…The Village’s Hot Brews
The bohemian reputation of Greenwich Village largely evolved out of the coffeehouse culture of the 1960s.
Bob Dylan, newly arrived in town and only 19 years old, sang folk songs at Café Wha?. Jimi Hendrix played here, Lenny Bruce did standup, and Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary served coffee while she worked as a waitress. Jack Kerouac was among the customers at Le Figaro Café, and at the legendary Gaslight Café, Allen Ginsberg gave poetry readings, and it later became a hot spot for New York’s folk music scene.
Of the three coffeehouses, only Café Wha? is still in business. They feature nightly live music and they serve alcohol now. They also serve food items like buffalo wings and their take on nachos that they call “Wha?chos”—hardly something a gang of hungry Beatniks might order.
So while the entertainment in the coffeehouses of the 1960s was of epic proportions, the coffee, presumably, was not. Today, the cafés scattered around Greenwich Village are all about high-quality coffee, and since it is still a hip neighborhood, there’s some competition to maintain a cool, trendy vibe. The coffee shops listed here may not produce the next Joni Mitchell, but they all serve excellent, high-quality espresso drinks and coffee.
Third Rail Coffee
The comfortable, wide wooden benches and large street-facing windows initially hide the fact that this café is pretty small. It doesn’t matter though; they manage to squeeze in quite a few seats, and better yet, their coffee is superb. They also offer a selection of fresh pastries from local bakeries, and rotating exhibits of tasteful art lines the walls. Third Rail Coffee also happens to have a pretty cool logo, so their merchandise would make a nice NYC souvenir.
Stop in here for a little change of pace. A wall mural of Indonesia, painted in shades of sunset red and orange, evokes a tropical setting in the heart of the Greenwich Village. Best of all, Kopi Kopi’s menu is made up of interesting specialty drinks you won’t likely find anywhere else. Try the Bajigur, made of coffee with infused coconut milk, or the Kopi Susu, where a little sweetened condensed milk is stirred into a cup of their freshly brewed signature coffee. Order an Indonesian pastry on the side.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
This Stumptown branch has a little bit of an edge to it, but a friendly edge. Music that sounds vaguely like Green Day plays loud enough to stir up some energy but soft enough to allow conversation. A gang of friendly baristas greet you, and it’s a bright, large space. In the back of the café, random, well-worn paperbacks are available to read, along with a choice of magazines like High Times and Thrashers. It’s a fun, casual setting, but rest assured, they take their coffee quality seriously.
Everything O Café does is intended to deliver to their customers “a holistically thoughtful and sustainable experience.” Large potted trees and plants with vines creeping down the walls fill the rustic space. Their produce comes from local farms, and they encourage you to compost any food items you don’t finish. A full coffee and food menu is available.
Grounded Coffee House
Grounded looks like it was tastefully converted from a large warehouse. Exposed pipes line the walls and tall ceilings, now all painted an eggshell white to contrast with the green leafy plants and colorful chalk menus that line the walls. It’s a bright space with a nice buzz of conversation and a seating area that holds a good number of customers. In addition to coffee and espresso drinks, they also serve a pretty good selection of sandwiches, salads, and sweets (the giant peanut butter cups looked to-die for). It’s another café that believes buying local is best.
Tea & Sympathy
Not a typical New York coffee house by any means, but go here to satisfy your need for an afternoon cup of tea and a plate of scones with clotted cream, or sticky toffee pudding. Other British comfort food is available throughout the day, too: Bangers and mash, Heinz baked beans on toast, Welsh rarebit, and many others. Next door is the Tea & Sympathy shop, where you can stock up on all your British groceries.