If you’re below 14th Street, we can tell you best coffee in the East Village. Travel a few blocks further below East Houston and that dividing line takes you to the Lower East Side, where coffee shops also shine. For strong coffee, free Wi-Fi and fresh pastries visit one of our favorite LES coffee shops. By Sarah Shaker.
By day, The National proudly serves Counter Culture coffee behind an espresso bar; by night it’s an intimate restaurant loved by fashionista locals. Sit at the bar of The National on a weekend afternoon to enjoy fair and direct trade espresso and pastries baked in house. Admire the mirrored walls and trendy hipster patrons, making you feel cooler just by association. Don’t miss their brunch menu, for mornings when strong coffee alone won’t satisfy your hunger pangs.
Nestled on the edge of Chinatown, Pushcart may feel off the beaten path of the LES, but beckons neighbors with freshly brewed Stumptown coffee, pastries, sandwiches and soups sourced from local farmers markets, bakeries and kitchens. There’s something for everyone with gluten free options, vegan donuts, kosher pastries and Jewish delicacies, reminiscent of Lower East Sides days of yore, like rugelach.
For an extensive variety of free trade and organic coffee beans, brewed individually for ultimate freshness, The Roasting Plant is the ideal stop for true coffee aficionados. Javabot, a patented Roasting Plant invention, holds “green” beans in a series of clear storage columns. Select your bean choice from the daily list, and then watch your beans measured out by weight and then “whooshed” into the roaster to where cup is brewed just for you. Blend up to three different varietals in a single cup for something new each visit. Don’t skip the chocolate chip cookies, either.
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Need more than caffeine to wake up? At Pause Café, you can order your standard cup of coffee or start your day with fresh juices and smoothies. Choose from their menu of blended concoctions or mix and match your favorite fruits and vegetables to create your own nutritious drink. And don’t forget to stop by Pause on your lunch break to take advantage of their salad bar, as make-your-own salad stations are hard to come by when in the LES.
When you relax on one of their benches outside, sipping your coffee and admiring the hip neighborhood, you’ll feel anything but grumpy at this Essex Street gem. All of the pastries and goodies are baked next door, changing daily and seasonally. On weekends, they also bake bread, so stop by to satisfy your carb cravings for the upcoming week. And on Saturdays during the summer, you can visit them at Hester Street Fair for your caffeine fix while you shop among other LES vendor favorites.
Sarah Shaker is the founder of the blog Bright Lights, My City.