The Best Cafes (and Restaurants) to Bring Your Laptop and Eat an Actual Meal

Get some work done and order up tasty, substantial fare at these downtown spots.

The Cusco Sandwich at Plenty Cafe

The Cusco Sandwich at Plenty Cafe

Maybe you’re a freelancer with a few hours between meetings downtown and you want to keep up the productivity. Or there’s construction in your office building and you can’t get anything done with power tools grinding away upstairs. Or you work from home but you’ve reached the point at which you’ll freak out if you don’t leave the house today.

You need a spot to get work done — school, freelance, creative, or just catching up on email. You also need to eat, and as tasty as the croissants and cookies at most coffee shops are, they’re not exactly brain food.

We’ve rounded up some of Philly’s favorite spots to camp out for a few hours (or more), eat a real breakfast or lunch, crush your task list. For our purposes, we’ve stuck with Center City and adjacent neighborhoods; we also made free wi-fi for customers and an actual food menu (however brief) a requirement.

And for when the workday spans meals, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite trendy spots where you might spend a working lunch (and maybe happy hour afterwards) while chowing down on a more substantial, chef-driven menu.

Cafes and Coffee Shops

Good Karma Cafe, Washington Square West

A good variety of fresh-made soups, salads, and sandwiches, and gluten-free and vegan options as well as locations in different downtown neighborhoods make Good Karma stand out. Plus, they serve breakfast bagels all day, bless them.


Elixr Coffee, Rittenhouse

The typically packed cafe in the heart of downtown keeps their food offerings simple outside of pastries and chocolates — but their brief list of sandwiches makes us hungry enough to brave the crowds and attempt to snag a spot at the notoriously busy cafe. We especially love the PB&J, made with bourbon blueberry jam from Spruce Hill Preserves and PB&JAMS’ crunchy peanut butter — both locally made condiments.


Menagerie Coffee, Old City

This minimalist cafe on Third Street includes a few select sandwiches to complement their selection of top-quality coffee drinks and baked goods. Their English muffin topped with ham, goat’s milk habanero jack cheese, and a maple syrup drizzle is pretty much an upscale McGriddle (that is, delicious).


Plenty Cafe, Rittenhouse
The European-style cafe’s extensive menu (which, wonderfully, includes booze for when your workday extends past 5 p.m.) distinguishes it as the gourmand’s place to set up their mobile office on our list. Food is made in-house, with the exception of special guests like High Street’s heavenly Anadama loaf, the foundation of their toasts. Plenty also boasts a wide selection of boards, salads and sandwiches: their Best of Philly-winning New Orleans, featuring house-smoked Tasso ham, green apple, fig jam, and gruyere.


Nook Bakery & Coffee Bar, Rittenhouse
While Nook, true to its name, is on the smaller side, the free wi-fi is only one of several qualities that make it a great spot to stop in for a few hours of work. All baked goods and food items, including breakfast and lunch sandwiches and flaky quiches, are made in house; coffee is roasted on-premises, too.


Rival Bros., Rittenhouse
Rival Bros.’ food menu isn’t quite extensive — as we reported when the Spruce Street location opened back in March, they’re offering toasts and sandwiches in addition to sweets — but these aren’t just any toasts: thick slices of bread from the city’s reigning boutique bakers at High Street on Market topped with peanut butter, dried figs, maple syrup, and vanilla salt sure sound like a meal to me. Plus, they sell Weckerly’s heavenly ice cream sandwiches — part of a balanced diet along with that Cuban sandwich.

Restaurants

Sweetgreen, Rittenhouse

The build-your-own salad spot serves as a place where hungry worker bees looking for a healthy lunch can refuel and stay connected while they do it. (Note that the Market East location near 9th and Walnut doesn’t offer free wi-fi.)


Honeygrow, Rittenhouse
Here, your kale smoothie and sesame garlic stir-fry bowl come with a side of free internet, too. As with just about all of these spots, it’s prudent to snag a table early (or late) to beat the lunch rush.


Double Knot, Midtown Village

Michael Schulson’s hybrid cafe starts each day as an Elix-style coffee spot, adds fast-casual lunch midday, and by evening transforms into a bumpin’ happy hour spot upstairs and a trendy Japanese restaurant downstairs. Come for the coffee, stay for a rice bowl (topped with a perfectly fried egg), then put the laptop away for drinks and dinner.


Mission Taqueria, Rittenhouse

The airy, light-filled upstairs taco spot owned by sister restaurant Oyster House’s Sam Mink offers free wifi and a real change of pace from the typical cramped coffee shop or dreary office. Take care of your email backlog over ceviche or pork al pastor tacos.


Hungry Pigeon, Queen Village

This just-south-of-South Street all-day spot is our pick to get creative inspiration for your work from Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley’s homey yet innovative menus, which can include dishes unique (in the States) as congee for breakfast and comforting as pork and beans on toast for lunch.


Farmer’s Keep, Rittenhouse
This health-focused, build-your-own-plate spot is the perfect place to grab a nutritious meal while you work. In addition to featuring fresh greens, veggie-heavy sides, and tasty meats, the menu is entirely egg, gluten, nut, shellfish, and dairy-free, making it extremely friendly to those with food allergies. Plus, you can grab a six pack from their bottle shop, stocked with more than 200 craft beers and bottles cocktails, for after work.


The Foodery Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse
This spot might be better known for its wide selection of craft beers — more than 650 varieties are kept in stock. But its 17th and Sansom location features free wi-fi, seating, and a solid menu of classic sandwiches, soups, and salads as well as a build-your-own charcuterie and cheese board deal that features top domestic and US artisan cheeses.


Talula’s Daily, Washington Square West

Aimee Olexy’s cute cafe (next to its big sister Talula’s Garden in Washington Square West) makes it a great hub for work meetings, socializing, or plowing through your to-do list. Delicious coffee and breakfast treats sustain in the morning, with fresh salads, sandwiches, and fine cheeses. You might even meet dinner while you peruse the case for lunch: a substantial, rotating list of prepared foods (there’s always an amazing take on mac ‘n’ cheese) are available to take home and reheat later.

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