BEST OF THE GAYBORHOOD AND BEYOND: Cafes
It can sometimes seem like Counter Culture (North Carolina) and Stumptown (Oregon) have a bean-roasting lock on Philly’s new-wave coffee scene. But Tom and Chris Molieri roast their own at GreenStreet, which now boasts a post in the Gayborhood. The tiny space and fickle wireless signal limit its appeal as a workspace, but there’s ample sidewalk seating on both sides of the corner — and more-than-ample coffee options. Think three espresso varieties and a pour-over menu that hooked this Ethiopia lover with a choice between washed- and dry-processed crops from that country. 1101 Spruce St., 610-504-3934, greenstreetcoffee.com.
There’s a reason the baristas at this popular Grad Ho enclave don’t leave room for cream in their pour overs: It would be a shame to muzzle the delicate flavors of these juicy single-origin and micro-lot coffees with dairy fat. The beans are sourced and roasted by Counter Culture — which has a training center upstairs — and Ultimo’s staff does right by them, especially the high-toned East African varieties I adore. Plus, there are sandwiches from American Sardine Bar, a reliable wireless signal, and decent opportunities for a coffee klatch — whether you’re pushing a stroller or tapping the screen of your Grindr app. 2149 Catharine St., 215-545-3565, ultimocoffee.com.
Counter Culture also fuels the espresso pump and drip apparatus at this spacious, sunlit Queen Village corner spot. It’s definitely low-key, eschewing pricey and time-intensive pour over options in favor of a single, well-made coffee of the day. But you’ll still want to linger at the rough-hewn communal table, perennially strewn with sections of the New York Times, or unwind at a well-shaded sidewalk table. Sip on a single-origin light-roast espresso or delve into Shot Tower’s respectable tea list, and join a crowd that occasionally mixes actual conversation with keyboard clatter. 542 Christian St., 267-886-8049, shottowercoffee.com.
In strict drinking terms, Chhaya doesn’t stock my favorite coffee. But it definitely does have my favorite coffee to watch. If you can part with $7 (yes, a big if), you’ll see why. The barista lights a Bunsen burner beneath a double-chambered glass contraption that looks like it was pilfered from the set of Breaking Bad. Water rushes one way, then another, pushed and pulled by heat and vacuum suction, and along the way turns into an exceptionally clean-flavored — and hot — cup of joe. Or try a frothy (and also dramatically made) “south Indian decoction.” Then get a sweet or savory waffle or a very good BLT, and soak up a cozy atmosphere with nothing but leisure on your mind. 1823 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-465-1000, chhayacafe.com.