A Guide to New York’s Least Pretentious Coffee Shops. | A Continuous Lean.

A Guide to New York’s Least Pretentious Coffee Shops.

Apr 3rd, 2014 | Categories: Food, Jake Gallagher, New York City | by Jake Gallagher


When it comes to a quality cup of coffee, we’ll admit that New York City has been traditionally late to the game. Unlike our West Coast counterparts, who have always been armed with a more acute understanding of how beans and brews work; we don’t have a long history of destination coffee shops, and rare roasts. It’s not that coffee has not played a significant role in daily life here in New York, rather it’s that coffee has been historically been known as more a functional fuel, rather than a culinary pursuit. Like gas to a car, coffee has literally powered New York for as long as anyone can remember, but until the past couple decades, there hasn’t been a very visible coffee culture here in the city.

All that began to change with the inescapable onslaught of Starbucks, followed shortly by the steady rise of independent coffee shops which has now propelled New York into an age where you could quite literally step outside your front door and find a great cup of coffee just a few blocks away. Unfortunately, the by-product of this dark-roasted, slow-pressed, high-ticket coffee mania has been the ever-present sense of pretension that surrounds New York coffee. Snobbery abounds on both sides of the counter in many of New York’s most popular shops, and so for all of you that enjoy a great cup coffee with a splash of milk not arrogance, we give you the five least pretentious quality coffee shops in New York. It’s a shame a list like this would even need to exist.



Gasoline Alley – Located on Lafayette just north of SoHo, Gasoline Alley is the definition of small and mighty. The pint-sized shop features Intelligentsia coffee, Dough donuts, and an airy, minimal design. Best of all, despite its central location, it’s rarely busy, and if it is the staff is efficient and friendly. It’s the anti-Gimmie Coffee. On top of all of that, it’s one of the more affordable cups of coffee in the city. 331 Lafayette St.


Ports – Founded in 2011 as an answer to all the unapproachable shops in the area, Chelsea’s Ports serves up Heart coffee in an open, comfortable space. While they do serve up your standard pastries and snacks, the Ports’ focus is clearly on coffee, as evidenced by their meticulous brews and tasting flights. 251 W. 23rd St.


Toby’s Estate – In the heart of this city’s most easily satirized neighborhood lays Toby’s Estate, an Australian import which brews up a serious cup of coffee. The mammoth space packs both a modernist seating area up front and a roastery in the back, making it an all-inclusive emporium for all things coffee related. Its proximity to Gentry is not overlooked either. 125 North 6th St.

Nourish Day 94

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters – Tucked away off Union Square, 71 Irving is the sort of coffee shop where you can post up for a whole day and never leave. Located in the basement of a townhouse just off Gramercy Park, 71 Irving is quaint in a way that doesn’t conjure up images from Pinterest boards, allowing you to slow things down for a bit for a cup of their house roasted brew. 71 Irving Place


Gregorys Coffee – If there could ever be such a thing as an independent chain, Gregorys is it. Started by Greg Zamfotis (who we might add is probably the best dressed man in the coffee world) Gregorys is a straightforward coffee shop that just so happens to peddle a delicious cup of coffee. You may have met him with a simple set-up at the Pop Up Flea, or maybe you have been to one of his many shops around town. Over the past few years Gregorys has grown into a mini midtown Manhattan empire, (with more stores on the way) and the layout of the shops clearly caters to the busy business crowd. Yet their coffee is enough to make anyone stop in their tracks, as Greg’s focus on sourcing only the finest beans make for one helluva morning brew. Multiple locations throughout Manhattan. —JG

Comments: 25

25 Comments to “A Guide to New York’s Least Pretentious Coffee Shops.”

  1. Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 10:43 AM

    Nice list. I think Porto Rico is also a nice coffee spot, although they don’t offer seating in their shops.

  2. jjjjj
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 12:29 PM

    Seriously? Tobys is the most pretentious place I know of in NY. The staff is annoying, the endless stream of aimless, entitled rich Williamsburg kids means you can never find a place to sit, and the coffee is expensive. I have no clue why that is on this list

  3. kiya
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 12:40 PM

    You missed my favorite cafe in NYC: http://www.coffeefoundry.net

  4. Aaron Kincaid
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 1:04 PM

    Cafe Ghia’s in Bushwick. The plain black iced coffee is amazing.

  5. C. Smith
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 1:12 PM

    Nolita Mart on Mott St. is incredible and has some of the nicest staff around.

  6. Defne
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 3:02 PM

    I second kiya’s rec.

  7. DY
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 3:09 PM

    Good to know. In addition, a list of the MOST pretentious coffee shops would be a really fun read.

  8. szajic
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 5:30 PM

    Jack’s! I must speak up for Jack’s in the West Village. Their stir-brewed coffee makes a truly excellent au lait.

  9. Ray Hull
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 6:21 PM

    Least pretentious? There’s no Formica in any of them.

  10. Terry
    on Apr 3rd, 2014
    @ 9:02 PM

    Has Cafe Grumpy lost a step after expanding beyond Chelsea? I love a cup of Heartbreaker when I can get it.

  11. Skenflin McGinty
    on Apr 4th, 2014
    @ 10:21 AM

    @ Ray Hull

    I agree.

    Perhaps the list is supposed to be the least pretentious of the pretentious coffee shops.

  12. Henry
    on Apr 4th, 2014
    @ 3:23 PM

    What about the 7-11 on the Bowery? Such a treat.

  13. Brian
    on Apr 4th, 2014
    @ 9:25 PM

    I thought the whole point of this website was pretentious?

  14. Ted
    on Apr 5th, 2014
    @ 10:03 AM

    Well Done Jake. I really want to beat the living hell out of the Trolls on this thread,
    Maybe a best of the Douche Nozzle Comments post? Where you post their actual email
    address. Maybe home address too.

  15. Marylynn
    on Apr 6th, 2014
    @ 10:27 PM

    So many other small mom and pop shop. D’ Amico”s http://damicofoods.com
    Their not savvy with tech, but they get great local foot traffic + following.

  16. Brian
    on Apr 6th, 2014
    @ 11:21 PM

    You can’t make this up. Definition of pretentious from websters:
    : having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are

  17. Tom
    on Apr 7th, 2014
    @ 1:00 PM

    I love that this was written. Thanks, Michael, for writing it up, and so glad Gasoline Alley is on the list!

  18. Michael Williams
    on Apr 7th, 2014
    @ 2:07 PM

    Jake wrote it. Gasoline Alley is my spot though.

  19. eddie
    on Apr 7th, 2014
    @ 4:34 PM

    Seriously, echoing @kiya, Coffee Foundry is missing from this list.

  20. corey
    on Apr 7th, 2014
    @ 7:49 PM

    Cafe Regular du Nord in Park Slope is great.

  21. That Guy
    on Apr 10th, 2014
    @ 11:55 AM

    Honestly, I liked coffee better in the 90s [ducks for cover].

    I don’t like light roasts, and I fundamentally don’t believe that anything you can do to a coffee bean can make it worth $5 a cup (for black coffee).

    I do, however, appreciate places like Handsome in LA that have minimalist menus. I hate when the line is out the door because all the soccer moms need a medium iced half-caff hazelnut cappucino with light whip, carmel drizzle and 3 splendas mixed into the shot while it’s hot please oh and in a large cup.

  22. Jeff
    on Apr 11th, 2014
    @ 12:41 PM

    Midtown’s abundance of Starbucks allows many in-the-know to hit up Culture (38th St, just off 6th Ave) to have superlative coffee (from Heart Roasters), house-baked chocolate chip cookies, etc., all served without pretension by a nice group.

  23. JSF
    on Apr 16th, 2014
    @ 12:47 PM

    Pennylane (45th St east of 2nd Ave) in midtown is due mention, as is Lucid Coffee (37th St & Lex). A newcomer, Perk Kafe (37th between 3rd & Lex) has a strong brew and good seating. And they has Television’s Marquee Moon playing recently.

  24. Citizen
    on Apr 16th, 2014
    @ 6:32 PM

    Second for culture on 38th. Great spot in a food/coffee desert.

    Underdog vote for Empire coffee roasters on 8th at 41st street. It’s the least pretentious real coffee shop I’ve ever been to. It’s less than a block from port authority for “authenticity” points.

  25. rcd
    on May 2nd, 2014
    @ 6:10 PM

    King’s Coffee in Carroll Gardens/Columbia Waterfront.

    A bit expensive ($4/cup), but it’s in a garage, so it wins. Or at least wins a mention.