Work From ‘Home’ at NYC’s Best Coffee Shops
New Yorkers live to hustle and hustle to live. Wolves of Wall Street get it, ivory tower academics get it, middle managers get it, and bleary-eyed commuters crowding into packed subway cars at rush hour get it. But not everyone who works hard is on that 9 to 5 grind. The much groused-about gig economy keeps growing, and freelancers, independent contractors, and entrepreneurs need somewhere to wheel and deal.
As luck would have it, the passing of the 40-hour work week has coincided with the baby boom of myriad charming coffee shops that cater to study sessions, meetings, and all manner of freelancing. Places with ample seating, working outlets, public printers, and reliable Wi-Fi. Places with enough caffeine to keep your heart rate up. Places where go-getters of all kinds are welcomed -- even celebrated -- as long as they follow the code of conduct.
I’ve spent a year scouring the city, laptop in hand, for the best espresso-infused workspaces where students, aspiring writers, established writers, and hustlers of all stripes can have a seat and get things done. I’ve battled feeble internet connections, dead outlets, wobbly chairs, and dreadful playlists in my quest to distinguish the serviceable spots from the cute facades. Here’s what I found -- Starbucks and Gregorys not included.
Best for a Pinterest-perfect escape: Ludlow Coffee SupplyLower East Side
It’s retro but sleek, busy but not overwhelming, and attracts the trendiest clientele known to the neighborhood. You’ll find an assortment of vintage cinema benches, cushioned armchairs, and loveseats in the back lounge, framed by cutesy letter boards and pegboard shelves; take a seat and let stereo sounds usher you into flow state. Between bursts of productivity, treat yourself to a fun game of Is The Person Next to Me Famous or Are They Just Dreamy and Well-Dressed?
Best for selective snackers: Brooklyn Kolache Co.Bedford-Stuyvesant
You don’t have to know what a kolache is to know that ordering one of the filled pastries at this small-batch bakeshop is a good idea. Purportedly the only brick-and-mortar kolache bakery in NYC, Brooklyn Kolache Co. offers handmade, ethically sourced bites alongside Kitten Coffee bean espresso drinks. The cafe’s open seating areas and backyard garden provide a conducive work environment for students, freelancers, and bookworms, and its kolaches are some of the freshest treats in all of New York.
Best for tourist-weary students and uptowners: The Chipped CupHamilton Heights
A few train stops north of the Columbia and City College buzz lives the community workspace that you’ve been wishing for. The Chipped Cup is a mystical space where “victuals” and “potions” fill the menus and creative energy fills the air. Leave the noises of Broadway behind and hunker down in this cozy, lower-level den. When you need to surface for fresh air, follow the twinkly lights to an adorable back garden that stays open year-round.
Best for night owls in need of a drink: The Local Bar and CafeLong Island City
Housed in a hostel lobby, The Local has everything you’d want in a workspace. There’s a front bar area with natural lighting and spaced out tables, a lounge with sofas and armchairs, and a back library with an outleted study table, public computers, and a printer. Coffee and light bites are served in the morning and afternoon, and alcoholic bevies are available till late at night.
Best for aesthetic offsite meetings: Brooklyn Roasting CompanyDUMBO
BRC’s riverside roasting house has all the ingredients of a refreshing day away from the office: natural light, various seating options, and the invigorating aroma of freshly roasted beans. The company went all out to make its headquarters a welcoming work space for individuals and groups, replete with reclaimed furnishings that look like the successful execution of your Pinterest DIY fails. As if you needed another excuse to escape to DUMBO.
Best for hip-hop enthusiasts: Dear Mama CoffeeEast Harlem
Named in a nod to legendary NYC-born rapper Tupac Shakur, this East 109th Street cafe treats northern Manhattanites right. Rotating works by area artists line the walls, fresh tracks ring out from the speakers, and drink options are more spirited than the requisite espresso: Beer, wine, and mimosa happy hour runs daily from 3-7pm. Grab a window-facing seat, and when you’ve hit a milestone on the day’s project, reward yourself with a hip-hop-inspired dish like the Cardi B-urrito or The Notorious BLT.
Best for energetic extroverts: Gossip CoffeeAstoria
Some tasks require deep focus and others, well, don’t. This lively coffee shop/cocktail bar concept is perfect for the times when you don’t need library-like environs to knock some things off your to-do list. The energy at Gossip is contagious: Catch up on emails while you bop to the beat, or hash out a zine with your artsiest pal. Retreat to the sunny back patio when the weather’s nice for a reminder of why you steered clear of Manhattan.
Best for shopaholics who believe in business before pleasure: Kávé Espresso BarEast Williamsburg
Kávé’s main entrance sits back on Knickerbocker, marked with a dim neon sign and a long, green hallway veiling the espresso bar. The Bushwick-adjacent space has sufficient seating, a quiet ambience, a public printer, and inventive pastries and quiches on offer -- offices don’t come this chic. Kávé also connects to a large outdoor courtyard, shops in The Loom, and sits across the way from thrift store darlings L Train Vintage and Urban Jungle for when you’ve finished your work.
Best for prisoners of Midtown: Ground Central Coffee CompanyMidtown East
The original Ground Central location, just a quick walk from apparent namesake Grand Central, looks like a New York-themed coffee shop you’d find in a lesser metropolis. The train station departure board-styled logo and throwback rock ‘n’ roll tunes seem to hark back to an idealized Gotham -- one with friendly faces and affordable housing. Set up shop at a table in the front room or plop on a leather couch in the cozy back library -- the subway rats can’t reach you here.
Best for socially conscious sippers: Housing Works Bookstore CafeSoHo
New York, New York: The city so self-centered, they couldn’t only name it once. Housing Works' mission, however, is about helping others -- its spacious bookstore cafe is run by volunteers, and proceeds benefit those affected by the HIV/AIDS and homelessness crises. Peruse the book selection and find something to read, or head straight to a table with your own work materials; it’s pretty quiet when they aren’t hosting events.
Best for coffee bean connoisseurs: DevociónWilliamsburg
Devoción is one of the most beautiful coffee shops in… maybe the world? The Colombian founder identified New Yorkers’ greatest kinks -- exposed brick, live plants, massive skylights -- and created a home away from home that you’ll never want to leave. It’s true that the Williamsburg location only offers Wi-Fi on weekdays, but with some forethought (or a hotspot), you’ll get by. Bring a laptop Monday through Friday, and come on the weekend to read, study, or write a chapter of that novel you meant to finish last year.
Best for being almost as comfy as working from bed: Black CatLower East Side
If you’re going to sit on your butt all day, at least leave your apartment first. Black Cat brings a cozy, cabin-like quality to Lower Manhattan’s coffee scene, where visitors can borrow board games, flip through a selection of books, print the latest version of their resumes, and -- most importantly for freelancers, study groups, and anyone else needing a work-conducive hideaway -- sink into comfortable sofas for as long as they need.
Best for after-work side hustlers: Kinship CoffeeAstoria
Can anyone actually live off one income in the metastasizing gig economy? Kinship’s warm lighting provides the perfect evening atmosphere for part-time freelancers to crank out content after a long day at their demanding Midtown office jobs. The modern shop stays open till 9pm on weekdays, so you’ll have time to get things done even after enduring daily Queens-bound train delays.
Best for laid-back locals: GroundedWest Village
When you step into Grounded, you’ll instantly feel like a regular. It has a community garden vibe, with live plants and mismatched tables and benches throughout. A quick glance at their menu amplifies the local feel: fresh bagels from Murray’s, loose-leaf tea from Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Co., small-batch cookies from This Chick Bakes, and cheese straight from Amish Country. Just beware, Wi-Fi’s only available on weekdays and the shop has a 1 1/2-hour table limit, so don’t plan a whole remote day here.
Best for those who care more about their work than their drink: Coffee TossySunnyside
Coffee Tossy isn’t like the posh espresso bars offering CBD-infused matcha-honey-lavender-cardamom lattes, and it’s not trying to be. The Queens cafe is a one-stop shop that can keep you satiated from morning till night. There’s coffee, of course, but there are also smoothies, shakes, cakes, ice cream, sandwiches, salads, and wraps. It’s less pretentious than a roastery, more pretentious than a deli, and more laptop-friendly than the average dessert shop; it’s a space that Sunnysiders are lucky to claim.
Best for creatives who prefer carrying cash: Swallow CafeEast Williamsburg
What’s the most “North Brooklyn” thing about Swallow Cafe? Perhaps the cash-only policy? Or the exposed Edison bulbs. Or the muraled exterior or the exposed brick or the wood furnishings or the old-fashioned chairs or the artsy customers with handlebar mustaches and charcoal sketch kits. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, Swallow Cafe fits right in off the Morgan L stop, and if you’re OK handling paper money, it warrants a visit.
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