If you can’t sit in a cafe quietly and be ignored, how can you observe human nature and write a story?
Since I have arrived in the US and pretty much since the beginning of my PhD, I have spent every Winter and Summer break at home (except, of course, for the dreadful Covid year). However, this winter break my intentions were different. I could not afford to break my work momentum, which inevitably ends up happening once I land back home, and so I decided to take a work-retreat and went to New York City for a solo two-week trip. The idea was to spend most of my days working but with a significant change in my surrounding environment, and then spend evenings amongst friends and/or exploring NYC. I envisioned a dreamy situation of packing my books/laptop/pens/notebooks and heading to a quaint cafe; ordering a delicious mocha and maybe a pain au chocolat; finding a suitable spot with easy access to a charging spot; and then using the familiar chatter of a cafe to completely absorb into my work. That was the vibe, I made it happen, and it worked like magic! Needless to say, in my two weeks in NYC, I found plenty of spots to work from, but aside from the usual Starbucks, here is my round-up of the top five.
Disclaimer: My pictures do not do justice to these places so definitely visit their websites for beautiful imagery (and a quick lesson on branding). All titles link to the websites for these cafe’s.
Immediate Vibes: French Country, Classical vibes.
Work Environment: I absolutely loved the work environment. You can be seated at the self-serving side of the cafe or the side with table service. The place does not get very loud but since it is a full-service restaurant, you can expect sounds of cutlery. However, I always had my noise-cancelling headphones handy so that was not a problem for me. I would recommend that self-serving side of the cafe if you need to have Zoom meetings and definitely noise-cancelling headphones.
Wifi Availability: Free WiFi and excellent strength.
Staff: Very friendly staff! I was seated on the side with table service and the hostess, seeing as I had a plethora of documents and such, joined two tables to ensure I had ample space for my coffee, laptop, and stuff.
Coffee: I had their Belgian mocha, pictured here, and it was divine.
Food Choices: During my stay, I had lunch twice at La Pain and twice I went for work so just coffee and dessert. Therefore, I can say with certainty that the food choices are good.
Location: I visited the location next to Bryant Park.
Immediate Vibes: Its a coffee shop in a flower shop – thats it! That’s the vibe!
Work Environment: It is a small cafe but with a number of cute working spots and a table that serves as a shared working space. You are surrounded by the smell of matcha, roses and lavender, in addition to all the other flowers so the environment is invigorating and fresh. One of the most beautiful backdrops if you need to have a quick Zoom call.
Wifi Availability: I was reading while at the cafe so did not use the WiFi but it was available and free.
Staff: They have very pleasant staff. I went in one day, just 30 minutes before the cafe closed, and ordered a matcha. Even though they only do take-aways at that time, they were kind enough to serve it in a mug to me upon request because I simply could not resist the beauty of it in all its ceramic glory, as can be seen in the photo.
Coffee: I had the rose-matcha latte and it was divine!
Food Choices: They have the usual coffee house choices.
Location: I went to the one in midtown Manhattan on East and 53rd street.
Immediate Vibes: Industrial meets rustic! Heavenly!
Work Environment: I went to their place in Soho, which is really very small but it is just so beautiful that you must give it a try. I was lucky to have found a good spot inside to work from, and was able to put in three hours of solid productivity. They have these wooden benches and beautiful, rustic decor that is just a treat to witness. They have limited outdoor seating.
Wifi Availability: Wifi is free and perfect.
Staff: The staff is very friendly and kind.
Coffee: I think I had the best iced-dark-mocha that I have ever had in my entire life!
Food Choices: If you look them up on instagram, you will see that their baker makes these incredible succulent-bearing pastel cupcakes. Oh they look so delicious and beautiful that it was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit this cafe! Unfortunately, the day I visited, their baker was on leave. But I would still highly recommend them!
Location: I went to their location in Soho but their website indicates a new location inside a J.Crew.
Immediate Vibes: Urban Jungle!
Work Environment: Apart from NYPL, this is the cafe I frequented for work and was absolutely thrilled every single time. They have really good coffee and great decaf options. The vibe is so modern yet green that it immediately puts you in a better headspace. The place is usually crowded and you can witness people working away on their laptops. I would recommend this for work 100% but make sure to carry noise-cancelling headphones if you need to take meetings and calls.
Wifi Availability: WiFi is free and excellent.
Staff: The staff is super nice.
Coffee: I had their caffeinated mocha and also their decaf mocha, and both beverages did not disappoint.
Food Choices: They have the usual coffee shop assortment of food options. I tried their pain au chocolat and banana bread and both items were delicious.
Location: I visited the one in downtown Brooklyn but they have several locations.
Immediate Vibes: Charming Rustic Bohemian!
Work Environment: The last one on the list is the charming rustic heaven of Maman! It’s like being transported to another time and this feeling persists not just in the environment but also in the presentation. I fell in love with this place the moment I saw it with the wines in the window and their stunning pottery. Even their to-go coffee cups are so unique and beautiful and, with a mix of solo seating options as well as group seating options, a beautiful French-style market offering products from select French brands, a delicious menu, this place because an instant favorite. Highly recommend!
Wifi Availability: Available and free!
Staff: Super friendly staff!
Coffee: The best cappuccino and I am not even a cappuccino person at all!
Food Choices: They have a full menu especially curated for the cafe by Anna Watson!
Location: I went to their location on Center Street in Soho but they have other locations!
I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour of five beautiful cafe’s in New York! Please do comment and let me know what you think, and whether you have been to any of these places, and especially if you have recommendations for me! Till next time.