Catie Kelly, Lonely Planet’s Executive Vice President, moved to NYC in 2023. Follow her quest to get to know the city, one cup of coffee at a time.

I’m a coffee connoisseur.

So when I relocated to New York City last year – after living a bit of a nomadic life in places like Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; and London, England – I thought I’d put my coffee love to good use. So to get the lay of the land in my new hometown, I challenged myself. I would drink 100 cups of coffee, from 100 different coffee spots.

In Cleveland and Charlotte, the idea of craft coffee was still new – those cities only have a handful of places that rate high on the coffee-culture chart. London already had a coffee culture, though when I lived there, my coffee palate wasn’t as refined. I remember vividly walking around London drinking a Pret coffee and dunking a croissant in it. There, that felt like the most normal thing in the world.

A gentlewoman in New York

A woman sitting outside a coffee shop smiling and holding a latte
Catie Kelly outside Café Integral in New York City © Lonely Planet

I didn’t know many of the neighborhoods in New York. And I wanted to. Particularly ones near my home and office, but there were other areas I wanted to explore out of curiosity. This coffee quest gave me the drive to discover different parts of the city, and to immerse myself in their particular vibe, which I found matched up nicely with the more popular coffee shops.

On the Upper East Side, the best coffee is Ralph’s, where Ralph Lauren’s preppy, clubby brand is unmistakable. I found that people at the Brooklyn shops are friendlier, while the West Village is trendy and vibrant, and everyone seems to be doing very important things.

To curate the list of coffee shops and cafes I would venture to; I watched a lot of TikToks of other people trying coffee. I also probably read a million pages on Google. Before I knew it, I had a list of 20 shops. Then I turned it into a shareable note to which others could add their favorites. 

Want to know more about where the locals eat in Brooklyn? Check out our list of the best bites, by our own Brooklynite Chamidae Ford.

Tasting notes 

My rating system was based on my taste alone. Sometimes my rating has more to do with the vibe or energy of the coffee shop than anything else. Three important details about my challenge:

  • My flavor profile is creamy and smooth; I avoid anything bitter or acidic.
  • I ordered the same plain latte, sometimes hot sometimes iced, everywhere I went to ensure that my ratings and comparisons were...scientifically valid(ish).
  • I rated each spot 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being the highest – these places I would enthusiastically recommend. A 2 indicates a less enthusiastic recommendation – it’ll do if you’re nearby. And 3 – well, we won’t talk about the 3s.

A few more details from my quest: I learned that the experience of a cafe improved based on...well, not the actual coffee. A warm smile, a thoughtfully designed paper cup, the vibe in the cafe: these factors occasionally affected my rating. 

I definitely drank more iced lattes along the way and found the size and quality of the ice affected the coffee’s taste profile. (No one likes a watery latte.) Also, New York City has banned plastic straws (yay environment!) – but paper straws don’t quite do it for me as a replacement. Since I couldn’t count on the same sipping experience without a decent straw, I recommend carrying a nice metal one with you. 

Out of the 100 coffees I tried and tested, only 78 were in tier 1 or 2. You may notice many neighborhoods on this list are near one another – but I have a busy job and could only venture so far afield. So this is by no means a complete list for the entire city.

But it’s good enough for me, and I hope it’s helpful and inspiring for you.

Looking for coffee in all the right places, like Cafe Lyria in NoHo © Lonely Planet

The results are in...

Without further ado, here are my top coffee shops, along with a few brief and unembellished notes I took while drinking. 

1. Koré Coffee (Chinatown)

This place is the one that blew me away the most. Standard coffee is delicious and made with care. The tiramisu latte is a massive treat – a huge standout of the whole adventure. Next level. This shop rotates a very inventive menu so if you want to try something seasonal or new, stop by, but note the shop has limited seating.

2. Devoción (Flatiron and other locations)

Service is outstanding. Always a queue; never a massive wait. If you like smooth coffee, try this place. Very silky, very yum – the more I have, the more I want. Also, they have one of my favorite plain croissants. Bonus: pistachio milk. Devoción roasts single origin coffee from Colombia and boasts the freshest coffee – they process their beans in as few as 10 days before they make it to the roaster in Brooklyn!

3. Stumptown (Greenwich Village and other locations)

Seattle roaster. Very creamy. Oat milk is their standard, so you need to opt into dairy. They also sell foil-wrapped King David breakfast tacos (made at their headquarters in Brooklyn). Order the PEC (potato, egg and cheese) with green salsa. It's a winner. Stumptown has certainly moved past being a local shop, as their coffee can be purchased at Target or enjoyed on an Alaska Airlines flight, but I stand by the fact that the in-store coffee tastes truly delicious.

4. Interlude (Tribeca)

Their iced latte is very creamy. The blocks of ice are perfect. Get the honey butter scone. I’ve heard the meringue pop tart is also a special treat but must be pre-ordered. Interlude roasts coffee from George Howell Coffee, who is known as a legend in the coffee industry.

5. Buddies  (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Tiny shop, and full of personality and good vibes. They roast all of their own beans, and the coffee is absolutely delish – it was my first experience being served coffee in an "Anthora" New York City to-go paper cup. It felt iconic. Also of note: This ubiquitous NYC cup is so beloved that there's a ceramic version sold at the MoMa Design Store.

6. Kobrick Coffee (Meatpacking District)

So old-school that it's been around for over 104 years, and it's one of the cities oldest roasters. Four generations of Kobrick have made this coffee their livelihood, and they've had the same roastmaster for over 30 years. Their iced latte is supreme to near-perfect – sturdy ice cubes, creamy milk, and a nice straw. Lots of seating available (both inside and outside).

7. WatchHouse (Midtown)

This was a late-breaking addition to my list. I adored WatchHouse when I lived in London, and it just opened an outpost in Midtown. I love that the standard latte is served as 8 ounces (versus the usual 12) – this feels more coffee-forward with a hint of sweetness and creaminess. They have great branding. Their sandwiches looked tempting

8. Ninth Street Espresso (East Village and other locations)

One of few shops that still takes cash (and you get a discount!). This shop has zero faff and feels truly local. I laughed when I checked out their website, which claimed they are committed to snobbery-free customer service," and they definitely nail it. Their first shop opened in 2001 on East 9th Street, and has since expanded to more locations in NYC, Brooklyn, and Long Island City. 

9. Cafe Integral (SoHo)

Feels local with really well-done coffee. It’s a warm shop seemingly always filled to the brim with people enjoying each other's company. Opened in 2012, Cafe Integral roasts Nicaraguan coffee, where the owners are from. If you’re up for something unique, try the Horchata latte or the Olivia, an iced drink with espresso, almond milk, and dates.

10. % arabica (Dumbo and other locations)

Feels very craft. It takes them a while to make your coffee, but it’s tasty. The Dumbo location has a lovely view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and they just opened a second shop in SoHo. Its first was in Kyoto, Japan. They have over 150 shops worldwide – they have 70 outposts in China alone.

11. Enly Coffee (SoHo)

A very floral-forward coffee shop. Really impressed by their menu variation – they also have cocktails. Also, Enly started as a candle shop so you can also purchase a very luxe candle. After visiting I noticed it was blowing up on TikTok, which explained the hefty queue. Still totally worth it!

12. Abraço (East Village)

If you google "best coffee in NYC," Abraço will come up. Their coffee is simply too bold or intense for my profile, but I really appreciate this shop and its dedication to the craft of coffee. The olive oil cake was solid, and I was definitely tempted by their frittata. Important note: This shop is closed on Mondays. 

13. Fellini (West Village and other locations)

If you want to pretend you're in a lovely European coffee shop and not NYC, go here. The West Village shop is tiny. I drank a coffee next to a lady in a beret – what fun! I love that the coffee is served at an outdoor window, and others seem to like it, too. Fellini recently expanded to SoHo and will launch another new shop in Chelsea soon! They also serve wine in the afternoon.

The runners-up

Here are the other spots I loved the most. These remaining coffee shops are categorized into two tiers to differentiate between the ones I loved versus those I just liked. 

Tier 1: I’ll be going back. And often.

Multiple NYC locations: 

Amano Cafe
Blue Bottle
Café Kistuné  

Coffee RX 
Cōpper Mug

Hungry Ghost
Irving Farm
La Cabra 

White Noise

Single location:
Little Canal (Lower East Side)
Rigor Hill (Tribeca)
Butler Bakeshop (SoHo)
Brewlita (Nolita)
Cafe Lyria (Soho)
The Lost Draft (Nolita)
Do Not Feed Alligators (West Village)
The Elk (West Village)
Cafe Panino Mucho Giusto (West Village)
Lê Phin (East Village)
Mud (East Village)
Foreigner (Flatiron)
Gotham City Roasters (Flatiron)
Third Rail Coffee (Greenwich Village)
Kona Coffee Roasters (Chelsea)
Yanni’s (Chelsea)
Artison Flowers and Cafe (Union Square)
Sorella Coffee (Kips Bay)
10000 (Midtown)
Common Address (Midtown West)
Remi Flower and Coffee (East Village)
Mast Market (Upper West Side)
Gertrude (Upper West Side)

Plowshares (Harlem)

Tier 2: I would go back, but only if I happen to be nearby.

Multiple NYC locations:
Bluestone Lane
Bourke Street Bakery
Drip Coffee

For Five Coffee
Ground Central

La Colombe

Madman Espresso
Poetica Coffee
Ralph’s Coffee
Seven Grams 

Single location: 
Kaffe Landskap (Tribeca)
Current Coffee (Bowery)
Gasoline Alley (SoHo)

Urban Backyard (Nolita)
Pâtisserie Fouet (Greenwich Village)
Merriweather (West Village)

Smør Bakery (East Village)
Felix Roasting Co. (Nomad) 
Terremoto (Meatpacking)
Intelligentsia (Chelsea)
Aficionado (Midtown)
Loveless (Williamsburg)
Sey Coffee (Williamsburg)
Rhythm Zero (Greenpoint)
Room 205 (Gowanus)

Last, but definitely least

There were around 20 shops that I simply cannot recommend because their coffee...was too bitter, was not strong enough, had too much acid, looked trendy and tasted bad, tasted too sweet, came at the wrong temperature...or was simply gross.

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