One thing to note: Philly’s coffee shops are generally not the warm and fuzzy type. Not rude or unfriendly, but definitely not chit chatty. This list highlights coffee shops we have visited that have a little “something extra.”
Gran Cafe Aquilla: This place is an odd hybrid- part Italian coffee shop, part cafe, part pricey restaurant, part gelataria. However, they do have the best cappuccino (and gelato) in the city. For coffee, bypass the hostess and order directly from the coffee bar in the back, where you are welcome to sit and drink. They also have tasty, inexpensive panini, which you can order and eat in the coffee bar. For gelato, pay at the front cashier for the size you want, then take your receipt to the gelato bar to order. Or, you can splurge on one of their fancy meals (pasta carbonara with Italian bacon gelato?) 1716 Chestnut
OCF: This Philly mini-chain is where Tobey discovered the honey-bear latte (oat milk & cinnamon). We usually go to the large shop in Fairmount, near the art museum, but they also have a small outpost in Old City. They also have an excellent gingery chai.
Nook: This cute little independent in Center City roasts its own beans and has the tastiest coffee treat ever – marscapone bars from the in-house bakery (ginger is our all time favorite, but the lemon is also yummy). 15 S. 20th
La Calombe: This Philly based national chain has good coffee, but it’s their draft lattes that are the standout (their coffee can be found at many shops and restaurants throughout the area). Their flagship store is in Fishtown, but my favorite is the small outpost in the historic Rohm & Haas building on Independence Mall, where you can sip your draft latte while appreciating the historic, plexiglass chandeliers (The Rohm & Hass Chandeliers: Coffee with A Modernist in Masterpiece in the Midst of Colonial Philadelphia).
Saxby’s: Another Philly based chain, this one is cool because of their community service mission. Several of their stores are student run, providing college students with academic credit and real world business experience. The store on the Drexel campus was the first of their Experiential Learning Programs (65 N 34th St).
Function Coffee Labs: This independent roasts its own beans and always has a few creative options on the menu. Since they have a Zagar mosaic on the side of the cafe, it is the perfect stop when doing a walking tour of Isaac Zagar’s mosaics (Public Art & Philly’s Magic Gardens). 1001 S. 10th
Black and Brew: This coffee shop on Passyunk Avenue has another Zagar mural along with fantastic people/doggie watching on the street out front. Plus, a yummy breakfast/lunch menu.
ICI: This tiny bakery is a perfect rest stop when exploring the historic sites (or shopping) in Old City. They have good coffee, plus delicious macarons and stuffed shortbread. 230 Arch Street
Green Street: A tiny coffee bar/roaster with great chai lattes and the cutest bathroom, at the corner of 11th & Spruce. Near the Historic Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, and scenic walking along Spruce Street.
Cake Life: THE place for coffee and Instagram worthy pastries and cakes, both sweet and savory. They have even provided several of Beyonce’s birthday cakes. If you really need a pick me up… try a unicorn hot chocolate. 1306 Frankford
Caphe Roasters: Philly’s only Vietnamese roaster, they serve traditional Vietnamese coffees (with condensed milk), plus egg creams and latte floats (with condensed milk ice cream), along with tasty food, such as “pillow jawns” – fried mochi with pumpkin purée, in a converted warehouse space in Kensington. 3400 J Street
Cake & Joe: Some of Philly’s prettiest pastries (they taste as good as they look!) come from this newish coffee shop in Pennsport. Creative lattes (like my rose latte), colorful yogurt/fruit calpis, and a creative weekend brunch menu that is on our to-do list. 1401 E Moyamensing Ave
Rowhome Coffee: Breakfast Sandwiches on a Soft Pretzel?! That’s the delicious specialty of this cute little cafe, right around the corner from the riverside Schuylkill River Dog Park. Grab a drink and sandwich and watch the pups play or take a riverside stroll. 2536 Pine Street.
Mina’s World: This little coffee shop/cafe is a bit off the beaten path (in West Philadelphia near the Woodlands), but has a very friendly staff and a social conscience. Along side your drink, try the rose syrup yogurt or the samosas. 511 S 52nd
Uncle Bobbie’s: Their motto- “Cool People, Dope Books, Great Coffee.” Great place when exploring the history of Germantown. Across the street from the historic society and the Deshler Morris house. In addition to the cute cafe with coffee and treats, they have an extensive selection (kids stuff, too) of works by black writers. 5445 Germantown Ave.
Alif Brew & Mini Mart: For coffee with a side of culture, this Ethiopian cafe/market in West Philly is the place to go. On the first Sunday of the month, they demonstrate an Ethiopian coffee ceremony complete with pan-roasted beans and samples. Along with the coffee (try the “special” with coffee and spices), they offer injera wraps for lunch, and specials on the weekend (like our incredibly yummy fir fir with egg and salsa). They also stock Milk Jawn ice cream and my current food obsession-injera crisps. Will definitely be back for their “Taco Tuesday.” 4501 Baltimore Ave.
Rally: This cute little cafe has the best monthly specials. An entry into our best foods of 2022 list was a February special, the Solstice (espresso, dark chocolate, fresh orange peel, and cayenne). Equally as delicious were the July specials, London Calling (espresso over ice, vanilla earl grey foam, topped w/ sea salt &
orange) and Peachy Keen (peach habanero lemonade, garnished w/ sage & peach). 701 S. 7th
Other coffee experiences:
Fante’s: Yes, it’s a cooking supply store in the heart of the Italian market, but any list of Philly coffee spots would be lacking if it didn’t mention the best coffee deal in the city – the $1 espresso from their in-store coffee bar (no seating). If it’s summer, spring for one of the amazing coffee gratinas. A house-made biscotti completes the experience. 1006 S. 9th
Cafe y Chocolate: This is a great restaurant in South Philly if you need churros to go with your cafe olé or Mexican hot chocolate. 1532 Snyder
Ray’s Tea House: A tiny place in Chinatown where you can get siphon coffee (free cookie included), along with really yummy house-made dumplings. 141 N. 9th
And, something for tea-lovers… Safa Tea House is a Persian tea house on Main Street in Manayunk. The friendly staff make custom tea blends that you can drink in-house (along with tasty small plates – like our loaded pita, baba ganoush, and grape leaves- or take home. Plus, rose-saffron milkshakes! They also sell plants, making for a jungly atmosphere.
Great latte art! Thanks for sharing.
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I’ve lived in London long enough to get slightly weirded out if someone is too chatty, so these sound fine by me! I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love tea or chai with a nice piece of bakery, and I am all about that churro and hot chocolate establishment! I miss my favourite Brazilian churro stall in Greenwich Market, but even if they’re allowed to reopen in June, it might be a long time before I can get there if we’re still being discouraged from using public transport!
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I was not a coffee drinker until last year. If I was forced to enter, I’d get a hot chocolate or chai (and cringe at the extravagance…). But Tobey is of the Starbucks generation and it became our special treat to work on the blog in a coffee shop. Eventually I started getting a coffee (with sweet treat, of course!) and I can now understand the appeal. Plus, the latte art makes for pretty photos! Staying home has given me plenty of time to catch up on posts, but thinking about all the closed museums and restaurants makes me sad. I just hope they are able to reopen!! PS we made the pitas from the Israeli Soul cookbook. They were easy and turned out yummy. Definitely better than any I’ve ever gotten from the grocery store. Will definitely make again.
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Those pita sound great! I love flatbreads of all kinds! I just took a Zoom class yesterday on making roti canai with the Roti King himself (owner of one of my favourite restaurants in London), so I need to actually try it one of these days, since I’m sure I won’t be able to eat there in person for ages, though I know mine won’t be as good as his!
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Never been to Philadelphia, so thanks for the vicarious visit! I liked the sound of Fante’s $1 espresso. Not based on price alone, but it seems to embody the spirit of espresso….
Thanks! Hope you make it to Philly one day. Fante’s is definitely worth the visit!