I, like many of you, cannot get myself going in the morning without a decent jolt of caffeine. Since a direct IV drip of stimulant into my veins is both illegal and dangerous, I have to rely on good, strong coffee to get me moving. For many people, when they move to a new area, the first thing they seek out is the coffee shop that will become their home base. Fortunately, Philadelphia is awash in cafes that serve up an amazing cuppa, often with outstanding offerings for breakfast or brunch. Whether you are a longtime Philly resident looking to branch out from your morning routine or a transplant finding your legs (and your new regular pitstops), you will benefit from this list of Center City’s best coffee.
Referred to as “a cathedral for coffee,” this Philadelphia institution has been reliably turning out cup after cup of coffee and eats for years in multiple locations spread out throughout the city. There are smaller locations, but the most popular La Colombe outposts are their warehouse-sized flagship locations, which dabble in everything you need to grind, brew, press, steep, or otherwise prepare coffee. Also unique to La Colombe are their inspired coffee-infused cocktails, which pack both a boozy and caffeine-jolting punch. Try the White Russian. If you’ve got the munchies, I recommend a fresh pizza from their wood-fired oven.
(multiple locations, including Rittenhouse Square and University City)
Saxbys has over a dozen locations throughout Philly. Its specialty drink is its cold brew, through which beans are steeped slowly in cold water for twelve hours or longer in order to release maximum flavor without all the tummy-troubling acidity of regular coffee. Sweetened to perfection with sugar and cream, it’s a summertime staple. As an employer, Saxbys mission statement includes a section on the importance of continuing education. With a strong social impact awareness, it’s the ideal place to grab some joe and feel good about it.
Another Philly coffee staple, this small chain has three locations in Philadelphia. It roasts coffee in small batches for that artisinal taste. Want a serious amp-up without the harshness? Try a nitro cold brew. For munchies, the ricotta cheese toast and ice cream sandwiches (made in nearby Fishtown) are quintessential favorites. In fact, most of their goodies are local: breads and pastries are baked and delivered fresh daily from both Machine Shop Boulangerie and High Street on Market.
A relative newcomer to the Center City coffee scene, Menagerie has really made a splash, quickly developing a cult following. Physically, the cafe is airy and welcoming, inviting you to sling up your laptop and come sit a spell. A small Minneapolis roaster named the Dogwood Coffee Co. is the cafe’s source for beans, guaranteeing taste that you won’t find anywhere else in Philadelphia. Small plates are locally sourced and downright yummy, ranging from turkey and homemade apple butter on pumpernickel toast and a sourdough slathered in hummus and tzatziki.
This feisty newcomer on the Philly coffee scene recently moved to a larger, more spacious location that gives its many enthusiastic fans a bit more room to move around. If you prefer the more intimate vibe of their original shop on Walnut Street, it’s there as well – along with outlets in Kensington and greater Philly. Rather than focus on organic or fair trade beans, ReAnimator sources its brews based on taste, richness, and quality. Snag a seat at one of their cafes, sip on some flash-chilled iced coffee, and maybe buy one of their t-shirts, dyed with either avocado pit or coffee bean ink, featuring an animate skeleton and wizard.
This is the hip place to co-work in the Ritt. While some coffee shops offer cramped seating designed to move you through as quickly as possible (I”m looking at you, Starbucks), Elixr is tricked out with long tables, plenty of outlets, and adequate seating for lots of young professionals who want to mainline caffeine as they work. They are known for their wide and eclectic syrup variety, including flavors like chocolate pistachio, maple walnut, and blueberry coconut. Oh, and vegan donuts. Delicious!