Wherever you are in Philadelphia, you’re probably only a few blocks from a great little coffee shop that’s loved by its patrons. Philadelphians — particularly those who write, read, or study a lot — are often fiercely loyal to their favorite coffee shops. Here are a few of the best, listed by neighborhood:
South Street: Philadelphia Java Company, on 4th Street just north of South Street. See and be seen at this hip neighborhood fixture that serves La Colombe coffee (the other Philadelphia staple, served in restaurants and cafes around the city). Their pastries are delicious and outdoor seats provide allow for much visual entertainment in warmer months.
A little bit further west on South Street/Italian Market/Bella Vista: Chapterhouse. Roomy, with plenty of seats upstairs and downstairs, plus they serve tasty and inventive coffee drinks. Two of my favorite things about Chapterhouse are the extensive tea list and the fact that they don’t serve much food, which means you won’t feel guilty sitting at a table with just a cup of tea.
Center City south/Graduate Hospital: La.Va. It’s got excellent food, great coffee, funky decorations, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s usually easy to find a seat in a big old armchair or a slightly shredded Victorian couch. Friendly notes on the tables ask patrons please not to sit there too long during peak hours, which means, well, when they’re busy.
Fairmount/Art Museum Area: Fairmount’s two main coffeeshops are The Flying Saucer, an intimate spot that serves coffee and pastries, and Mugshots, a much bigger place that serves more food and is often packed (a plus and a minus, depending on what you want!). Mugshots is right on Fairmount Avenue, across from Eastern State Penitentiary, and is a great lunch spot, with many local and vegetarian menu items. If you’re up the hill a bit and just want a refreshment, try the Flying Saucer (which, I must admit, was my second home for many years). The place is tiny, which means nearly everyone sitting in there and working there knows everyone else; if you’re a newcomer, you will quickly be absorbed into the circle of jokes and conversation. Owner Troy Musto promotes local artwork on the shop’s walls and loves the fact that the Saucer’s patrons are often creative, quirky, clever, and sometimes just weird. Mugshots serves Equal Exchange coffee; the Saucer brews delicious coffee from local roasters One Village.
Center City: The original La Colombe. The coffee is incredible (and relatively cheap), the clientele is endlessly stylish, and nobody cares how long you occupy a table. It’s the only coffee shop in Philadelphia that seems to have really captured a European feel (maybe because the owner is European).
Germantown/Mount Airy: If you are traveling in the Mt. Airy/Chestnut Hill/Germantown neighborhoods, it’s worth a detour to High Point Cafe, on the corner of Green Street and Carpenter Lane. Owner Meg Hagele not only creates her own blend of coffee, but she also does a lot of the (fantastic) baking and even made the poured concrete countertop and table tops herself.
West Philly: The Green Line, with three locations. Or, for a real West Philly feel (vegan food selections, dreadlocked and tattooed employees, real community vibe), try the small Satellite coffee shop, situated right underneath a community acupuncture clinic near 50th and Baltimore.
If you’ve got another favorite that I missed, write about it in the comments section!