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Phila coffee houses?

I'm looking for cafes serving top notch espresso, good ambiance for reading would be a plus. Any Parisian or Viennese style spots?

Thanks :)

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  1. The best place to sit and read/study/relax and get good fair trade coffee is called Mugshots, right on the corner of 21st and Fairmount.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lellenberger

      Last time I was at Mugshots, they had a sign up saying not to linger too much (90 minutes, maybe?).
      I understand the rationale, but it still turned me off.

      i like philadelphia java and chapter house, although at both (esp. the 1st) their espresso shots are average to good, not great. La Colombe has very good shots with probably the most distinctive taste I've come across. Not the best, but the most distinctive.

      The single espressos at Stellar on 11th and spruce used to be, well, stellar - but I don't think it's there anymore and in any case had long been wildly inconsistent.

      1. re: Bob Loblaw

        chapter house is great for hanging around, their espresso is good and they only offer fair-trade coffee (and they have free wifi). i love the new coffee house at 7th and bainbridge though i can never remember its name. ergh. tis on the southeast corner and they have excellent coffee, snacks and ther is a nice little feel to the place too. and i think they have free wifi as well. in response to boblaw, the place is called stella's and i think that they are just renovating.

        also, some coffee snobby friends love LaVa, higher grounds in northern liberties is lovely, and you can't beat fante's for yummy coffee and espresso, though you can't really linger there. :)

        1. re: mazza3

          The coffee house at 7th and Bainbridge is The Bean Exchange.

        2. re: Bob Loblaw

          I like Philadelphia Java and at least the one at 2nd and Christian has never disappointed me with their coffees and you can definitely hang all day and there is free WiFi

      2. Glad you asked this...I'd like to know, too. I love those small, intimate places where you can drink and linger. Out in the 'burbs, there's a hole in the wall place in Wayne called The Griffin. It's a 'non-chain' coffee place next to the Wayne theatre on Lancaster Ave. They are such a dying breed. A couple of years ago when I visited Vienna, I saw a construction sign for "COMING SOON: STARBUCKS" and my heart sank.

        2 Replies
        1. re: the dog ate my homework

          I wouldn't describe The Griffin as a whole in the wall by any means. They have been around for ever and do a TON of business.

          1. re: saturninus

            Oops. "Hole in the wall": poor use of a phrase on my part. I don't mean to say that the Gryphon is a dingy, dirty place. It's just modest, on the small side and stuck in between bigger businesses. (-from a fellow Blenheim parent)

        2. If Chestnut Hill is doable, Chestnut Hill Coffee has a great ambience. John Hornall (of Seattle's Hines Coffee fame) roasts his own upstairs. There are two levels, upstairs is very quiet. And the coffee and espresso are terrific.

          Also, while I haven't been to Spruce St. coffee yet, I know some of the staff from the national barista competitions and jams. They use Counter Culture for their coffee so between that and the barista training they get, should be pretty darned good.

          1. la colombe at 19th & walnut: many think that their coffee is the best in the city. the inside is full of dark wood, with businessmen and hipsters alike. background noise is definitely present, but you can happily read a book or the newspaper.

            1. check out higher grounds in northern liberties. you can hang out all day if you want, they have free wifi, and the lattes and snacks are delicious. i love the green tea latte. they always have bagels, sandwiches and a few vegan cakes. local (buyable, i think) art on the walls. it's a really cute neighborhoody place. 3rd and fairmount.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rabidog

                i should also mention coffee house on front & girard near the el... surprising location for a cute, quaint little coffee shop. on a nice day this is THE place to go for its cute garden out back. the interior has some sparse lounging space, and the service is super-friendly. i haven't been in awhile because of my hours vs. their hours, but i do miss their winter drinks - holly jolly mocha, etc. so decadent.

              2. If you are in the Fitler Square area, check out Good Karma (31 S. 22nd St). It is a new place that serves excellent fair trade coffee, has indoor/outdoor seating, and is pet friendly.

                LaVa at 21st and South is pretty good too.

                1. La Colombe and MugShots both have locations in Manayunk as well that are nice.

                  I like CrossRoads on Ridge Ave in Roxborough as well.

                  Mugshots is a "Buy Local" member, so they get my vote.

                  1. Fishtown:

                    Rocket Cat Cafe, I think it's at Frankford and Norris (2001 Frankford Ave).

                    Canvas Cafe - Southeast corner of Girard and Columbia Aves. pasteries, cakes, cookies (some vegan items), excellent salads and sandwiches (non-veg/ meat, vegan, veg menu items). Open from 7AM-7PM

                    I believe both serve fair trade organic coffee.


                    Arbol Cafe
                    209 Poplar Street
                    Philadelphia, PA 19123

                    Paraguayan Cuisine, nice outside seating.
                    They do serve excellent fair trade organic coffee (Blue Water)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: SpdRcr069

                      good call on arbol. they did a very extensive coffee-taste-testing program when they first opened. the mate teas there are also worth investigating - all the ones i've tried have been really tasty. had something i don't know what to call any better than to call it a mate latte (which sounds silly because i was told it mate is pronounced like it rhymes with latte). the owners of that place, beth and oscar, are super-nice and they've built a cute outdoor seating area where we are promised grilling soon, i think!

                    2. I'll add a vote for Phila. Java Company, I used to go to the one on 4th Street (about a block north of South) a lot. But when I lived in Center City and was in the mood for a very quiet cafe where I could comfortably linger for a long time reading , I always went to the coffee shop on 10th Street between Spruce and Locust. It had just changed names shortly before I moved, so I'm sorry but I don't remember the new name.

                      If you're in the mood to eavesdrop, tho', Phila. Java Co. is better :-)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lauracohenromano

                        the one on 10th st... kind of an international theme going? that one? i liked that place, but when I went there they had a kind of, uhm, an odd bathroom situation. There was a toilet in the basement but it wasn't in any sort of bathroom, it was just out in the open. that really limited the amount of time i could linger there.

                        i guess they've gotten it fixed since then!

                        1. re: Bob Loblaw

                          Oh dear, I actually have no idea if that was fixed, as I don't recall ever using the bathroom there!

                      2. I ended up trying La Colombe and Chapterhouse. Both had ok espresso, not great. The ambiance at both were good, the former being a bit more bustling and the latter being more relaxed and a good place to read. Nice baristas at both.

                        1. I would cast my vote for LaVa--its really delightful and friendly. I would also recommend the Last Drop on 13th and Pine--fair trade local, pretty ambiance (even better if you're a hipster). It looks small at first, but there's also outdoor seating and a downstairs!

                          1. MY LISTING:

                            La colombe
                            Chestnut Hill Coffee Co
                            Gryphon in Wayne- great place, great bagels
                            1 shot in NoLib
                            Ants Pants Cafe- for the Flat White (unbelievable!!!1)
                            Old City Coffee Co
                            Phila Java Co
                            Last Drop

                            1. LaColombe in Manayunk or in Rittenhouse Square. Great locally made coffee

                              1. The Philadelphia Java Company by far Philly's best coffee house/ light lunch spot. Both locations great (one off South Street and one on 2nd and Catherine). Not like Starbucks at all but with large variety of coffee and other drinks. Great pastries and sandwiches/ salads. Staff friendly. They have free Wi Fi and great place to work.

                                1. As far as top notch espresso, I'd say your choices are few. Spruce Street Espresso, Beauty Shop Cafe, and Brew Ha Ha are the only in-the-city spots I know of for truly good espresso.

                                  Outside the main drag, you have Chestnut Hill Coffee on Germantown Ave and across the river in NJ, you have Crescent Moon Coffee.

                                  If you're looking for a little more detail, I have a bit more on my blog (purecoffeeblog.com). I know it's a shameless plug, but I didn't want to write too much here :). Happy hunting!

                                  1. A new place just opened up a few weeks ago at 21st and Chestnut. I believe it is called Caffination (sp?). I would be interested to hear other Chowish thoughts on this one. I do believe it ha Wifi but I do not recall comfy couches or other long term reading/hanging spots.

                                    1. LA COLOMBE!!!! In Rittenhouse or Manayunk. Great, simple, no fuss, no mochafrappachino crap...good locally roasted coffee!