Quiet places to work and drink in New York
September 21, 2006 1:44 PM   Subscribe

New Yorkers: where are the best coffee shops, cafes, bars for a spot of work or a quiet read?

Help me get the most out of my me-time, or at least minimize the pain of having to work out of office hours.

  • Friendly staff
  • Decent regulars
  • Not too cramped
  • Laptop friendly
  • A quiet atmosphere conducive to concentration
I quite like the sorts of places that have esoteric books on the wall and a bit of history in the decor. My own recommendations would be Vbar on Sullivan Street, and 71 Irving. Both of them are excellent establishments, but I'd love to hear about other great places for quiet Saturday afternoons and weekday evenings.

Many thanks in advance.
posted by godawful to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
"Fix" on the corner of North 11th and Bedford Ave. Right off the Bedford stop on the L. Weekday evenings are very quiet, because all the ladies with babies go away (It's always been hard for me to relax in coffee shops that become surrogate romper rooms by day).
posted by hermitosis at 2:04 PM on September 21, 2006

I hate to say this but the quiet part is tough in manhattan.

most places are small and -natch- crowded, that's just a noo yawk problem. unfortunately they also play a lot of loud music (which automatically means I cannot work at starbucks).

you might want to try the ny library. I know they allow you to bring your own coffee to the reading rooms and they are most definitely quieter than most other places you'd find.

I'd love a place like that place for writers (the office? the space? I forgot the name) in santa monica in manhattan.
posted by krautland at 2:06 PM on September 21, 2006

(rider question) any ideas for areas around or in Columbia University?
posted by onalark at 2:08 PM on September 21, 2006

White Cafe, a modern furniture store downtown on White Street (duh) between Center and B'way, that has a little cafe within it, and I think it might have a wireless point. (There's also a White on Bway, but it's not as chilled out.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:21 PM on September 21, 2006

You might try The Coffee Pot on West 49th Street.

I always liked Grey Dog on Carmine Street, but it is a little cramped and can get noisy. YMMV.

Joe - The Art of Coffee on 13th (or Waverly or Greene) is somewhat spacious and meets your criteria. Another real find on that block: Thé Adore (a teahouse).
posted by mattbucher at 2:26 PM on September 21, 2006

If you find yourself in Brooklyn (Park Slope), check out The Tea Lounge.
posted by grumblebee at 2:32 PM on September 21, 2006

yaffa cafe on eighth street is fantastic.
posted by neoistimpulse at 2:35 PM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: Check out Housing Works on Crosby between Houston and Prince. It's a used book store and coffee shop. The staff is all volunteer so they can occasionally be a little moody, but other than that it's a wonderful place to spend your weekends doing work.
posted by samsarah at 2:40 PM on September 21, 2006

2nd the Housing Works suggestion - i love that place
posted by pinksoftsoap at 2:50 PM on September 21, 2006

onalark: I'm not sure of your requirements, but the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam at 111th is a standard place to do coffee and work surrounded by disheveled Columbia grad students. It's a bit cramped, though, so I can't recommend it to the original asker.
posted by escabeche at 3:14 PM on September 21, 2006

I 2nd the suggestions for the Coffee Pot, Housing Works and the Hungarian Pastry Shop. I think that the place to go for the cafes you seek is Brooklyn. Check out this thread in Chowhounds about Brooklyn coffee shops. I vote for the Pillow Cafe near Pratt; very relaxed, GREAT food, excellent coffee, nice atmosphere, very hang-out friendly (plus I know the owners).
posted by kenzi23 at 3:36 PM on September 21, 2006

3rd the Housing Works cafe (with its excellent restrooms! An important resource, to this tourist).
posted by Rash at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2006

Seconding Tea Lounge. They even have two locations.

I'd recommend Alt.Coffee in the east village, but it does not have a friendly staff (grouchy, but in a good way) and they don't allow plug-ins. Further, their wifi is no longer totally free. Also, my emotional tie to that place was cut recently, so it's tinged a little poorly in my mind right now.
posted by piratebowling at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2006

onalark: Have you tried Saurin Park (110th @ Central Park West)?
posted by kickingtheground at 4:06 PM on September 21, 2006

Response by poster: Many thanks for all of these. I'll try as many as I can.

In fact, I'm typing from the Housing Works place - a magnificant suggestion.
posted by godawful at 5:35 PM on September 21, 2006

Suprisingly if you think of it only as a nightspot, Schiller's Liquor Bar (on Rivington and Norfolk on the LES) is empty and quiet all afternoon, has good espresso (but bad coffee), open Wi-Fi, and - most important and rare - outlets all over the place! And, at about five PM, they give away donuts!

The Blind Tiger, formerly a great beer bar on Hudson, has re-opened on Bleeker St. and been denied the moment a liquor license, so they're serving excellent coffee, chili, and panini. They have open Wi-Fi and outlets at the bar and the tables.

Right near Housing Works, on Prince St near Mulberry, is McNally Robinson Books, which has inside a branch of Teany with open Wi-Fi but no outlets. It's quiet but sometimes crowded; it gets good regulars because it's a bookstore, although the Nolita people-watching can be distracting...
posted by nicwolff at 6:41 PM on September 21, 2006

The Blind Tiger, formerly a great beer bar on Hudson, has re-opened on Bleeker St. and been denied the moment a liquor license, so they're serving excellent coffee, chili, and panini. They have open Wi-Fi and outlets at the bar and the tables.


The Blind Tiger can't get a license while all these fratboy-fuckwit drinking establishments are springing up like mushrooms in wet dookie?

Dude. This means war.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:20 PM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

On the upper west side check out the beloved Cafe La Fortuna
posted by shothotbot at 8:01 PM on September 21, 2006

I walk by (and have eaten at) the Hungarian Pastry shop. I've never been to this Saurin Park place, but it's devastatingly close. I'll check it out!
posted by onalark at 8:11 PM on September 21, 2006

I fucking love La Fortuna.
posted by mattbucher at 8:40 PM on September 21, 2006

THINKcoffee around 3rd and mercer...adjacent to the gristedes on the corner

very good, very hip, quiet, has scrabble games for you to use (Always a good sign)
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 9:24 PM on September 21, 2006

Nth tea lounge, if it's convenient for you. just enough background noise to occupy the distractable part of my brain, but never so loud that i lose focus. plus they're open late and if you feel like taking a break, it's usually full of attractive, young members of all genders.
posted by sonofslim at 10:09 PM on September 21, 2006

I'll go ahead and second Alt.Coffee. It's everything a coffee shop should be - moody staff, gross bathroom, and old furniture that's completely falling apart. It's pretty unique to find a place like that in Manhattan - most of the places here are either generic Starbucksy-type places, or cyber RV parks for the laptop set.

Tea Lounge is great, too. It's one of the few things I miss about Park Slope. Unfortunately, the crowd there tends to be a bit on the young side, and it makes me feel old. Other then that, it's a perfectly credible place.

(and piratebowling - sorry to hear about your severed tie to Alt.Coffee! That would explain why I haven't seen you there recently.)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:28 PM on September 21, 2006

RE: Blind Tiger

They aren't giving out any new Liquor licenses in that nabe, its not just Blind Tiger. Some stupid community board people trying to enforce an insane law that limits the number of bars and restaurants in an area.

The best part is that on the Community Board website there is this big discussion of local, non-chain establishments as vital to a community. Then they ding a place that embodies this ethos. Enjoy the chains that can afford to buy out old licenses kids - cause that's all this does.
posted by JPD at 1:14 AM on September 22, 2006

Another excellent place is The Fix, in Williamsburg. It's massive, filled with plush furniture, and has that all-important "someone's basement I got stoned in back in my teens" vibe. I feel perfectly comfortable just camping out there and reading for an hour or two.

They're also attached to a record store, so you'll usually hear good music there.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2006

Oh! Also! I almost forgot. There's a coffee shop at the way way bottom of Mott St. called something like "Cafe Mocha Road" which also has bubble tea. It is a sanctuary of bliss amongst the frenzy that is Chinatown, and of course with awesome treats. Look for the former shack of the Egg Cake Lady. There are computers outside and a photograph of Hillary Clinton.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:43 AM on September 22, 2006

I would not recommend the Coffee Pot. They redid the decor last year, now it's just Starbucks lite with worse coffee and Mexican labor, plus their internet access is expensive. Still, it's about the only non-Starbucks coffee shop Midtown West has to offer.
posted by nasreddin at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2006

If you like Hungarian, try Zanny's Cafe on Columbus. Similar idea but with more light and eggs. And skip Saurin Parke unlesse ye wante pretensione and expensive paninise.
posted by crookedneighbor at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2006

It's not a cafe/social vibe, but I really like doing laptop work in the dining room at Bonobo's (veggie cafe, 23rd & Madison). They have free wifi and a beautiful wood-floored space w/ a big skylight. It's never crowded & they're totally open to you staying a long time. (And they make great smoothies.) Bring a soft thing to sit on since they have hard wood chairs.
posted by allterrainbrain at 10:59 AM on September 22, 2006

RE: Blind Tiger

What's also stupid about that is that the previous tenant in the space the Tiger moved into had a liquor license, and the space the Tiger left on Hudson is now (of course) a Starbucks, so the neighborhood is one bar less already! There's a petition here to get the board to stop blocking their license.

posted by nicwolff at 3:03 PM on September 23, 2006

There's a petition here to get the board to stop blocking their license.

Thank you, nicwolff! Signed, sealed and delivered!

(I got my $5 worth.)
posted by jason's_planet at 5:55 PM on September 23, 2006

As krautland said, the library can be a great solution and it's really worth your time to try out all the branches that are remotely convenient to you, because they're very different in terms of ambience, resources (electrical outlets, good chairs, etc.) and hours of operation. One of the obscure branches I've found has a practically solitary spot with outlets, beautiful plants and insane down speeds. (No, sadly, I can't name it on mefi... but it's there for the finding!) As you probably know, the NYPL serves the bronx, manhattan & staten island, but if you live in Queens you can get a NYPL card with all the privileges (possibly also if you live in Brooklyn).
posted by lorimer at 8:44 PM on September 23, 2006

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