Feature

10 Hottest Coffee Shops in NYC

By Megan O. Steintrager | February 23, 2015 By Megan O. Steintrager  |  February 23, 2015

The obsessively sourced, carefully crafted java scene in New York shows no sign of slowing down: since our last hot list, destination cafes have opened in the West Village, Williamsburg and Bushwick, but also in Bay Ridge and — even more surprising — Midtown. Trends this year include a willingness to embrace frappuccino culture, with no-shame offerings like Nutella- and brownie-batter-based drinks on menus alongside boutique espresso drinks made on $20,000 machines. Also appearing on those menus: food that's on par with the top-notch joe. Here are 10 places to get your fix of flat whites, pour-overs, espressos, cold brews — and gourmet avocado toast.

(See our 2015 Coffee Survey results here.)

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  • Hole in the Wall

    The Australian transplants behind this little coffee counter have chain-store aspirations, with plans to expand throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. For now, this outpost in the lobby of a building on Fifth Avenue (with access from 37th and 38th Streets) is the only place for their lattes, cortados, drip coffees and other drinks brewed with beans from Denver roaster NOVO Coffee. Cheeky touches like a loyalty card with prompts such as "Gettin' There!" and "You Cheatin'?" and cups printed with "We drank coffee before it was cool" signal that this is a place that's serious about coffee without taking itself too seriously.

    Must-order: Never mind that the flat-white has gone mainstream (you can get one at Starbucks now), the Australian standby is still the thing to order here.

    On the menu: Donuts from Dough, along with muffins, croissants and sandwiches to eat in the adjacent plaza if the temperature in New York ever rises above freezing again.

    The details: 420 Fifth Ave.; 646-682-9510

  • AP Cafe

    This sleek, roomy cafe run by artists is quintessential post-industrial Bushwick, with concrete floors, skylights, indoor and outdoor waterfalls and floor-to-high-ceiling windows that look out onto graffiti art across the street. In addition to a full range of coffee drinks (mostly made with beans from Forty Weight), there are juices, smoothies and a full brunch and lunch menu. Though the atmosphere is generally chill, a "BRUNCHVIBES" series features live DJ sets, brunch food and a suggestion to BYO champagne and beer. Bonus: it's steps from the Jefferson Street L train.

    Must-order: The Vietnamese coffee is a year-round favorite, thanks, in part, to the fact that it's made with Café du Monde's coffee with chicory blend (as is traditional in many U.S. Vietnamese restaurants).

    On the menu: There's an ample lineup of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, such as grilled cheese with Gruyère and Chihuahua (served with tomato bisque), plus soups, salads and pastries.

    The details: 420 Troutman St., Brooklyn; 347-404-6147

  • Toby's Estate Coffee

    The Australian-born Williamsburg and Flatiron favorites known for their brews made from house-roasted, single-origin beans have a new sibling in the West Village. Set in a gorgeous 1920s space that was once an artist's studio, the outpost has a cafe, plus a coffee school referred to as the "Brew Parlor." There, you can participate in public or private cuppings, learn to pull a proper espresso, study home-brewing techniques (including Chemex and Aeropress) or attend a one-on-one latte art session — the wall of windows makes for amazing natural light in which to photograph your caffeinated creation.

    Must-order: The most popular order is the flat white (a Zagat reviewer favorite too). The cafe is also serving a seasonal Apple Betty now, made with almond milk, housemade apple syrup and a shot of espresso.

    On the menu: The kitchen is open until 3 PM, serving brunchy food like cast-iron eggs, waffles and granola, and there's a changing menu of baked goods from different local vendors (continuing the school theme, the Toby's website calls this a "residency program").

    The details: 44 Charles St.; 646-590-1924

  • El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

    Buzzed about for its food as well as its coffee and friendly vibe, this bright and tiny Lower East Sider tends to draw a crowd. If you can get one of the handful of seats, be sure to order something from chef Gerardo Gonzalez's eclectic menu to go with your cappuccino or Kyoto-brewed iced coffee (draft beers, wines by the glass and bottle and sherry are also available).

    Must-order: Coffee purists may sniff, but sugar hounds have to try the "brownie batter" hot chocolate.

    On the menu: During the day, you'll find brunchy, snacky fare like seasonal falafel, frittatas and grain salad, while after 5:30, the menu includes  a broader range of bites (vegan chicharróns, beet-pickled eggs) and more substantial plates (octopus salad, pozole, mussels escabeche).

    The details: 100 Stanton St.; 212-260-3950

  • Devoción Botica De Cafe

    The über-fresh beans — they're sourced from small farms, flown into New York shortly after harvest and roasted in-house — are what have people buzzing at this sprawling Williamsburg outpost of a Bogota-based coffee company. After choosing your beverage (pour-over coffee, espresso drinks, regular and fruit-based teas), you can grab a table or, if you're lucky, one of the leather sofas. The spot, which opened in November, is a looker too: high ceilings and a huge skylight flood the space with light, while a living plant wall (with plants from Columbia) brings a bit of the outside inside.

    Must-order: Get the full flavor of those fresh beans with a straight-up espresso (made with a Kees Van Der Westen machine) or try a "Coffee Tea" made from coffee cherries.

    On the menu: It's really about the coffee here, but there's a handful of noshes, including ham and cheese on a croissant, granola and some pastries.

    The details: 69 Grand St., Brooklyn; 718-285-6180

  • The Elk

    Decorated in pale, unfinished woods and bright whites, this snug Charles Street food and housewares vendor/coffee shop from Claire Chan (the Vancouverite behind San Francisco's Beacon) strikes a balance between homey and hip. There's a fairly straight forward lineup of cortados, lattes, espressos, cold brews, Chemex pour-overs and teas, as well as, notably, a breakfast and lunch menu from chef Sam Talbot.

    Must-order: Whatever's new from the rotating selection of single-origin coffees from boutique San Francisco coffee company Sightglass

    On the menu: Talbot's offerings, such as the yogurt bowl with cashew-quinoa granola, lean healthy. Eggs, sandwiches and rice bowls are also on the menu, and in addition to the ubiquitous avocado toast, there's zucchini toast.

    The details: 128 Charles St.; 212-933-4780

  • Intelligentsia Herald Square Coffeebar (inside Urban Outfitters)

    While you've been able to order coffee brewed from Intelligentsia beans at coffee shops around the city for awhile, this sprawling Herald Square cafe is only the second official NYC coffee bar from the Chicago-based company (the first is in the lobby of the High Line Hotel). The shop is part of a collaboration with Urban Outfitters (the "lifestyle center" also has an Amoeba Music, a beauty department and hair salon), but if you don't like to mix shopping for ironic vintage-style T-shirts with your coffee quaffing, no worries — there's a separate entrance to the cafe, which gleams with white Carrera marble counters and walls and shiny black finishes.

    Must-order: You can't go wrong with the signature Black Cat Espresso — start there and then work your way through the various blends and single-origin offerings.

    On the menu: There are grab-and-go — or stand-and-eat — sandwiches and salads, plus pastries.

    The details: 1333 Broadway; 212-244-4320

  • Blue Bottle Bryant Park

    There's a decidedly Downtown vibe at this snazzy little Blue Bottle cafe — the seventh New York outpost from the San Francisco-based company — on 40th Street across the street from Bryant Park. The slender black-and-white space has six stools along a narrow counter, with one set of windows looking into the lobby of the coworking space WeWork (part of that Downtown vibe) and another with a view of the park. Blue Bottle's signature drip brews and sweet New Orleans-style iced coffee with chicory can be found here, of course, along with espressos carefully crafted on the La Marzocca machine that takes up a third of the counter.

    Must-order: Blue Bottle may be best known for the aforementioned pour-overs, but the light, bright East Coast-only Retrofit espresso is well worth a try.

    On the menu: There's a glass case with a small selection of pastries and other sweet treats.

    The details: 54 W. 40th St.; 510-435-7350

  • Box Kite

    This tiny Upper West Side spin-off of an East Village coffeehouse — which made last year's hot list — serves drinks brewed from a rotating list of boutique roasters such as San Francisco's Ritual and Grand Rapids' Madcap. The focus is on espresso and espresso-based drinks, such as the "Espresso Tonic," a bubbly mixture of espresso and Fever Tree tonic. Though the standing-room-only space is even smaller than the original outpost, the cafe takes coffee no less seriously. In fact, location manager Steven Latham was a competitor in the U.S. Coffee Championships in Long Beach in February.

    Must-order: Try the "one and one," a single espresso plus a single macchiato, which allows you to try the coffee with and without milk. The pours come on a tray with a palate-cleansing cup of seltzer and a graham cracker (the latter is served with all in-house drinks).  

    On the menu: There are donuts, plus a seasonal toast menu, with a changing selection of savory and sweet toasts, such as avocado (of course!), crème fraîche with lox and capers, and ricotta with peach-ginger-thyme jam from Brooklyn's Diaspora Kitchen & Provisions.

    The details: 128 W. 72nd St.

  • The Coffee Lab

    Depending on which corner of the blogosphere you visit, the arrival of this Bay Ridge cafe pouring drinks brewed from Toby's Estates beans either signals that the neighborhood has arrived (Hooray for high-end indie coffee and slick digs!) or gone to hell (Ack! Hipster takeover!). In addition to the usual lineup of lattes, espressos and so forth, there are teas, hot chocolate and a Nutella latte — yep, Nutella. There's even a kids' menu with iced chocolate and another Nutella drink (Shhhh...Don't tell the Park Slopers). Floor-to-ceiling windows and a good amount of seating (including outdoor tables and benches in the backyard) add to the appeal.

    Must-order: If you can't stomach the buzzed-about milkshakelike Nutella Monster, go for a straight-up latte.

    On the menu: Scones, macarons and other pastries and sweets, a few sandwiches, plus an affogato made with cashew-based vegan ice cream.

    The details: 6903 Third Ave., Brooklyn; 646-820-8095

Places Mentioned

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Blue Bottle Coffee

Coffee Shop West 40s
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The Coffee Lab

Coffee Shop Bay Ridge
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Box Kite Coffee

Coffee Shop West 70s
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Devocion

Coffee Shop Williamsburg
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THE ELK

Coffee Shop West Village
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El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

Californian Lower East Side
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Hole in the Wall Coffee NYC

Coffee Shop West 30s
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AP Cafe

Coffee Shop Bushwick
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Toby's Estate Coffee

Cafe West Village
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