New York City is full of thick creamy espresso shots, delicious cups of coffee extracted using interesting brewing methods, and some extra dedicated coffee slingers that take their barista duties very seriously. We scoured the city until we got blue in the jugular to create our list of NYC's 10 Best Cafes for 2013.
Ninth St. Espresso
No Frills Espresso
Our favorite location of this shop is actually on 10th street. Not because we're ironic assholes but because it has a nice view of Tompkins Square Park and the art on the wall is always well-curated. But we're not here to talk about parks and art. The simplicity of their espresso is a statement. As though espresso went out, grew a beard, got a sleeve tattoo and said, “I'm strong and black and you love it.” Not-fucking-around-with-milk-and-sugar kind of good, 9th Street blasts NPR instead of pandora and dispenses its liquids in 3oz, 6oz, 9oz, or (big bladder) 12oz sizes.
Joe: The Art of Coffee (its full name if you want to get formal), is all about serving you a cup of artsy (without the fartsy) coffee and their lattes will move you to tears. The baristas here are serious about being just the right amount of friendly, which mathematically comes out to less than the checkout people at Trader Joe's but more than your typical New Yorker at 8 a.m. Don't be put off by the fact that Joe's is a mini-chain; there's nothing corprate-like about it.
Best Place to Lose Your Mind
Nestled in a nice residential block, as the exclamation mark suggests, Gimme!'s coffee is fucking assertive. The combination of space limitations and super strong coffee, with the added madness of lingering regulars that'll hold up the line with their kitty catastrophe stories, will drive you absolutely insane. But Gimme! offers a peek into the life of the average NYC caffeine-fiend and will keep you coming back for more against your better judgment.
Blue Bottle Coffee
When you come in here, you better not order a grande anything. At Blue Bottle, an Oakland, CA import, coffee is as serious as a breast lump. The proprietor made a still-standing promise to get your coffee from roasting to cup within no more than 48 hours. Located in Williamsburg, the hot bed of hipster activity, this spot answers the call of the hype by pumping out some refined coffee. If it's hot out, you must have a cup of their Kyoto cold brew, made using some Japanese process that extracts like a millidrop per hour.
OTP Secret Stash: Blue Bottle makes these Brooklyn Bootleg S'mores. This may sound like you'll get a dime bag and a bullet on a graham cracker. It's indeed constructed from some very special things. First, they make the graham cracker all on their ownsome right in the shop. Then, they layer it with chocolate made by the Mast Brothers down the street (the bearded kings of artisan chocolate). To finish, they puffy it up with a marshmallow dribbled with rum.
Culture Espresso Bar
Damn Good Espresso
A piece of downtown cool in midtown drabbery, this place is decked out in sailor Jerry type art, with a minimalist menu and rustic pastries from SCRATCHbread, a Brooklyn bakery that break dances on the line between savory and sweet. Their drip coffee is decent but come here for espresso. At Culture, you always know that the espresso you'll get, wearing last night's party clothes, will be just as good as that of the frou frou businessmen that frequent this joint.
Brooklyn Roasting Company
Hardest Working Cup
Venture down under the Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass (DUMBO dudes) to taste the hard, strong labor of love BRC is brewing. Relative newcomers to the NYC coffee scene, BRC blew up in a big way and for good reason. You can almost taste the elbow grease these guys put into making their coffee (and it tastes fucking phenomenal). They source their beans from interesting places (like one of our favorite backpacking destinations-Chiapas, Mexico), roast them right in front of your face, and spread their seed by supplying coffeehouses all over the city. Entering the shop feels like stepping into a weathered French Press, with re-purposed metal and wood chunks making up their seating and waiting areas and the smell of coffee permeating every crevice.
Roasting Plant Coffee Co.
Engineering in Every Cup
Believe us when we tell you this place is just straight-up nutty. The founder, a former Starbuck's employee and a total engineering nerd, decided that coffee tastes best when there is minimal time between roasting, grinding, brewing, and your mouth. While most people would perhaps find a local roaster and use a mortar and pestle or something, this guy decided to build a contraption, made up of a series of suction tubes that noisily transport your beans of choice overhead. The coffee is a little expensive, the regulars wear lots of khakis, but the experience of seeing the mad science of it all recalls memories of the DeLorean. Visit during rush hour, when the whole place sounds like a maraca.
Best People-Watching Spot
Ground Support is like a coffee shop for fancy lumberjacks, with enough good strong brew to keep their whiskers on edge. The benches and woodsy décor make this rustic space feel like you're outside on the inside. While you can do some computer work here (several plugs on the perimeter), most of your time will likely be spent daydreaming about hunting something luxurious, like elk. There is a large window in front of which you can sit and watch the actual outside roll by.
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Down to Earthiest
Kind of like Goodwill, Housing Works is a do-gooder thrift shop with locations around the city. This one is dedicated to used books and has an in-store cafe run by a charming hippie woman that smells of incense and thyme. She will try her best to give you whatever you order from their slightly haphazard menu. The coffee isn't stellar but the throwback library vibes and old paper smells make it worth a sip.
While the atmosphere here feels a little like your junior high cafeteria, the espresso is consistently fantastic. Sitting at the ground floor of an independent theater company, the space is wide open with a few tables available for caffeine-fueled working binges. Skillfully pulling the life out of perfectly roasted Counter Culture beans, Everyman gets it right every time.
Bonus: Bluebird Coffee Shop
This little shop is all decked out in brick, birds, and other commonly accepted indicators of sophistication. A good place to grab a quick cup if you're feigning caffeine right off the F train.
Don't freak out because we “forgot” Oslo or Cafe [whateverthefuck]. We know that there are tons of great coffee places in NYC not on our list this year. You see, at OTP we're looking for a backpacker blend of coffee that some places just don't serve.