Philadelphia is a great city for coffee snobs. As the home of local companies like Rival Bros and nationally renowned (and super strong) retailers La Colombe, the city is a great place to be if you’re picky about your single origin blends, can actually discern the different “notes” in a unique brew, or need everything all–organic, all fair–trade, all–the–time; there are few better places to engage in debate over where to find the best coffee.
Having said that, I’m a little ashamed to admit the truth: all coffee tastes the same to me. I am a coffee pleb. Sure, I like coffee fine—especially with a bunch of sugar, or when it’s 2 a.m. and I’m still in the VP basement—but in the interest of full disclosure, I can’t really tell the difference between Kenyan and Ethiopian or cortado and macchiato and all of the other names I can barely pronounce. If you asked me what the best espresso in town was, I honestly couldn’t tell you.
However, even if you’re as ignorant about coffee as I am, there is another definite advantage to the Philly coffee scene: the shops themselves. More popular chains like Saxby’s (or God forbid, Starbucks) populate every corner, but there are a couple of stops that have diverse offerings and a ton of character. There are a plethora of cafes off the beaten path that are great for getting away from campus, taking in some of the local scene, and getting some serious work done—no matter what your coffee order is. Here are some of our lesser known favorites:
Menagerie Coffee, located just a short walk from the Market Frankford Line’s 2nd Street Stop, has a stylish, modern coffee shop interior, with brick walls, wooden floors, and clean white counters. At the tables inside, you’re as likely to see a professional typing away on their laptop, a bookworm enjoying a novel, or some neighborhood kids hanging out. That’s not to say that Menagerie’s vibe is stuffy—far from it. Local art hangs on the walls and the window offers picturesque views of Old City, making this spot a charming and classic choice.
TL; DR: Classic fare in an open, modern space in Old City
Location: 18 S 3rd St.
Mon–Fri 7 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sat–Sun 8 a.m.–7 p.m.
Price Range: $
Another Old City stop a couple of blocks away, Cafe Ole might as well be a different world. You can spot the shop by the colorful tile mural on the side of the store, and once you step inside, the interior is just as vibrant. Along with coffee drinks and tea, they have a menu of Mediterranean inspired dishes you can enjoy while listening to a soundtrack of foreign music (which I’m pretty sure is Spanish, but if you’re smarter and better at language than me, check and let me know) that will make you feel like you just landed somewhere far away from Philadelphia. The only downside is that the WiFi can be iffy, but you can always ask one of the cute baristas to reset it for you.
TL; DR: A fun, colorful spot with foreign flair and diverse food options
Location: 147 N 3rd St.
Mon–Sat: 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sun: 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Price Range: $
One Shot Cafe
We know that Northern Liberties gets (and a lot of flak), but its popular because it’s full of great spots—and One Shot Cafe might be one of the best. When you walk in, the lower level is usually crowded with locals grabbing food from the brunch menu. Take our advice; place your order and head up the stairs—the upper level is full of tables to work at, complete with lots of outlets, an antique motorcycle, and a stunning study area and library. It won’t make studying any less stressful, but at least you can motivate yourself to work hard, maybe find some interior design inspiration for your future mansion.
TL; DR: A NoLibs neighborhood favorite with some amazing Instagram story ops
Location: 217 W George St.
Tues–Sun: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Mon: 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Price Range: $$
Nestled in Washington Square West, a few blocks away from Magic Gardens (and a short walk from Whole Foods), Chapterhouse is as cool as the neighborhood is. In addition to the standard espresso offerings, they have an extensive tea menu and fun speciality drinks. The insanely cool baristas (who are still very nice, if intimidating) will happily talk about their favorites and make recommendations for you. The staff plays a mix of whatever they feel like, from Beyoncé to heavy metal, but if it’s too loud (or just too cool for you), there’s plenty of seating in the quieter area further back. Plus, there’s also a cavern–like downstairs area complete with mood lighting and stone walls.
TL; DR: An impossibly cool space with a vast selection of teas and creative espresso drink options
Location: 620 S 9th St.
Mon–Sun: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Price Range: $
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books is the passion project of —better known as a Temple university professor, BET host, and CNN commentator. Hill’s career as an activist and academic has focused on social justice and literacy, and Uncle Bobbie’s embodies both of those ideas, combining an impressive selection of books with a space for coffee and community. Head there to do some work, peruse through the book selection for academic inspiration, and support a Philly business and gathering place in the process.
TL;DR: A local celebrity's intellectual hub with a great selection of coffee, books, and a community focus
Location: 5445 Germantown Ave.
Mon–Thurs: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Fri: 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sat: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Price Range: $