February 26, 2018

Indie Coffee Shops In Philadelphia Are Popular For Good Reason

Local Cafes & Bean Blenders Offer Smooth, Strong Alternative To Chain Operations

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Ultimo Coffee in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood is known for the Counter Culture Coffee brand it serves up, along with occasional guest coffees. Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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The flagship location for La Colombe sits in a giant refurbished Fishtown warehouse that is part restaurant, part bakery and part bar. M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Independently owned-and-operated coffee shops have been part of Philadelphia culture since the 18th Century. Today, Philly cafes are known for their well-engineered espressos and meticulously roasted beans, hand pours and draft lattes. (Philadelphia is home to the original La Colombe, booming in its 24th year.) But these often busy, often tranquil neighborhood spots aren’t merely better caffeine sources. They’re also great places to sit back and relax into the vibrant, historic and undeniably friendly city. Here are some local favorites by neighborhood:

Big-Deal Roasters, Multiple Locations:

  • La Colombe – Inarguably the originator of Philly’s first wave of coffee, the five area locations remain go-to spots for rich Italian-style espressos and excellent machiattos. Restaurants and eateries around the city pour the beloved blends. La Colombe’s Fishtown flagship draws crowds for brunch and happy hour (5-7 p.m.; half-price food and drink specials); Rittenhouse’s operation, now in its 24th year, is the O.G. of the bunch. 130 S. 19th Street, (215) 563-0860; 1414 S. Penn Square, (215) 977-7770; 6th & Market Streets, (267) 479-1650; 1335 Frankford Avenue, (267) 479-1600; 915 W. Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, (215) 398-3091, lacolombe.com
  • Green Line Cafe – With an emphasis on coffee and community, West Philly’s homegrown chain serves its patrons not just organic, fair-trade coffee and healthy fare, but also a friendly space to hear poetry and view local art. 4239 Baltimore Avenue, (215) 222-3431; 4426 Locust Street, (215) 222-0799; 3649 Lancaster Avenue, (215) 382-2143; 28 S. 40th Street, (215) 475-6653; 1650 Arch Street, (267) 639-2531, greenlinecafe.com
  • High Point Café – Its espressos have earned top ratings, and three locations, two in Mt. Airy, one in Fairmount, also offer great quiches, baked goods and crepes. House-roasted beans can be purchased to go. 602 Carpenter Lane, (215) 849-5153; 7210 Cresheim Road, (215) 248-1900; 1925 Fairmount Avenue, (267) 514-7145, highpointcafe.us.com
  • Rival Bros. – What happens when a chef and a coffee roaster (lifelong friends) join forces for the good of espresso drinkers? A full-service cafe with all the classic espresso drinks, plus The Derringer, a riff on the cortado that’s made with a bit more milk and the house single-origin espresso. In addition to the two Center City locations, there’s a Rival Bros. in South Philadelphia. 2400 Lombard Street, 1528 Spruce Street, 1100 Tasker Street, rivalbros.com

Historic District:

  • Bodhi Coffee/Quaker City Coffee – This inspired duo of coffee shops—one in Society Hill; the other, Washington Square West—serves fresh, organic and local. Patrons take their Quaker City blended coffees in pour-over or drip style. Bodhi: 410 S. 2nd Street, (267) 239-2928, @bodhicoffee; Quaker City: 263 S. 10th Street, (215) 948-2123, quakercitycoffee.com
  • Menagerie Coffee – Loyal patrons seek out this spot for its full espresso bar, hand-poured Dogwood coffee and locally sourced snacks. The bright, modern atmosphere makes for the perfect setting to enjoy exotic choices like a honey spice cortado and straight-ahead cappuccinos. 18 S. 3rd Street, menageriecoffee.com
  • Old City Coffee – For more than 30 years, this Philly institution has educated the public about coffee appreciation—whether it’s a house blend brewed onsite or a take-home bag of beans. All three high-traffic locations—one along a cobblestone street in Old City, two as booths in Reading Terminal Market—produce fresh, small batches of high-grade Arabica coffee. 221 Church Street, (215) 629-9292; Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 592-1897, oldcitycoffee.com

Rittenhouse Square/Center City West:

  • Elixr Coffee – The eco-friendly reclaimed wood paneling and cool marble countertops are only a backdrop for Elixr’s main event: superb Synesso Hydra-brewed espresso. The pour-over menu always features a nice mix of house-roasted options. Elixr’s flagship is near Rittenhouse Square; the team also operates locations at Midtown Village’s Double Knot (see below) and inside University City’s Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th Street. 207 S. Sydenham Street, (239) 404-1730, elixrcoffee.com
  • Good Karma Café – Fair-trade and certified organic coffee furnish the foundation at all three Good Karmas, and owner David Arrell takes his philosophy to an even higher level with green construction and corn-based plastics. 331 S. 22nd Street, (215) 546-1479; 928 Pine Street, (267) 519-8860; 2319 Walnut Street, (267) 239-2068, thegoodkarmacafe.com
  • Gran Caffe L’Aquila – Espresso the pristine way Italians intended it thrives here, with beans roasted by Michele Morelli, an Italian coffee celebrity. The pampered, two-story setting invites patrons to sit with a ristretto or turco with a pastry and enjoy a newspaper. 1716 Chestnut Street, (215) 568-5600, grancaffelaquila.com
  • Joe – A New York roaster with a solid presence in Philly, Joe operates two locations—one in Rittenhouse Square, the other in University City. Both serve the House Selection, The Waverly espresso and other delicious blended and single-origin options, and the University City location hosts a series of barista classes. 1845 Walnut Street, (215) 278-2454; 3200 Chestnut Street, (215) 240-4577, joenewyork.com
  • Peddler Coffee – Logan Square’s beverage boîte specializes in single origin, micro-batch roasted beans. Customers can opt for espresso, filter and Chemex drinks. 2100 Spring Street, peddlercoffee.com

Washington Square West/Center City East:

  • Double Knot – The all-day, main-floor portion of this double concept serves up coffee on tap, hand pours, espresso drinks and even coffee cocktails. All that, plus Elixr beans and a killer draft latte make it a major cafe contender. 120 S. 13th Street, (215) 631-3868, doubleknotphilly.com
  • GreenStreet Coffee Roasters – The tiny Spruce Street shop is emblematic of its ethos: small and sustainable. The single-origin, responsibly sourced coffees are roasted in the company’s Alter Street headquarters. 1101 Spruce Street, (610) 504-3934, greenstreetcoffee.com
  • Square One Coffee – A Lancaster-based micro-roaster with a farmer-centric approach, Square One caters to downtown workers and residents with two Center City locations. Small batch coffees from Ethiopia, Colombia, Ecuador and beyond complement local dairy products, Four Worlds pastries and vegan snacks. 1811 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (267) 930-8654; 249 S. 13th Street, (267) 758-6352, squareonecoffee.com

Northern Liberties/The River Wards:

  • One Shot Coffee – Built from reclaimed wood and tile, Northern Liberties’ expansive coffeehouse showcases its socially conscious heart with Stumptown’s direct-trade coffee and seasonal organic fare—some of which is made with ingredients grown in customers’ gardens. 217 W. George Street, (215) 627-1620, 1shotcoffee.com
  • ReAnimator Coffee – This roaster with national recognition serves its own beans in espresso drinks and pour-overs at sleekly minimalist cafes in Fishtown and Kensington. 1523 E. Susquehanna Avenue, (215) 425-5805; 310 W. Master Street, (267) 758-6264, reanimatorcoffee.com
  • River Wards Cafe – Port Richmond’s trendy coffee spot beckons with tin ceilings, exposed brick walls and a sunny, warm vibe. The ReAnimator brews nicely compliment the locally made vegan and traditional baked goods. 3118 Richmond Street, (215) 423-3118, riverwardscafe.com
  • Suraya – Fishtown’s vast, new Lebanese market and eatery maintains a Stumptown-centric coffee bar. Customers can enjoy classic drip coffees, espressos and lattes alongside za’atar sprinkled and cardamom-spiked pastries. 1530 Frankford Avenue, (215) 302-1900, surayaphilly.com

South Philly:

  • Chhaya – The organic, fair-trade espressos and lattes here come courtesy of Caffe D’Arte espresso, Reanimator and Philly Fair Trade roasters, available as pour-overs, siphon brews and South Indian filter coffee styles. 1819 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 465-1000, chhayacafe.com
  • Cinemug – This cafe from a former video store clerk revives the idea that cinephiles should have a collective gathering place to watch and rent movies. In addition to ReAnimator coffee and sandwiches, the store maintains a library of 1,600 titles to borrow. 1607 S. Broad Street, (267) 314-5936
  • Federal Donuts – Though this mini-local chain is best known for its inventive fried chicken and donuts, but the house coffee, a proprietary blend from PT’s Coffee Roasting Co., is best enjoyed cold-brewed with a Japanese siphon tower. 1219 S. 2nd Street, (267) 687-8258; 1632 Sansom Street, (215) 665-1101; 3428 Sansom Street, (267) 275-8489; 701 N. 7th Street, (267) 928-3893, federaldonuts.com
  • Function Coffee Labs – With Passenger and Sey Coffee beans as a foundation, Bella Vista’s newest hangout for coffee aficionados takes the art and science of beverages very seriously. In addition to the carefully calibrated pour-overs and espresso shots, the spread includes breakfast sandwiches and Essen and High Point pastries. 1001 S. 10th Street, (267) 606-6734, functioncoffeelabs.com
  • Grindcore House – Because vegans are serious about coffee, too, this Pennsport hangout stocks a variety of non-dairy creamers (soy, rice, almond, coconut) and a meatless, eggless, milkless menu of pastries and sandwiches. 1515 S. 4th Street, (215) 839-3333, grindcorehouse.com
  • Ox Coffee – This community-focused shop eschews Wi-Fi to keep the focus on simple goodness: Stumptown beans, farm-fresh milk and local pastries. A backyard courtyard expands the seating in warmer months. 616 S. 3rd Street, (215) 922-2531, oxcoffee.com
  • Rally – Rally’s business model includes a cooperative workspace and a creative agency, but this coffee bar takes its brews seriously. It’s also of the few area establishments to offer sustainable Lancaster/Philly-based Passenger beans. 701 S. 7th Street, (215) 925-3657, heyrally.com
  • Shot Tower Coffee – Between its Stumptown and PT beans and specially created La Marzocco machine, Queen Village’s caffeine source turns out impeccable espressos. It also plays an active role in community engagement, hosting neighborhood events boosted by strong brews. 542 Christian Street, (267) 886-8049
  • Ultimo – Its espresso was rated best in the city by The Philadelphia Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan and best in the country by The Daily Meal, and rightfully so. Counter Culture Coffee, perfectly ground and brewed to order, thrills even the most serious coffee lover. (So do the Friday morning—10-11 a.m.—tastings at the Catharine Street location.) 1900 S. 15th Street, (215) 339-5177; 2149 Catharine Street, (215) 545-3565; 238 S. 20th Street; (267) 804-7972, ultimocoffee.com

West Philadelphia:

  • HubBub Coffee – What began as a coffee truck now pours steamy double shots of Stumptown espresso at flagship cafes in University City and Radnor. Both drip and cold brew coffees are made from a house blend. 3736 Spruce Street, (215) 387-0700; 232 N. Radnor Chester Road, Radnor, (610) 687-1710, hubbubcoffee.com
  • Lovers and Madmen – This University City coffee lounge offers short-pulled Counter Culture espressos from its La Marzocco FB/80 in a friendly, collegiate atmosphere. 28 S. 40th Street, (215) 243-9851, loversandmadmencoffee.com

Beyond The Immediate City:

  • Burlap and Bean – Newtown Square’s café distinguishes itself as an ambitious independent spot with a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. The coffee, roasted on the premises, features organic, fair-trade beans sourced from around the world. 204 S. Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, (484) 427-4547; 455 W. Baltimore Avenue, Media, (484) 444-2533, burlapandbean.com
  • Chestnut Hill Coffee Company – Patrons can catch a whiff of caramelizing beans in the upstairs roastery. Downstairs, the coffee bar turns out well-pulled shots and elaborate swirls of latte art. 8620 Germantown Avenue, (215) 242-8600, chestnuthillcoffee.com
  • Green Engine Coffee – Haverford’s chic enclave displays its eco-commitment in a wall of plant life, reclaimed flooring and repurposed church pew seating. Beans, sourced from local Rival Bros., can be transformed into liquid heaven via the La Marzocco, the Kyoto-style cold drip brewer, drip or hand pours. 18 Haverford Station Road, Haverford, greenenginecoffee.com
  • Gryphon Café – House-roasted, organic coffee keeps visitors awake. The cafe started on the Main Line, with a second spot in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. 100 W. Oxford Street, (215) 425-3055; 105 W. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, (610) 688-1988, gryphoncafe.com
  • Philter – In the town of Kennett Square, owner/barista Chris Thompson serves handcrafted drip coffee to his loyal customers in a relaxed, welcoming coffee shop. Ceremony Coffee Roasters provides seasonal specialty coffees and single-origin espressos. 111 W. State Street, Kennett Square, (610) 444-7687, philtercoffee.com
  • Pilgrim Roasters – The smell of in-house roasting beans from Guatemala, Colombia and Kenya permeates this sunny, minimal café on Manayunk’s main drag. Single origin coffees—often showcased in tasting sessions—and pastries from Au Fornil never disappoint. 4120 Main Street, (267) 331-5213, pilgrimroasters.com
  • Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books – Author and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill opened this Germantown café/library to promote Philly’s black literary culture. On the bar are La Colombe coffees and specialty drinks and a menu of light bites, the ideal accompaniments to great conversation. 5445 Germantown Avenue, (215) 403-7058, unclebobbies.com

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