The Café Search
Despite, or maybe, in spite of the ubiquity of Starbucks, there are a plethora of cozy cafés strewn around Manhattan and Brooklyn. I'm always on the look out for the best cafés to spend a lazy afternoon reading a good book with tea and maybe a pastry. I like my cafés to be cozy, with not too loud music. Ambience and good and reasonably price eats are my criteria.
Doma - West Village
Doma is well lit from natural light during the day. There is a pretty unfussy menu that simply tastes quite good. I believe I had a really delicious mushroom soup there once, which had clouds of mushroom bits held in a fine tasting vegetable broth served with a little bit of bread on the side. The rumble of the train is felt through the benches at the front. Doma is no secret though, not quite the place to go to be alone. It's cash only.
Mudspot - East Village
Mudspot is like the quintessential East Village sort of café. With a quaint little garden out back and huge mugs of their java and hot chocolate and the like, it's a popular destination for me. I'm not too fond of their lunch menu though, seems to be undersalted/underflavored, unfortunately. Mudspot also has a warm feel to it, with lots of orange, greens and blues. It's definitely worth going to for their generous drinks, but you might want to ask to add the sugar yourself. Also, cash only.
Teany - Lower East Side
Moby's café is pretty hip and modern with lots of white, but keeps from feeling too cold. Music is played at a medium level, and is, of course, pretty energetic music. This café is particularly known for its teas which they also sell at gourmet food stores like Whole Foods and the like. I had a fabulous teamochachino which was a fun alternative to the usual chai's. Extremely vegetarian and vegan friendly, the foods and sweet pastries are entirely of that sort. It's a little pricey, unfortunately, but what else could you expect in the Lower East Side? They take credit, but minimum $10.
Ceci-Cela - Soho
I read recently that there's nothing New Yorkers like so much as a big fake French bistro. I would have to hold to that that is true, and I would probably repeat that statement that we also like fake French cafés, seeing that I'm very charmed by the French-ness of this particular café. After all, the French invented cafés, no? That's probably not true. The service here is pretty awful though. The mood is very cute and quaint, and I love their French Lemonade with bubbles, and dark chocolate truffles, but the waiters here tend to be terribly rude and difficult to get ahold of (on several occasions), and will serve you drinks in paper cups even when you're not taking it to go. Otherwise, it's throughly enchanting. I'm pretty sure it's cash only, as well.
Knit New York - Gramercy/Flatiron
Knit New York can be a difficult place to find. One must sort of have one's eyes sharpened for the pale green sign/awning and the basement level entrance. It was at Knit that I discovered Lake Champlain's Spicy Hot Chocolate, which I now have bought make at home. They've got the most delightful coconut cupcakes which are tiny, but stacked high with generous frosting. They've also a wonderful assortment of teas. Pretty reasonably priced as well. They had quite good soups the previous times I've been there. Knit is overwhelmingly frequented by women, for the most part. I think still cash only.
Hungarian Pastry Shop - Morningside Heights
This café is entirely not about style in the least. I've got complaints against most of their pastries, but I do love their very dark hot chocolate, and they'll even serve it over ice for you. The Hungarian is extremely inexpensive, and is probably one of the few places where you can get a bottomless cup of coffee. I can't vouch for the coffee since I'm not a coffee drinker. The Hungarian has got a reputation for writers taking advantage of their relaxed seating policy, they don't mind if you stay and stay, and there's an article up along the wall showing some of the books which have been written by authors who frequented the place. They've nice sidewalk tables in good weather, but you have to be on the prowl for them during high traffic times. The place in general is quite crowded with tables and chairs. The bathroom has got lots of political statements written all over it too. Cash only.
Even though I do have my stock of good cafés, I'm always looking for more, especially with good outdoor seating now that the weather is finally getting warmer.