5. Abraço Espresso, New York City
You won’t find a tinier shop than Abraço Espresso in Manhattan’s East Village (with standing room for maybe a dozen people), but we don’t hold that against them. Counter Culture Coffee brews, plus a stellar food menu with Spanish and Portuguese influences (like the raved-about olive oil cake or a vegetable and Cheddar frittata) has put this micro shop on the map in a slew of New York City coffee shops.
4. Everyman Espresso, New York City
“If you’re tired of nerdy coffee shops that deliver great drinks but make you feel like a moron, then get yourself to the super-friendly Everyman Espresso,” wrote the Village Voice in its review — and we couldn’t have said it better. We can appreciate a coffee shop that doesn’t just cater to the new wave of coffee nerds, but hopes to share its love of coffee for, well, the everyman. Sam Lewontin, the lead barista trainer for Everyman Espresso said it succinctly in a blog post, when defending brew methods. “Customers, generally, don’t come into our stores looking for a lesson [in brewing methods]… What customers want, for the most part, is to be served tasty coffee in a way that makes them feel good about themselves.” That could be why there’s no real menu in the shops, just a printed blurb about the coffee and locally sourced milk. Now with a new location in Soho, the East Village coffee connoisseur serves its Counter Culture coffee with a little bit of heart on the side.
3. Joe the Art of Coffee, New York and Philadelphia
Everyone knows Joe for their exceptional lattes, cappuccinos, and espresso — they serve undoubtedly some of the best you’ll find in New York City. Our panelists raved about Joe’s quality coffee, atmosphere, and unparalleled customer service. Now that the company is about to turn 10, the owners have reflected on what’s made them a success. “When we opened, we didn’t know anything. My guess is that if I went back and tasted coffee from back then, I’d probably be pretty horrified,” said co-owner Jonathan Rubinstein to the New York Daily News. Now, Joe is constantly recognized for its roasts (having just won a 2013 Good Food Award for its Ethiopian Camp brew) and Intelligentsia offerings, as well as its accessibility for the average Joe (get it?) consumer. “If you’re a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and don’t think you fit in with the high-end consumer, we’re going to do everything we can to bridge that gap and make you realize that coffee fanatics are coffee fanatics no matter what you drink or how you drink,” Rubinstein recently said to Eater. Now that the Rubinsteins are taking Joe across state lines to Philly, the Joe empire is getting just a bit bigger each year.
2. Café Grumpy, New York City
Café Grumpy may be now best known as Ray and Hannah’s coffee shop on Girls to those outside of New York City, but New Yorkers know it as the coffee shop to go to. What sets Café Grumpy apart in a sea of coffee shops in the Big Apple is its own roasted coffee. Co-founder Caroline Bell told Food GPS in an interview that they started roasting their beans in 2009 in order to take coffee into their own hands and now, the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, company produces seven different roasts from Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, and others. It’s what turns a long list of coffee drinks into something beyond an ordinary cup of joe. But Café Grumpy is most loved by coffee lovers for its dedication to maintaining a true coffeehouse vibe at its four New York City locations. Gone are the laptop drones hooked up to an endless stream of Wi-Fi — it’s one of the few shops without Internet. Instead, what you get is a relaxed atmosphere with real conversations hanging in the air. Said Bell to The New York Times back in 2010, “I appreciate the idea of when you go someplace and it feels like a home away from home, but I don’t think it should be a home office away from home.” (Now, if only coffee shops could ban smartphones.)
1. Gimme! Coffee, New York
The upstate New York coffee roaster turned New York-centric chain of independent shops was making “Third Wave” coffee before it was even a thing. Consider what Ben Phelan wrote in GQ back in 2007, when Gimme was just seven years old, had opened its Williamsburg location four years earlier (you know, before Williamsburg was a hot spot for coffee), and was currently shopping for its Manhattan location: “… A new wave of coffee shops — like Brooklyn’s Gimme [and peers around the country] — have a radical idea about coffee: that it can be elevated above mere drinkability and can be a culinary product equal to single-malt Scotch.” Since then, Gimme has transformed into the godfather of craft coffee, paving the way for today’s flashier coffee chains like Blue Bottle. Thanks to carefully sourced, “farm to cup” beans, artisanal roasting (they were recently named Roaster of the Year by Roast magazine), and its homegrown roots, Gimme is quite often the standard that coffee shops and up-and-coming chains hope to achieve. Not to mention a crop of baristas that are hard to find in today’s day and age. Wrote one barista on the company blog as a sort of “in defense” of the profession, “As a Barista, I have a lot of priorities that I’m juggling at any given time — coffee information, flavor notes, side work, how many trips downstairs I have to make with crates of milk — but if I’m doing my job right, the top of that list should be the person standing across the counter from me. Even if he or she chooses to ignore me. Even if he’s on his phone or she’s wearing sunglasses. Even if he orders a caramel macchiato or a dry cappuccino or an espresso to go. I don’t care. I still love them. And I’ll still make them the best coffee I can because there are no rules for me when it comes to customers.”