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10 Hottest Coffee Shops in Philadelphia

By Danya Henninger
February 24, 2014
Photo by: Danya Henninger

Craft coffee is buzzing in Philadelphia. The post-Starbucks, single-origin trend may have come late to our city, but that means people are still having fun with their beans. A barista at Ultimo told us he recently chose Philly over San Francisco to advance his coffee career - now that West Coast pioneers like Blue Bottle are raking in millions in venture capital, the scene there is getting stilted.

Here, on the other hand, there’s room for growth and experimentation. Roasters are opening cafes and coffee shops are getting into roasting. La Colombe runs its multicity operation from a Fishtown R&D center, and early industry darling Joe Coffee now has two Philly locations, the only ones outside NYC.

In honor of #CoffeeWeek here at Zagat, and out of the dozens of places you can now score a killer cuppa at, we've lined up the 10 hottest coffee shops in Philadelphia.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Ultimo Coffee

    Things have worked out well for Elizabeth and Aaron Ultimo since opening a cafe in 2009 in the South Philly storefront shared with Brew bottle shop. A second location in Graduate Hospital is going strong after a year and a half, and Ultimo baristas consistently place well in national coffee competitions. Last spring, The Daily Meal named Ultimo the No. 1 coffee shop in America.

    When you go, expect Counter Culture beans brewed in pour-over style on Bee House drippers - except during the busy morning rush, when you can score an even quicker cup from larger, Chemex-brewed batches. La Marzocco machines provide the espresso drinks, and there are Four Worlds pastries (and a few sandwiches) to go with.

    1900 S. 15th St.; 215-339-5177
    2149 Catherine St.; 215-545-3365

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Elixr Coffee

    About a year after successfully building a cult following at their original Center City cafe, Evan Inatome and his crew were forced to move - a big development at 15th and Walnut pushed the operation to a new home a couple of blocks away. The relocation proved a blessing in disguise, as the new store is bigger and definitely more beautiful, clad in reclaimed wood planks and decorated with murals.

    Elixr is now roasting too and has quickly scaled the learning curve to great beans. You’ll find three or four on offer any given day, often joined by guest roast-industry favorites. Individual cups of Chemex are the thing here, plus espressos from the state-of-the-art Synesso machine. In a nod to busy office workers, you can also pick up a quick squirt from the airpots if speed is your primary concern.

    207 S. Sydenham St.; 215-554-2398

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Bodhi Coffee

    Tom Henneman and Bobby Logue were on the forefront of the Philly coffee boom when they launched their Headhouse Square cafe in 2010 - one of the first to serve Stumptown beans in our city. The petite space is now the de facto first stop for vendors and shoppers at the Headhouse Farmers Market, serving cold-brew iced coffee and hot-brewed espresso and pour-over cups. There’s also always a selection of sandwiches, pastries and snacks.

    With the narrow room always brimming with customers, are there plans for expansion? Not really; they’ve already done that, as founding partners in hot, hot, hot chicken and donuts shop Federal Donuts, where the coffee is appropriately top-notch.

    410 S. Second St.; 267-239-2928

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    La Colombe

    The granddaddy of Philadelphia coffee manages to cultivate its loyal following while expanding, doing good and staying on the cutting-edge. It was 20 years ago that Todd Carmichael and JP Iberti first set up shop across from Rittenhouse Square, and that cafe is much the same - drip or espresso drinks, a very small selection of pastries - though the selection of house-roasted beans has grown immensely.

    Also growing are the founders’ public profiles. Together they launched a redevelopment program in Haiti that counts President Bill Clinton as one of its hands-on advisors, and Carmichael is the star of hit TV show Dangerous Grounds.

    A cafe across from City Hall is less steeped in tradition than the Rittenhouse original, and allows room for experimentation with new brewing techniques like the automated Alpha Dominche “steampunk,” also found at new Chicago and DC area La Colombes. A third Philly location will soon launch in Fishtown on Frankford Avenue, with an attached bakery, distillery and bar.

    130 S. 19th St.; 215-563-0860
    1414 S. Penn Sq.; 215-977-7770

  • HubBub Coffee

    Andrew Crockett’s cafe on wheels wasn’t just one of the first craft coffee outposts in Philly, it was one of the first gourmet food trucks, period. The Penn grad has capitalized on his pioneer status, big time. HubBub cafes now provide java to both office workers in the Financial District - the 1717 Arch location opened in January 2013 - and to students in University City, just down the block from where the truck first served. A third brick-and-mortar outpost, in Radnor, is due to open this spring.

    When you go, expect Stumptown beans brewed in drip, Chemex or espresso style, plus a healthy complement of baked goods, bagels, parfaits, snacks and sandwiches from Plenty Cafe.

    1717 Arch St.; 215-665-1982
    3736 Spruce St.; 215-387-0700

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Town Hall Coffee

    Tim Noble introduced great coffee to the Main Line four years ago with his Merion Station shop, and now the cafe is one of the centers of the community, always packed and brimming with as much buzz as any city storefront. Just last year he brought Town Hall to the city proper, opening an outpost at Ninth and Chestnut in The Franklin, just around the corner from the new Di Bruno Bros.

    Noble favors local roasters, and features varieties from ReAnimator and One Village along with beans from Ritual and Intelligentsia. Arrays of V60 drip cones mean that hand-pours are nearly as quick as the Fetco batch-brewed cups, and if you have time you can ask your barista for something more special - siphon or Aeropress brewed, for example. Espressos are expertly pulled, and many pies and pastries are made in-house.

    834 Chestnut St.; 267-687-2384
    358 Montgomery Ave., Merion Stn.; 484-270-8041

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Joe Coffee

    Co-founder Jonathan Rubinstein chose Philadelphia as the first (and so far, only) expansion city for his NYC mini-chain. He got a head start on winning over the Philly crowd by scoring an ultraprime location - on Walnut Street across from Rittenhouse Square - for his first outpost, which launched in April 2013. Things went so well that a second location opened in University City last fall.

    At either shop, you can expect house-roasted beans (shipped from the Brooklyn facility), brewed as espresso in either Chemex or V60 hand-pour style or steeped almost like tea in an Eva Solo carafe. Pastries and sandwiches from Talula’s Daily and other local providers make both cafes go-to spots from morning through night.

    1845 Walnut St.; 215-278-2454
    3200 Chestnut St.; 215-240-4577

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    GreenStreet Coffee Co.

    Two years after brothers Tom and Chris Molieri launched their Point Breeze microroastery, they launched this retail cafe in Wash West. The storefront at 11th and Spruce had a built-in clientele (Spruce Street Espresso was the previous occupant), and the pair is pushing the tiny corner space to its limits.

    House-roasted coffee is for sale as beans but also in hot cups made nearly every way you can think of, from espresso to multiple kinds of pour-over, French press, siphon and Aeropress. You can also pick up equipment to make all these brews at home, along with a series of well-designed pamphlets giving instructions for each method.

    1101 Spruce St.; 610-504-3934

  • Menagerie Coffee

    Last September, star Bodhi barista Elysa DiMauro and Elixr manager April Nett branched out on their own with this cafe on Third Street in Old City. The pair brings in beans no one else in Philadelphia is offering - Maryland’s Ceremony Coffee and Minneapolis-based Dogwood are regular suppliers.

    In the light-wood-filled space, you can enjoy the unique roasts in espresso, drip, cold-brew or pour-over style, along with pastries from local bakeries and sandwiches made in-house.

    18 S. Third St.; no phone

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Shot Tower Coffee

    On the vanguard of “third-wave” coffee shops when it launched in 2010, Matt Derago and Mariel Freeman’s corner cafe has become an integral part of the neighborhood. There are no designs to expand, go big or boast - this is just great coffee, done right.

    Beans come from Counter Culture and are pulled for expert espresso drinks or brewed in batches on the Fetco. What the coffee here lacks in pretense, it more than makes up for in quality. A selection of snacks and sandwiches are always available.

    542 Christian St.; 267-866-8049

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Places Mentioned

La Colombe Torrefaction

Coffee Shop • Rittenhouse Square

Food24 Decor19 Service21 Cost$9
 
 
 
La Colombe Torrefaction

Coffee Shop • Rittenhouse Square

Food24 Decor19 Service21 Cost$9
 
 
 
Federal Donuts

American • Pennsport

Food25 Decor13 Service20 Cost 
 
 
 
Talula's Daily

Cafe • Washington Square West

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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