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.
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