The Freelancer’s Guide to NYC Caffeine

Blog, New York Cityon April 5th, 20115 Comments

I’ve been a freelancer in some capacity for years, and in that time, I’ve realized a few things. First, it’s impossible to be productive at home, especially since I live in New York. Between a tiny apartment and a ridiculously needy cat, I have to leave the apartment if I want to do any work at all. Second, editing — especially if it’s of the foreign-policy or science-intensive variety — can be tiring, so caffeine is a must. Both situations led me to become somewhat of an expert on Manhattan’s freelance-friendly coffee shops.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites, along with their locations, for anyone else looking for a caffeine fix while they work. Let me know if you think of anything I missed; I’m always looking for a new place to chill and work.


I have many friends who are anti-Starbucks and rail against the “corporate monster,” citing its destruction of neighborhoods, one expensive coffee bean at a time. I’m not one of those people. I love Starbucks. There are hundreds of coffee shops in New York, but few are as welcoming to loiterers with laptops as this chain. In addition, most of the stores have nice big tables and a bar that runs along a window, in addition to plenty of outlets and free wireless. I also must say that Starbucks makes a fantastic soy latte, better than most of the tiny shops. (It’s too easy to burn soymilk when steaming it, and nobody seems to take that into account.)

In New York, it seems like there’s a Starbucks on every corner, but there are two that I frequent the most. My favorite is at 29th and Park, which sometimes features a kooky woman dancing to music only she can hear. It is spacious, with plenty of tables and outlets, and the staff is courteous and efficient. I also love the one in my neighborhood, at 92nd and Third. I work here mainly because it’s super close to my apartment and has a really cute barista. Sigh.

The Ace Hotel

Stumptown Coffee Roasters is attached to the hotel, located at 29th Street east of Broadway, and once you get a cup of coffee (the tastiest I’ve had in the city), you can sit in the lobby alongside other artists, writers and creatives and get to work. The seats range from a library-style table to comfy couches, and the lobby has free wireless; you just have to ask an employee for the code. It has a lot more character and comfort than a Starbucks, although the seats fill up fast, so it’s best to get there really early.

Roastown Coffee

This coffee shop, located on St Marks Place, also serves frozen yogurt and food, although I’ve never tried anything but the coffee, which is delicious. It’s busier and a bit louder than the other coffee shops, and it can get really cold, but when you get bored with your work, it offers the best people-watching views out the window. It’s not a big place, but there are quite a few tables and outlets, plus free wireless.

McNally Jackson Books

This bookstore’s cafe gets crowded easily and doesn’t have any outlets, but it makes up for it with tasty vegan and gluten-free treats, good coffee/tea and gorgeous decor. (Oh, and the staff is really nice and attractive. What? It totally matters.) I’ve already said a few times how much I love this bookstore in general, and the coffee shop has a great atmosphere. It isn’t ideal if you need to do more than an hour’s work, but it’s worth stopping by for tea and some reading.

The following places don’t actually serve coffee, but they’re still great:

Bhakti Cafe

This is more of a restaurant than a coffee shop, and they don’t actually serve coffee (it’s a health-food place), but it has a lovely atmosphere, nice staff and absolutely amazing chai. They also had free wireless, although you need to ask a server for the password. I went here for a business meeting, and we stayed for hours without any attitude from our waitress.

New York Public Library

The library’s Rose Reading Room is one of my favorite places to work. With free wireless and ample seating (and an outlet for each seat), it’s the ideal place for long-term working. You can also bring in a canteen with coffee, tea or water, and nobody will bother you. Just make sure it’s sealed, and set it on the floor when you’re not drinking from it. Security guards will pounce if you put a drink on the table. It’s also very quiet in there, so don’t go with a companion unless you are planning to ignore her or him.

How about you? What are your favorite places to work in the city? And for those of you not in New York, where do you go?

Note: I got the idea for this list after reading PastaQueen’s post here.

5 Responses to “The Freelancer’s Guide to NYC Caffeine”

  1. Bill says:

    hey elissa! this is a great read, i already miss hanging out in ny coffee shops. if you are ever in brooklyn, parkslope has a great starbucks. it’s very big, and has a cool atmosphere (although sometimes noisy). it’s one of the best starbucks in the nyc area that i have ever been to.

    166 7th Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY

    Check out this place too. best pie I have ever had, and the coffee is pretty good. not sure if they have wifi:

    Four & Twenty Blackbirds
    439 3rd Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY 11215


    • Elissa Englund says:

      Oh, that’s great to know! There are a lot better coffee shops in Brooklyn, it seems; I’m just so lazy about getting there. :)

  2. Krysten says:

    I’m still trying to figure out where to go in Brooklyn. I like Ecopolis (delicious treats, super sweet staff, right off the F), but they’re limited in seats and sitting on a stool for so long gets tiring.

    I also like Ted and Honey on Clinton Street, but it gets crowded. I hear there are a few more shops on the other side of the BQE, though.

    I tried the Ace again yesterday, and while there were seats for one open, sitting with a buddy is near impossible.

  3. MB says:

    I am still disappointed that I didn’t make it to Ace Hotel when I was in town. I will be sure to go next time.

  4. Lily Darais says:

    i’m forwarding this to clark. he’s a coffee shop ADDICT and is moving to nyc. what a great list!

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