In Manhattan, there is no shortage of coffee shops, and even some of the craft independent houses have gained citywide reputations as big as the ubiquitous corporate giants. Instead of engaging in a caffeinated argument over which of these hallowed spots serves the best coffee, we decided to go off the beaten java path and dig up the best coffee shops you’ve never heard of. The following are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. Here are six of our finds; if we’ve missed any, be sure to let us know!
275 Greenwich St.
This stylish alternative to Starbucks is big on subtleties. The menu, installed like a modern art piece, offers a sophisticated range of coffee undertones, from peach to kiwi and dulce de leche to maple sugar. Don’t be intimidated; the first and cheapest option, the Salvadorean import Finca El Rosario, isn’t a bad way to go. As summer takes its leave, this tangerine roast is a gentle reminder of sweet aromas. Those with lighter palates will enjoy the soft aftertaste, but if you need a punchy wake-me-up, consider skipping the coffee for the espresso. While the standard cup size costs more than comparable servings at Starbucks, the service and Downtown location compensate. Come for the flavors and stay for the wi-fi and conversation-friendly candlelit sitting area.
Güllüoglu Baklava Café
982 Second Ave.
For the traditional at heart, Güllüoglu’s Turkish coffee is a must. The friendly staff delivers on the signature thickness of this Middle Eastern staple which, despite its modest size, makes for a strong boost to a slow day. The make is simple, but Güllüoglu doesn’t compromise aesthetics. You’ll feel like a sultan sipping from what looks like an ornate silver sugar bowl. To round off the savory experience, the drink comes with complimentary mini-Turkish delights. For extra sweetness, treat yourself to one of 12-plus baklava options, imported straight from Istanbul. If you have time to let the heavy coffee settle, might as well stay for lunch.
Bluebird Coffee Shop
72 E. First St.
From the man behind Brooklyn’s Milk Bar, Bluebird serves both charm and great coffee. The artsy décor and intimate setup is reminiscent of San Francisco—without the expected price tag. Their black coffee, at a reasonable $1.75, has a dark, sharp pull that has lured in coffee enthusiasts from all over the city. The slightly sour taste matches well with a home-baked pastry, though the recent change in owners means you won’t find the favorite pistachio-cardamom donut. The Kenyan beans are tasty, but in case you’re up for variety, Bluebird features guest espresso beans on rotation.
1269 Lexington Ave.
At $1.75, Koffeecake Corner’s small “daily coffee” tastes fresher and less bitter than that of their competitor, Starbucks, across the street. Koffeecake’s coffee doesn’t mess around; customers won’t be offered a variety of roasts from which to choose. High in acidity and mildly bitter, Koffeecake’s single roast will provide a crisp splash of flavor and a soothing pick-me-up to any morning commute. Koffeecake’s offering comes with a cute coffee sleeve, adorned with a cupcake graphic. The Corner’s menu also boasts iced drinks and frappés, breakfast, desserts and “healthy sins,” consisting of oatmeal and yogurt. Tip: add cream and sugar to this coffee.
348 E. 66th St.
Java Girl is a bit of the East Village tucked away uptown. With a pressed-tin ceiling, worn wooden floor and heaping barrels of coffee beans for sale, it offers a warm, cozy ambiance for morning meet-ups with friends as well as indie-owned solution to a neighborhood overrun with Starbucks. The coffee itself is the main attraction here with five blends that are changed out on a daily basis. The coffee is served up nuclear-hot on pour-your-own burners. The Copenhagen, a medium blend, is for those who are looking for a perk, but that don’t want the punch of Java Girl’s dark Mexican coffee blend. It’s the perfect pick-me-up as we head into the colder months.
224 W. 79th St.
This fairly new Upper West Side outpost of the Gramercy Park original is nestled into the bottom floor of a townhouse and is a welcome addition to the area. The coffee is a high-end, similarly priced alternative to Starbucks (something the neighborhood needs) and is worlds better than most coffee chains. A regular cup of joe would be fine to drink black; its low acidity and hints of nuttiness and chocolate give it plenty of flavor and not too much bite. Add a little sugar and cream, however, and it’s a real treat. The cozy café also offers a great selection of inspired baked goods and sandwiches, as well as beer and wine, and has enough wooden seating to allow sippers to linger over their excellent brew.
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