Refinery29 is a mecca for all things trendy, progressive and exciting on the Internet. The company is just hipster enough to do all of that without the mindlessness of Buzzfeed quizzes – (The type of potato I am is tater tots if you were desperate to know) – with the aesthetics of the best of Pinterest. When Buzzfeed tells you something is the best of something, there’s a pretty good chance they are not wrong. On March 20th they released their list of the best coffee places in NYC as of March 20th (2017), and I wanted to go through and highlight some of the best ones on their list based on my own self-proclaimed expertise.
They start off their list with Chillhouse which is an ironic name, in my mind, for a caffeination station. It’s called the Chillhouse, however, because it is a combination spa and coffeehouse. What! I know. The descriptions of the drinks might be a little too odd for me (iced beet latte, or an iced Ube Latte—whatever that is) but the concept is utterly intriguing. It’s on Essex street if you’re the type of person who uses coffee to chill out; I suppose it makes a little bit of sense as I use coffee to just live my life, and sometimes part of that process involves chilling out. Or, at least, trying to. In a similar vein to this is The Good Sort, who they highlighted for their rainbow “latte,” which, from what I can tell, has no coffee in it whatsoever. It also has beet in it, which I dig, and which is an earthy, bitter produce item—but the similarities to coffee, at least from my perspective, stop there. I want coffee with my coffee, thank you very much.
Double Dutch & Three Seat Espresso
Speaking of which, third on their list is a little more promising with a name like Double Dutch Espresso. It’s situated uptown in Harlem which is not surprising as coffee is becoming/has become the leading flag for signifying gentrification; you know a neighborhood has gone to the affluential types when there’s an espresso machine/wifi/panini press present. They usually crop up not too long after the Kennedy Fried Chicken is replaced. Double Dutch is notable for its trend following avocado toast, unique roasts, and outdoor patio (tis the season).
Another innovation in space utilization is number 5 on their list: Three Seat Espresso. This is a combination espresso bar and barber shop. This is also not surprising if you’ve ever been inside that one American Apparel—or is it Urban Outfitters—that has its own over-priced barbershop inhouse. Three Seat is also featuring avocado toast and real espresso. I have to tell you, even if you’re tired of hearing about avocado toast, I explained it to my mother ( a small town North Carolinian from birth to death—which won’t be for at least another 50 years. Universe I’m looking at you). And, she was blown away by the concept. “That sounds amazing!” she squealed like the inner child inside every cynically-performing hipster in Brooklyn and Manhattan combined.
Maman & Regular Visitors
I think the concept of combining businesses is brilliant if you can handle the combined health codes and permits; it optimizes your profits and customership and gives people a new, stimulating experience, which we’re all craving always in the age of addictive, instantly-gratifying technology.
Maman is number 6, and I can personally vouch for this one. The coffee was delightful, their couch was the kind you literally sink into and don’t want to get out of, their space was open, yet cozy. It seemed the perfect space for large groups and families to gather, chill, caffeinate and eat. I didn’t have their meal fare, and the cookie I did have was less than amazing; but, I would recommend it for good coffee and lovely atmosphere! They have more than one location throughout NYC and Brooklyn, and if you couldn’t tell from the name, they’re French!
I’m all for these combination businesses. Next on my list is number 11 on theirs: Regular Visitors. The shop in Boerum Hill features unique coffee blends alongside goods for your home. These means knick knacks and other such merchandise along with an apparently to die for a latte. I seriously love these concepts. Keep them in mind if you’re looking to open your own passion project.
Café MUD & Ninth Street Espresso
Number 12 is also one I can vouch for personally: Café MUD. A low-lit, wooden-interior this place has cool and intimate indoor seating and funky and open semi-outdoor seating. Their espresso does the trick with simplistic richness, their menu is also simple but carrying well-executed fare, and they also offer beer, if you’re looking to cross-buzz or something. I trust their coffee and feel comfortable in their space, for sure.
I also love Ninth Street Espresso, which is their number 14. It’s a pretty basic small, specialty coffee shop; but, from what I’ve experienced their espresso is consistent. One of the things I genuinely love about Ninth Street is their instantly recognizable logo: a minimalistic graphic silhouette of a mug on a dish. I’m not great at describing visual art, but this one is simple, tells the story, catches your eye, and is somehow understated and confident at the same time.
Café Grumpy & Birch Coffee
There many names on the list that I recognize but haven’t had the chance to patronize yet; I do tend to get into my habits and stick with what I know. I’ve heard good things about Café Grumpy—their number 20—and I personally adore that name for a coffee shop. And their number 19, Birch Coffee, was revered by the fanatics who ran the coffee chain I worked for. One of the things that definitely makes a trip to Birch worth it is that they feature the best donuts in NYC: Dough.
Bien Cuit & Tekoa
Bien Cuit isn’t the first place most people would think of for their coffee; but, that’s because you’re thinking of them for their food. It’s a French style bakery that made me stop caring momentarily that I have yet to fulfill my lifelong dream of going to Paris. They’ve got baguette making in the bag, and I had to have two of this lightly sweetened circular pastry with raisins on it: it was incredible, light and instantly addictive.
Tekoa is more famous for its sister/parent restaurant La Vara, whose owner has competed on Iron Chef. During the day Tekoa offers one of the best burgers I’ve ever had and coffee that’s definitely on point. At night it also offers espresso drinks, along with pimento cheese (who knew that could be fancy—and so delicious) with a limited bar and a Pot De Crème that I still have dreams about. You think I’m kidding.
Hungry Ghost, Third Rail, & WhyNot
I have a standing appointment down the block from the number 27 on this list, Hungry Ghost, so I’ve patronized it several times. It’s another one where I love both the logo (though not as much as Ninth Street) and the name (anyone else feel like a dead person who is also, somehow, hungry, before they have their coffee in the morning?).
Number 31 also has a fantastic name—Third Rail Coffee; if you don’t know why that’s wonderful, you shouldn’t try to find out first hand. I just imagine that their espresso has that kind of immediate effect of electrocution. Their number 33 is definitely getting a visit from me soon just from the pictures on Refinery’s website; it looks like a hip, open space with beautiful medium-hue wood and rad art. It’s called Whynot. Another reason I want to check this out is that I’m honestly looking for one of these new coffee-shop-offices, or “coffices.” You know, the one’s where you can pay for a membership to bring in your freelance work with access to snacks, coffee, wifi, and electricity, and less of the general noise of a public coffee shop.
Toby’s Estate & Two Hands
Toby’s Estate, number 35, is one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever stepped into; it has the combined feeling of a museum diorama and an upscale home-furnishing store. They also produce my favorite (so far) bottled cold brew, which, thankfully, the vegan shop I work for carries regularly. And finally, shout out to one of the Australian stores on the list, Two Hands (another lovely name for a coffee shop, with an instant image evocation). Australians know their coffee, and even if you disagree, they won’t let you. They’re the inventors (so I hear) of the trendy Flat White, though I’ve yet to find a consistent explanation as to what it actually is. Two Hands is noted for its potted succulents, more of that creeping food trend avocado toast, and serving its delightful espresso in mason jars—seriously, how trendy can you get?
Whether you’re looking to do a coffee tour of the five boroughs or to find some inspiration for your own shop, check out their full list and let us know if this was helpful to you!