Sorry gentrification, you’re not going to win: the charm of the East Village is here to stay. With its slew of antique shops and underground karaoke bars, caffeine is a necessity to enjoy (see also: survive) all the East Village has to offer. Look beyond the Starbucks, the Dunkin’ Donuts and the oh-so-trendy matcha cafés, and discover the real deal: quintessential East Village staples and hip hidden spots. Here are some of the best cafés and coffee shops in the East Village that’ll give you that extra pep in your Below 14th Street-strolling step.
Bakery, Cafe, Pastelaria, Contemporary, South American, $$$
Heading to Tompkins Square Park? On your way, take the gem that is 9th Street. It’s lined with quirky boutiques, ‘90s-heavy thrift shops and even an occult-themed shop, Enchantments, as seen on Girls. You’ll definitely need a caffeine boost, so go on and fall in love with Zucker Bakery, a cozy and calm café-meets-bakery serving sweets (bite-size handmade cookies, Jewish and South American pastries), savory lunch options (the eggplant on challah bread sandwich is a must), and, yep, great (Stumptown) coffee. Bonus: People watching and free WiFi.
Cafe, Wine Bar, Coffee Shop, Contemporary, American, $$$
Question: Where have all the hip kids gone? Answer: They haven’t left East Village staple, Mudspot. In 2001, Mud Coffee was launched by husband and wife team, Greg Northrop and Nina Barott, who started selling their own coffee blend out of an orange van, better known as the Mudtruck. The Mudtruck remains popular for those on the go, but for customers who’d prefer a proper seat rather than a chewing gum-covered stoop, there’s its stationary sister, Mudspot Café. Here, the drinks are served in handmade mugs. The interior is chill and dimly lit, but it’s the secret garden in the back where all the cool kids get their caffeine on. Don’t miss the creamy Mud Mocha. Mudspot also serves American fare (including an all day breakfast), wine and beer.
Since 1907, the three generation family-owned Porto Rico Importing Co. have served what, according to their signage and coffee sleeves, are the “finest coffee and teas.” That would be an understatement. Their fuss-free East Village location is on every true East Villager’s radar, where there’s more offered than just a cup of Joe. You’ll find pour-over coffee makers and espresso machines for purchase, as well as a seriously impressive selection of beans from around the globe, all of which are available through their online store. Porto Rico Importing Co.’s loyal fan base might also have something to do with their crazy kinds of cheap bodega-like prices: strong and tasty cold brew for less than three dollars? Make it a large, please!
Hi-Collar isn’t your typical coffee shop: it’s a Japanese coffee shop by day and a sake bar by night. You’re going to feel like a VIP here—that is, if you manage to grab a stool. The narrow and deep space, which opened in 2013, only fits about ten at their long brass bar, where super friendly baristas serve strong coffee using various methods: pour over, AeroPress, or (their specialty), Siphon. On a sizzling summer day, gulp down Hi-Collar‘s cold brew Mizadashi. Post-caffeine, save room for their insanely fluffy Japanese-style pancakes. Better yet, satisfy your savory tooth with the crispy pork katsu sandwich, a customer favorite. But hurry! There are only approximately 10 servings a day.
Who is the hippest of them all? Welcome to Three Seat Espresso & Barber, where — you guessed it — cuts and coffee are served. Go for a $30 buzz-cut and you’ll be gifted a caffeinated buzz via a complimentary cup of coffee or tea. Hungry? Yummy bites from this stylishly minimal, sun-drenched space are also on the menu: sweet and savory crumpets, house-made muesli, and (in true ultra-hip fashion) avocado and toast. Oh, and wine and beer. Tip: Face the massive windows and take in the always entertaining Tompkins Square Park.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Greecologies. If you’re familiar with their Nolita flagship location (which boasts a stellar garden in the back), you’re most likely already obsessed. And how could you not be? There’s a lot to love/faint over, from artfully poured flat whites to grass-fed smooth-as-silk butter coffees (go for the cinnamon.) In a matcha mood? Slurp down an iced rose matcha latte. How about a probiotic drink? That’s also a thing at Greecologies. Sour cherry liquid yogurt? Their yogurt, made fresh from grass-fed cows, is a must-try. The walnuts and flower honey will thrill your taste buds, but if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s chai-roasted apples with toasted oats, nuts and seeds. Greecologies and their extensive menu (and gorgeous, spacious interior) will definitely drive you nuts, in a good way.
From Brooklyn’s beloved Bakeri comes its Alphabet City little sister, Bakerita, and she’s just as hip and adorable. Like Bakeri, Bakerita offers a mouthwatering slew of breads, cakes, and pastries, often made with organic ingredients. Sweet olive oil cake with blood orange frosting, anyone? And don’t get us started on their homemade baguettes. Bakerita has also got you covered in the Counter Culture coffee department. Treat yourself to their to-die-for cardamom mocha, because you’re worth it. Opened in the fall of 2016, Bakerita is a quiet and cute hole-in-the-wall, perfect for chilling, reading and studying. Well, only if you get there early. There are just five tables.