New York City has a lot of Starbucks, some of them nicer then others, but it has few good independent decently sized coffee shops. This is not surprising due to the rent and the corporate culture of some of the neighborhoods. However the following are some of the coffee shops I very much enjoy working in the city. Even though most of them are actually part of chain, to some degree or another.
123 4th Avenue, and 248 Mercer Street
The 4th Avenue location is near Union Square, and while it gets quite busy during the winter due to the NYU crowd, it is a good place to go during the summer or school breaks. The light in the front of the store is good. The food is good. The coffee is good. I don’t like the Hot Chocolate, but that isn’t always a necessity. Neither location has wi-fi, but they both have a good work environment makes it easy to focus. Both locations have restrooms, although they are never very clean. However the rest of the location is relatively clean and maintained. The 238 Mercer street location has less light, but also serves wine. It is even more in the heart of NYU, but for some reason, even though it is always busy, I have always been able to get a seat there.
Housing Works Bookstore
126 Crosby St
There are so many reasons to support a charity like housing works. The Cafe, besides supporting a good cause is also a great place to work or talk. It is right in the heart of SoHo, so it does get busy, but rarely unbearably so. It is more of a calm island in a rough sea. The fact that store has such high ceilings allows it to feel peaceful even when it does get crowded. There are windows in the back of the cafe but they look into other buildings, which is a neat but eerie effect. The bookstore itself is a good used bookstore. The coffee and food is all middling, due in part to it being volunteer based. The washrooms are well used so I try to avoid them. Like most independent coffee shops in Manhattan I don’t believe they have wi-fi.
Aroma Espresso Bar
161W 72nd Street,
There are a bunch of Aroma’s throughout the city. They are an Israeli chain, that always give out a piece of chocolate with their drinks. The Upper West side location is my favorite, not just because it is in one of my favorite neighborhoods, but because it has the most space. It is two floors, with a nice upstairs back patio and several couches. Great light. The only downsides are the big screen televisions, and the thirty minute limited wi-fi. The place is clean. The bathrooms are clean. The drinks are great. The hot chocolate involves actual melted chocolate – you have to stir. It is where my writing group meets. It is where I work whenever I end up with more then an hour to spare in the city. The SoHo location also has a decent amount of space.