11. Best Italian Accent: Falai Panneteria
They brew Illy espresso—a favorite—and serve it signature black and white cups and saucers. In fact, everything here is pretty black and white: décor, tastiness, LES “cool” factor. This is a sexy spot to sip an espresso and share a “morning after,” rumpled hair, smudged eyeliner, aviator sunglasses kinda breakfast of baked eggs in tomato sauce and fresh ricotta with poached figs and wildflower honey. Or, come in the late(r) afternoon for pastries and a smooth, strong cappuccino. Stay or takeaway. Perfetto!
Location: 79 Clinton St.
Standard Order: cappuccino ($4), baked eggs ($11), strawberry tart ($4)
12. Best Café Coffee: Café Angelique
When I go to Europe, I come back lamenting the lack of café culture in the U.S. Even in New York City, we don’t have many places with a little sophistication (but lacking pretension) where you can have a coffee, maybe a pastry or, on occasion, even a hot meal. We have coffee shops (I’ve listed many), take away stands and full restaurants, but few places like Café Angelique, with tiny round tables meant for one (or a kissing couple), tiled floors, huge picture windows and better food choices than you might expect. Let’s be real—it’s not filled with chic, smoking philosophy students, but it’s as close to the ideal as I know of in the city. Stay or takeaway.
Location: 49 Grove (@ Bleecker); 68 Bleecker (btw. Broadway and Lafayette)
Standard Order: iced latte ($3.80), croissant ($2.25) or mushroom omelette sandwich ($3.50)
13. Best Uptown/Downtown: Sicaffe
I can’t believe how difficult it is to get great coffee above about 23rd St. and below Canal. Siccafe roasts its own beans at the UES locale and they make the best espresso I know of on the Upper East Side. It is pricey (a hazard of the locations) but not much different than the other really good coffee places (or Starbucks, for that matter). I love to sit in the picture window at the uptown location and watch the mix of Hunter College students and Bloomingdales ladies saunter by while I sip my rich, creamy latte or mocha. Stay or takeaway.
Location: 964 Lexington Ave. (nr. 70th St.); 29 John St.
Standard Order: latte ($4.45), mocha ($4.51)
14. Best in a Bowl: Danal
This is one of my favorite places in Greenwich Village for brunch, but it’s also great for a cozy, rainy afternoon coffee with a friend or a good book. Provencal atmosphere and really tasty full menu. They are closed for a couple of hours between lunch and dinner. Their traditional French presentation of coffee with steamed milk is particularly enticing in cold weather, when it is so satisfying to wrap you hands around a big warm bowl and sip your coffee kitty-style. No takeaway.
Location: 59 5th Ave (btw. 12th and 13th Sts.)
Standard Order: café au lait in a bowl ($4), for brunch, try the smoked salmon plate with
dill pancakes and crème fraiche! ($13)
15. Best “Coffee and a Bagel:” Murray’s Bagels
Okay, this is kind of an excuse to write about my favorite bagel (and egg salad) in the city, but all New Yorkers know coffee and a bagel is an unbeatable combo, and this classic proves why. The coffee, like the New Yorker accents behind the counter, is strong, strong. You can opt for au lait or go for an espresso, but I suggest a straightforward cup ‘a cawfee and the Sunday NY Times to go with your bagel and lox (or flavored cream cheese, or—my absolute favorite—double yolk egg salad). Sit in the window and watch 6th Ave. stroll by or takeaway.
Location: 500 6th Ave. @ 13th St.
Standard Order: Murray’s Blend ($1.85), egg salad sandwich on an organic wheat bagel ($4. 75)
16. Best in Soho: Petal Belle Cofferie
In actuality, this spot is only about six months old, but it’s designed to make you feel like you’re taking your coffee in a place that’s been around for a century. The feeling inside is decidedly “old world.” I love the black and cream striped wallpaper, the titled floor, the pressed tin ceiling, the retro signage, the old-fashioned bell that tinkles when someone walks in, and the marble-topped parlor tables. A sign on the wall says the music is streamed from Europe. There are a few café munchies on offer, but I prefer a double cappuccino and a lovely biscotti (those table tops are tiny, after all). Sit and sip or takeaway.
Location: 158 Sullivan St. @ Houston
Standard Order: double cappuccino ($3.50), biscotti
17. Best for Nostalgia: Oren’s Daily Roast
This was probably the first place I ever drank “real” coffee, when I discovered the charms of espresso at the NYU campus location. Good espresso drinks still take me back to those early sips. Offers a Frequent Buyer’s Card, which is nice if you live or work near a location and haunt it frequently. Takeaway only.
Location: 31 Wavery Place btw. Greene St. and University Pl.; 434 3rd Ave
Standard Order: latte ($3.30), iced latte ($3.85)
18. Best Coffee as Dessert: Café Orlin
Affogato (a scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured over the top) is on of my favorite simple treats. It’s the ultimate combination of two of my absolute favorite flavors/ textures: coffee and ice cream. The classic, simple, light dessert is the precursor to the 24 oz. Frappucino, which by the way, wasn’t the first combination of cold, sweet, smooth, and caffeinated. Affogato is sophisticated and perfect when you want a little hit of energy in your dessert. Café Orlin isn’t the only place to serve it, but it’s laid back atmosphere, late night hours (24 hours Fri-Sun) and proximity to my house, means it’s a favorite place to enjoy it. No takeaway.
Location: 41 St. Marks Pl. nr. 1st Ave
Standard Order: affogato ($6.25)
19. Best on the Go: Mud Truck
The bright orange truck appears as a mirage when you’re running to the subway (1/9 at Christopher Street or 6 Train at Astor Place) thinking you’d die for some good caffeine to take with you on your trip up or downtown. I like to think that the truck is an environmentally healthy operation, since it can’t possibly use as much energy as a storefront. They produce surprisingly good coffee out of what looks like an unpromising operation, infinitely superior to the ubiquitous breakfast cart or bodega cup of joe to go. But don’t push your luck. The cappuccino is all icky dry foam; stick to simple joe. The truck is a happy place, even early in the morning, because the patrons in line know they’re gonna start the day with something good. Don’t forget to tip; you know those baristas can’t be making a great hourly and that truck must be claustrophobic. Takeaway only (obviously).
Location: 7th Ave @ W. 4th St.; 4th Ave @ 8th St.
Standard Order: medium coffee ($2.25)
20. Best Anywhere and Everywhere if You’re Not in Manhattan/ Best for Decent, Big Corporate Employee Benefits : Starbucks
They are not the enemy. I believe that, on balance, Starbucks has been a good thing for coffee drinkers. The company essentially started an industry that didn’t exist in this country before they brought espresso to the masses. Why should Manhattan, Seattle, and The Bay Area be the only places in the nation where you can enjoy an espresso-based drink, the local paper and a comfy place to sit? Where else are you supposed to meet a not-yet-ready-for-Primetime date? If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place with better options (I do), then take advantage of those locally-owned spots, where the coffee is likely better than The Mermaid’s often sour, slightly burnt-tasting grounds. But don’t forget that elsewhere in the country, a Starbucks might be a welcome sight, if you’re after an iced coffee and your only other option is the automated machine and fluorescent lights of a gas station. Takeaway or stay (but if you do, in Manhattan, sit far away from the bathroom!).
Location: Are you kidding? If you’re in Manhattan, you’re within two blocks of one.
Just survey 360 degrees.
Standard Order: tall coffee ($1.90—deducted from the ubiquitous Christmas gift card)
21. Absolutely not: Dunkin Donuts
Some of the things I hate: Rachael Ray as spokesperson. The proliferation (somehow more egregious to me than Starbucks) on every corner of Manhattan, making the whole island into what looks like a giant, Midwestern strip mall. Blueberry-flavored coffee is worse than any other flavored coffee idea I’ve ever seen! The temptation of donuts when you just need some caffeine is cruel. The employees look miserable. But, Kimberly and Sara and I stopped at one for a quick pee en route to Andrew and Carl’s wedding and I’ll admit, I was glad for a clean bathroom. Still. I hate.
Location: Unfortunately, their garish signs are everywhere.
Standard Order: none; I stick out my tongue when I pass one or see a plastic cup with the
DD logo in a sidewalk trashcan