah, it’s a thing.
5. Mon Amour Coffee & Wine (The Bronx: Kingsbridge)
I am a huge fan of this coffee shop for a variety of reasons, which is why Mon Amour will have a few more highlights than the rest of them. Mon Amour Coffee and Wine opened three months ago, so many people are unaware of this little, hidden treasure. You actually have a chance of being a regular which is sort of awesome. It is also in the Bronx, a refreshing escape from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. If you are new to the whole Bronx scene, you can find directions to this lovely place on their Yelp page.
Why they are different:
Now, I understand some of you are just popping in for a quick grab-and-go and don’t really care about what the place looks like. But my fellow coffee shop goers who are looking for a place to study or chill, you understand that your surroundings are key. And, this is why the architecture and design of Mon Amour are such a big deal; It is different than any other place you will experience in NYC, especially in the Bronx, because it is interesting and unique but not distracting. The décor of this shop includes brick walls, white picture frames, and a beautiful chandelier the lights up the room. This coffee shop makes you feel transported to a different place and makes it easier to focus on your work.
Plus, Mon Amour has staff and owner that match. These people are super friendly, which again is sometimes lacking at normal, pretentious coffee houses around the five boroughs. The service is always great, too; just remember not to go during rush hour if you want to unwind and relax there.
(#spoontip: Do not just come here and order a coffee because their food is heavenly: macaroons, salads, croissants, oatmeal, key lime pie. Need I say more?)
So, basically, get out of your dorm or your damn house, and check out these amazing coffee places. You will not be disappointed.