Where To Drink

Where to Drink the Best Coffee in NYC

El Rey's iced Vietnamese coffee.
El Rey’s iced Vietnamese coffee. Photo: Melissa Hom

There has never been a better time to drink coffee in New York City. Shops that name-check specialty roasters are popping up from south Brooklyn to northwestern Queens, new cafés boast the latest and greatest in caffeine-extracting technology, and there’s even an active coffee scene in Flushing’s Korean commercial district. It’s increasingly easy, in other words, to find a great cup of coffee, no matter where you are. With all these shops and specialty roasters, though, the question becomes where to find the best of the best. Here are the top 22 coffee shops in New York City.

Abraço (East Village)
Its minuscule size, total lack of indoor seating, and somewhat limited hours (though it now thankfully stays open until 6 p.m.) didn’t stop Abraço from developing an outsize, devoted following willing to squeeze in for a cappuccino or freshly brewed drip coffee. Owner Jamie McCormick, a former Blue Bottle barista whose appearances behind the La Marzocco regulars follow closely, takes a focused approach to both roasting, which he does in Greenpoint, and brewing, favoring blends and consistency of flavor — which explains why fans still flock here like they do.

Blue Bottle's New Orleans–style iced coffee.
Blue Bottle’s New Orleans–style iced coffee. Photo: Matt Dutile/Matt Dutile 2013 www.mattdutile.com

Blue Bottle (Boerum Hill, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Meatpacking District, Midtown East, and Williamsburg)
James Freeman’s Oakland-based company is the star of the third-wave coffee scene, thanks to its founder’s stringent standards. The coffee is tip-top across the board, but if you’re looking for something unique, get the exceptional New Orleans’ style cold brew, which has cemented its cult-favorite status.

Box Kite (Upper West Side)
The tiny, tidy St. Marks original became exceedingly popular thanks to top-notch espresso drinks and pour-over coffee made by focused, adept baristas. It has since closed, but the Upper West Side location, which has counter seating only, remains a destination. Using beans sourced from roasters like Michigan’s Madcap and San Francisco’s trendy Ritual, they put an emphasis on clean, complex flavors.

Culture Espresso (Midtown West)
These artsy west-side shops would stand out anywhere in the city, but they’re particularly welcome in quality-caffeine-starved midtown. The espresso is a boon to midtown breakfasters, who are drawn by the top-notch espresso drinks brewed with Heart espresso, of Portland, Oregon; the ridiculously good cookies, baked in-house, are a nice bonus.

El Rey's iced Vietnamese coffee being made.
El Rey’s iced Vietnamese coffee being made. Photo: Melissa Hom

El Rey (Lower East Side)
Though the sunny, California-chic café has gradually become better known for its healthy-living cuisine, it’s a more than dependable source for your caffeine fix. The beans are exclusively from Parlor; the baristas are skilled at making your standard espresso drinks; and for a change of pace, there’s iced Vietnamese coffee on tap. For those counting, the (sometimes vegan) pastries are unusual and often delicious.

Everyman Espresso (East Village and Soho)
There’s some serious talent pulling your shots at this no-frills, low-key café with two locations. The Soho shop is presided over by barista champion Sam Lewontin, and the espresso they serve is exactingly made, very tasty, and perfectly portioned with milk that’s just hot and foamy enough. For those looking to try something new, there’s a rotating selection of boutique, in-season beans at a higher price tag.

Hi-Collar (East Village)
This St. Marks Street café, which becomes a sake bar at night, is modeled after the kissatens of Japan, which makes it a unique addition to the city’s scene. It offers pour-over and Aeropress coffees, but specializes in siphon coffee, made with the precise brewing method that produces notably fruity flavors. Seven varieties of beans, with an emphasis on Ethiopia and Kenya, are available, and you can expect light-bodied brews with fruity, citrusy, and floral flavors. During lunch, there’s traditional kissaten food, like a pork-katsu sandwich and Japanese-style pancakes.

Joe (Chelsea, Midtown East, Morningside Heights, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and West Village)
This chic but family-friendly mini-chain roasts coffee in-house and has become a New York favorite for its combination of superior coffee and affable, warm service. There are ten locations spread around Manhattan, and the crown jewel of the family is Chelsea’s Joe Pro Shop, which stocks a rotating selection of micro-roasters and is a great place to learn what kind of coffee gets you going. 

La Casa del Caffe (Morris Park)
This small Bronx café doesn’t traffic in gourmet beans, and it’s proof of how much a gifted barista can get out of a more ordinary product. The owner and shot-puller, Anna Agovino, is a immigrant from southern Italy who came to coffee-making late in life. Her dark, bitter, and heavy-roasted espresso is out of vogue with today’s emphasis on fruity, lighter flavors, but it’s masterfully made.

Working the Modbar at Little Collins.
Working the Modbar at Little Collins. Photo: ?2013 Liz Clayman Photography Inc.

Little Collins (Midtown East)
This midtown-by-way-of-Melbourne shop is one of the best of the city’s new crop of Australian cafés. The excellent espresso is made with the city’s first high-tech Modbar, which has electronic components that offer extensive control over things like pressure and temperature, and is served in Down Under variations such as the cortado-like piccolo latte and its better-known cousin, the flat white. As at other Australian spots, the food is ambitious by café standards.

Making a cortado at Maialino.
Making a cortado at Maialino. Photo: Melissa Hom

Maialino (Gramercy)
Restaurants with great coffee are rarer than they should be; Danny Meyer’s Roman trattoria is celebrated as a notable exception. The coffee at this handsome and friendly café can compete with that of any dedicated café, and the well-trained baristas use beans like the smooth, chocolaty Los Rosales from coastal Colombia. Along with cortados and lattes, you’ll find the slightly more obscure shakerato, espresso shaken over ice and served with simple syrup and an orange twist. Unsurprisingly, the well-stocked pastry case is a real draw.

Marlow & Sons (Williamsburg)
The sunny front café and general store at Andrew Tarlow’s neighborhood restaurant is a great place to go discover your next favorite roaster. Over the years, beans have been sourced, variously, from such of-the-moment brands as Four Barrels and George Howell, which was founded by an industry veteran with over 40 years of experience, and it’s always top-quality. One note: Because there’s only one barista making coffee, it’s best to go on weekdays, when it’s more low-key and slower.
Ninth Street Espresso (Chelsea, East Village, Midtown East, and Gowanus)
Since ushering in New York’s third-wave era in 2001, Ninth Street has expanded, at the clip of a Chemex, from its Alphabet City home. Founder Ken Nye has placed an emphasis on simplicity and traditional drinks since the beginning, and the menu, thankfully, remains focused on the Italian classics.

Parlor Coffee (Williamsburg)
Since opening as pop-up in the back room of a trendy Brooklyn barbershop, where it still operates, Parlor has kept it simple by serving espresso and only espresso — and roasting the beans in-house, despite the constraints. The micro-roaster quickly developed a cult following for its perfectionist ways and, thanks in part to a roastery and tasting room in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has become the local coffee of choice for the latest wave of New Brooklyn shops and restaurants.
Plowshares (Upper West Side)
The upstate roaster’s first New York City outpost is home to some of the best coffee you’ll find up- or downtown — a boon for this neighborhood. The café is, no surprise for those familiar with the low-key brand, quietly committed to making a very good cup of coffee, exclusively brewed with the beans owner Anthony Kurutz carefully roasts in small, 30-pound batches.

Chemex at Third Rail.
Chemex at Third Rail. Photo: Matt Dutile/Matt Dutile 2013 www.mattdutile.com

Third Rail Coffee (East Village and Greenwich Village)
The Sullivan Street original is compact even by Manhattan standards, but the espresso — there’s a single-origin and a blend — is worth the squeeze. It became instantly notable when it opened for its use of the Chemex brewing method, but maintains a dedicated following because of its consistent quality. The East Village sequel is, comparatively, large, but the baristas are just as attentive, and the coffee equally excellent.
Southside Coffee (Sunset Park)
The café is know for its espresso drinks, so find out what the buzz is about and get a shot of George Howell’s ever-evolving, seasonal Alchemy blend. Southside also makes its drip coffee with beans from that esteemed roaster, and the laid-back, pretense-free atmosphere makes this one of the better places in town to linger over your mug. Just don’t forget to order one of chef-owner Josh Sobel’s sublime breakfast sandwiches: Paired with the delicious coffee, it’s one of the city’s best wake-up calls.

Supercrown's coffee milk shake with
Supercrown’s coffee milk shake with Photo: Melissa Hom

Supercrown Coffee Roasters (Bushwick)
Along with the very well-done standards, like a smooth cortado with perfectly creamy milk and a pleasantly acidic drip coffee, this sunny, industrial-chic café and micro-roaster serves creative, thoughtful specialty drinks, like a coffee milkshake and hot chocolate spiked with espresso during the winter, that are built around the flavors of specific beans. Co-founded by Darlene Scherer, who was on the cusp of the third-wave movement when she opened Gorilla Coffee in 2002, it’s one of the most exciting additions to New York’s coffee scene in recent years.

Sweetleaf (Greenpoint, Long Island City, and Williamsburg)
This Queens favorite became Long Island City’s go-to café through charming, friendly service coupled with an ambitious coffee program. It’s since expanded to include a Williamsburg location, a Greenpoint roastery, and a combination café-cocktail bar (in partnership with nearby bar Dutch Kills) on the LIC waterfront. Any one will do, but the original still holds a place in its devoted fans’ hearts.
Toby’s Estate (Flatiron, Midtown East, West Village, and Williamsburg)
The shots here, another Australian import, are among the best you’ll find in town, thanks in part to the very precise, pressure-controlled Strada machine it introduced to New York at its Williamsburg location. They’re equally as adept with pour-over coffee and roast an array of single-origin beans with a variety of different flavors, so you can pick and choose depending on your tastes.

Variety (Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg)
Variety has been a consistent source of East Williamsburg’s best coffee during its tenure as the premier locals’ café for Graham Avenue residents. The cozy original is always bustling and a solid place to post up over a cappuccino. Less busy and comfortably spacious is the Bushwick outpost, which opened in 2014, and where they’re now roasting their own beans.
WTF Coffee Lab (Fort Greene)
The counter-seating-only café offers several brewing methods, from your standard sock pot to Chemex, on a sliding scale of body to flavor. The whole shop looks like a laboratory, and the focus on flavor is so strict that a handful of drinks (cortados, the Spanish-style bon bon, even straight espresso) are only available to drink in-house, but you’re rewarded with a coffee that’s very much worth the fuss.

The original Sweetleaf in Long Island City.
The original Sweetleaf in Long Island City. Photo: Matt Dutile/Matt Dutile 2013 www.mattdutile.com

This post is updated regularly.

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