Like many a US city these days, Third Wave coffee has taken over Philadelphia. No longer relegated to the pioneering West Coast that launched this wave as far back as the 1960’s when Peet’s first opened in Berkeley, CA, Philly has had its own key pioneer since 1994: La Colombe. When even NYC was still a wasteland for great coffee — not that many years ago (more on that here) — this “little” brand from Philadelphia was one of the earlier signs of life I could find in NYC, with quality roasts and a café sporting a proper espresso machine, turning out well-crafted espresso drinks, from cappuccinos to macchiatos.
No surprise: in the years since La Colombe opened, Philadelphia is home to some pretty great coffee across the city, whether local roasters or those preparing it properly. Here are seven that stood out:
SQUARE ONE COFFEE
Based in Lancaster, PA (currently with one shop there and two in Philly), Square One may have been my favorite coffee outpost, conveniently just around the corner from my hotel base of The Independent Hotel, although I went far and wide each morning to explore different coffee stops.
The bright, chic space in soothing yellows and whites — and service with a smile — definitely make Square One special. But they offer impeccable coffee set to a chill vibe and a sense of quiet and spaciousness in what could easily be a mobbed hipster hangout. This would be my ideal workspace café at home.
GREENSTREET COFFEE CO.
On a sunny corner in Washington Square West, Greenstreet Coffee Co. serves quality espresso drinks and sells theirs sustainably sourced beans, which roasted at their South Philly roastery. Opened by brothers Tom and Chris Molier, Chris spent some time in Portland, OR, and came back to his hometown with a passion for coffee, opening Greenstreet with his brother.
SHOT TOWER COFFEE
Serving North Carolina’s now far-reaching Counter Culture coffee beans and espresso drinks from a beautiful La Marzocco espresso machine, Shot Tower Coffee appeals with its reclaimed wood, cool artwork and a laid back vibe, drawing regulars into its charming, brick building, corner location.
Serving rotating coffee beans from high quality producers, Menagerie Coffee is an Old City respite, a relief from the tourist sway, in whites and rustic woods, for well-prepared coffee.
HIGH STREET ON MARKET
Famed bakery and cafe, High Street on Market — now with a new High Street on Hudson location in NYC — has long been a Philly favorite for the likes of duck meatball sandwiches and red eye danishes, but they also serve a proper cup of coffee from local roasters like Rival Bros.
With striking reclaimed woods, dark floral wallpaper and exposed, industrial piping, mobbed Elixr Coffee is nonetheless one of the strongest downtown coffee destinations not far from Rittenhouse Square. Their cold brew is on point and the line moves quickly.
With three locations, Plenty Cafe is one of the better coffee outposts in the hip Passyunk neighborhood with exposed brick walls and sunny front window bar, a convenient perch from which to watch the ‘hood pass by. They have a robust “coffee program” and serve the aforementioned Square One coffee.