Want a newer, more complete version of Coffices? Check out Coffices II!
Walk into a coffee shop in Brooklyn on a weekday morning and you might think you’re walking onto the set of a Macbook commercial, minus the cameras and lighting crew. Brooklyn is home to a huge mobile workforce of freelancers and people cobbling together several part-time gigs, and our coffee shops are filled with the accoutrements of the nomadic worker — laptops, cell phones and lattes.
There are plenty of coffee shops with wifi in Brooklyn, but not all of them are created equal. A place might have fast dependable internet, but nowhere to plug your computer in and bad coffee to boot. Another might have great coffee, wifi, and lots of outlets, but insufferable service and no light. One day, there will be full blown coffices, specifically designed for workers on the go with all the fixtures, plus printers, copiers, fax machines and sleep pods. (Check out our round-up of shared workspaces around Brooklyn that almost fit that bill.) Until then, we bring you a list of some of the best places in Brooklyn to sit and work and sip.
The Criteria: Coffices were judged on a scale of 1-5 in five major categories: Vibe, Layout/Aesthetic, Wifi, Outlets and Coffee, with a potential extra point available for good food. Things like friendliness, comfort, lighting, space, outdoor seating and other small considerations generally fall into one of the first two categories. Wifi was measured by a series of speed and reliability tests and both coffee and espresso (if applicable) were tasted at each venue. Those that lacked in any categories: had no wifi, charged for wifi, had nowhere to plug in, or had terrible coffee, were disqualified.
This is by no means a complete list–add your favorite coffice in the comments.
The Archive Café was the top-rated Bushwick coffice coming in with 19 points, but sadly, it closed a few weeks ago.
Boulevard Café, 253 Bushwick Ave., 718-281-2442
Unfortunately there’s a lack of polish that takes away from the experience. There’s no edgy charm here, it just feels sort of seedy.
Lacking style. Its saving grace is the beautiful outdoor seating area that’s almost always quiet.
Not particularly dependable and often slow.
Good show outlet-wise. Except for the outside there is really nowhere you can sit that isn’t close to an outlet.
Coffee: 2.5. Coffee here is just okay. The espresso is Danesi, the standard in European cafés, which is usually pretty terrible, so they get points for making it pretty palatable.
+1 for well-priced, delicious and varied food.
Boulevard has a lot going for it, but is in need of a re-design and better coffee.
*Fort Greene/Clinton Hill*
Tillie’s of Brooklyn, 248 Dekalb, 718-783-6140
Tillie’s has a bustling, collaborative feeling. It’s a large shop with varied seating and there are always a lot of people working, meeting and chatting. It has a true neighborhood vibe.
Tillie’s feels sort of college coffeeshop like, in a really nice way. It’s not a design marvel, but it’s very comfy.
The main floor doesn’t really have any outlets, definitely a low point.
Can be slow when crowded.
Solidly good, and organic, but not spectacular. A good iced coffee and nice selection of teas and smoothies for non-caffeine fiends.
+1 Lots of good snacks here, including veggie and vegan fare.
Tillie’s offers more variety all around than most places, with a large menu, lots of different seating, including outdoor spots, and a warm, inviting feeling. It can get a little noisy since people often meet up to chat, but it all blends together in non-distracting way and you often see people reading or studying, in addition to the ubiquitous laptops.
Urban Vintage, 294 Grand Ave., 718-783-6045
Part coffee shop, part antique shop, it has a sophisticated, but friendly and relaxing feel.
Aesthetic/Layout: 4 for look, 2 for work functionality
The aesthetic is totally beautiful. The layout doesn’t maximize workspace, but that’s not the point. Gorgeous, and comfortable.
Not a ton.
Urban Vintage uses Brooklyn’s own Crop to Cup and they do the fair trade brew justice.
+1 Muffins, pastries and sandwiches.
Total: 18 overall, 16 for working
Lovely, peaceful and comfortable, but only if it remains uncrowded. Not designed to be a regular spot for lots of freelancers. Go and chat with a friend instead.
Boneshakers, 34 Kingsland Ave., 718-963-0656
Punk rock, vegan, bike vibe all the way, but there’s no attitude to go along with it. Good music and comfy seats. No one is going to stink-eye you for sitting and working.
Again, very cool, bikes and punk but with a bit of euro-coffee shop thing going on as well.
A mixed bag, but more often smooth and fast than not.
This area could use work. Some middle tables are without available outlets, but still, it’s better than most.
Boneshakers brews Gimme! Coffee beans and although it’s nowhere near as good as at Gimme! itself, still better than most other beans.
+1, for the incredible veggie-wiches, varied and creatively named. Try “The Make Out Party.”
There’s a hard to describe cool feeling that comes with sitting at Boneshakers. They meet pretty much all the criteria and make for a great place to sit and work.
Café Grumpy, 193 Meserole Ave., 718-349-7623
The people are usually extra nice, there is a variety of seating and the place is spacious with good music played low. When asked for a cup of water, the barista pointed toward a pitches of water with cups beside it and then said, “Would you like a bigger cup or some ice?”
There’s just something refreshing about Grumpy. Its look is conducive to focus.
The wifi here is not the greatest, it’s fast, but cuts out from time to time.
Most sections of Grumpy have outlets readily available, however there are a few places you can sit and have no plug access.
Grumpy’s coffee is a major plus. On a good day the drip coffee is some of the best around, but it can be variable.
Another piece of the beautiful puzzle that Greenpoint is turning out to be. The vibe, the coffee, the warmth all make Grumpy worth a walk out of your way.
Champion Coffee, 1108 Manhattan Ave., 718-383-5195 (Ed. note — Owner Talitha Whidbee is a friend of BB, so yes, we’re biased, but this is some of the best coffee around with a great backyard.)
A small shop that can be crowded, especially in the winter when the backyard isn’t an option. Lots of other folks working here, but because they’re esspresso-only the grinder can be loud.
Clean and modern looking inside, large and leafy backyard that has smoking and non-smoking sections and a patch of grass.
Mostly dependable, but not super fast. Champion is great when you’re on deadline and need discouragement from internet procrastination.
You may need to ask your neighbor if you can plug in, but every inside table and several outdoor tables have easy access to an outlet.
Champion is espresso only, no drip. They use Cafe Vita beans from Seattle–they briefly switched to Stumptown and then promptly changed back when customers complained.
+1 They make simple sandwiches and salads and the baked goods are addictively good, especially the mint chocolate cookie.
Champion can get crowded, and it’s on the far end of Greenpoint, but it’s laptop ready and the backyard is a serious plus. The one problem is that once you start drinking their Americanos no other caffeine delivery system will seem as good.
Gorilla Coffee, 97 5th Ave., 718-320-2344
The baristas weren’t all that nice. A good test of niceness is to ask for a cup of water on a hot day. Here, they reluctantly handed us a small plastic cup of lukewarm water. The place is terribly crowded and uncomfortable.
The red and black color scheme and the logo gives Gorilla a sort of Shepard Fairey vibe. The maps on the wall add a bit of depth, but the tables are situated in a such a way that you’re likely to be saying a lot of “excuse me’s.”
The wifi here gets incredibly fast but cuts out from time to time. Still, it’s better than most.
There’s an outlet for every row of three tables, which isn’t sufficient for the crowd. There are no outlets for the front window seats either.
The best thing about Gorilla. Always very strong and the iced coffee is excellent.
Hard to imagine as a regular coffice. Sufficient for a quick email check, and good for a cup-to-go.
Root Hill Café, 262 4th Ave., 718-797-0100
There’s a general laid back feeling; people aren’t in your face and work seems to be encouraged. Varied and interesting reading material is also available.
Cool green trim, slanted wood floors, and cushioned seating areas. All around the place was very comfortable and roomy. It’s an extremely well-designed place and the outdoor seating in the front is fantastic and dog friendly.
It seems somewhat reliable, but slow at a mere .72mbps.
Root Hill Cafe has one of the best outlet situations that I’ve seen. All other coffee shops should take note–perfect.
Middle of the road. Good enough for a first cup in the morning, but it doesn’t deliver as the second, “get down to work” cup.
Park Slope’s best. Root Hill makes a case for how much of a plus an up to date magazine selection can be. They need to step up their bean game.
Atlas Café, 116 Havenmeyer St., 718-782-7470
Atlas is often crowded with hard-working people, which can be infectious and good for productivity. However, crowding is an issue. For some reason they don’t allow laptops outside and considering the overcrowding, this is a big mistake. They will come out and yell at you if you try to set up shop in the sun.
It’s a pretty straight-forward, cool coffee place with a general cabin in the woods type theme. Not stunning, but not distracting.
The wifi is excellent at Atlas, lightning fast. Occasionally there’s a connectivity problem but it works most of the time.
It can be a struggle to plug in here. Power strips are scattered around to remedy the problem, but somehow it’s still always a challenge.
The coffee here at Atlas is better than okay and much better than deli coffee.
+1 People come to Atlas exclusively to buy baguettes and croissants. Their sandwiches and salads are also quite good.
Atlas does play the coffee shop game well, packing the house while other places in the area are veritably empty. However, the overcrowding is a real issue, and their rules about laptops at outdoor tables are extremely frustrating. The baristas can be prickly, too.
Gimme! Coffee, 495 Lorimer St., 718-388-7771
A great place to work. The baristas are friendly and helpful, the music is good and not too loud and the whole place is generally very laid back.
Simple and straight-forward. Set up so that there’s lots of seating, but no overcrowding.
Pretty good. It’s better than average, but it occasionally doesn’t work which can usually be remedied by a re-boot. Speed-wise it’s among the better places with a steady 2mbps instead of the high-speed then suddenly no-speed situation that happens at a lot of other places.
This is Gimme’s downfall. The place has two outlets.
Gimme’s coffee is the lynchpin. It’s the richest, most flavorful coffee of any of place on the list. Try the Americano with an extra shot.
+.5, The baked goods from Balthazar aren’t very breakfast-worthy, but Gimme! now serves delicious salted caramel macaroons from a local baker, Danny Macaroons. They are also totally laid back about bringing in your own food, which is a huge plus.
Total: 18.5 Gimme! is one of the top contenders, even as a place not really intended as a work spot, it’s one of the best in Brooklyn, and if coffee is what’s most important on your list, you needn’t look further.
Second Stop Café, 524 Lorimer St., 718-486-6850
When working in coffee shops it’s important to spend according to your time spent there–it’s a matter of courtesy. However, you will feel guilty for being here no matter what you buy. It’s a huge shame since the seating and layout are so well done. Prices are also a bit steep.
Very cool look and layout. The outdoor seating gives it a huge boost and it’s one of the few places where you can bring your dog to sit and work. The tables are well-spaced, varied and comfortable and the aesthetic is sort of pioneer kitsch, in a cool way.
Solid wifi. Pretty much the same as speed and reliability as Gimme! (right across the street) if not slightly more reliable.
Very few spots at Second Stop are far from an outlet.
Just because a place carries good coffee beans, doesn’t mean they have good coffee. The machine being used and the person making the coffee can have incredible bearing on how it turns out. They carry Stumptown Coffee, which is an indie-coffee darling these days, but tends to be a bit overrated. Stumptown is designed to be brewed and prepared in a very particular manner. This doesn’t always happen and iced coffees here tend to be a bit sour.
+1, some of the best muffins in town–try the donut muffin.
Second Stop is a well-designed, great place to sit with some serious attitude issues.
Variety, 368 Graham Ave., 347-599-2351
Music isn’t too loud and people are nice, but Variety is another place with an overcrowding issue.
Dark, modern and to the point. It has a slight neo-southern transplant, Johnny Cash thing going on.
Variety has a fair amount of outlets but there is a definite need for more, especially in certain far-off sections.
The wifi here is the best example of the “super fast, then squat” variety. At first it seems like the greatest place to work, then suddenly, you’re in the middle of something important and stranded on no-internet island.
The coffee is seriously disappointing, a mere step above deli coffee. Bland, and weak with a jarring aftertaste.
Variety looks like a place that should have great coffee, but they don’t. New beans, and better wifi would put this place among the best of the bunch.
Text by Jon Reiss, sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Jon Reiss.