A Coffeehouse Culture: Revisited

I’ve been working on a list of my favorite coffeehouses, and here it is. Note that there is no ranking, it’s ordered more or less by geographical location (west to east), and I’ve tried to explain as best I could how these meet the criteria. Like I mentioned in the comments section of the original post, no coffeehouse has been perfect (perfection as we all know is nearly impossible). Hopefully this will give you a start though, and please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!

Coffeehouse Cafe
135 Liberty St; Salem, OR97301; Tel (503) 371-6768

This is mostly a favorite due to nostalgia. It was my hangout place in highschool when my friends and I made it downtown. They have a ton of card decks (not all complete) in the back as well as chess games and backgammon available. Their coffee is great but the seating area, though expanded a few years ago into a closet room, is very dingy. Lots of interesting characters hang out here, which tend to keep the conservative townsfolk something to complain about.

The Beanery
220 Liberty St.; Salem, Oregon 9730; Tel. (503) 399-7220

Just across the street from the Coffeehouse is this Salem institution. Long before the Coffeehouse was the Beanery, which has moved around over the years but finally found its niche again. The ambiance is great – they have wonderful booths where you can spread out and work all afternoon. They also have a salad bar and tasty small deli items. Their coffee, unfortunately, isn’t so great. I think they’re owned by Allan Bros. roasters, which I’ve always been told is a good company, but the last few times I’ve been there I haven’t been impressed.

Uncommon Grounds
402 Broadway; Saratoga Springs, NY12866; Tel (518) 581-0656

The place that inspired the post! Great coffee, free refills, great bagels (all day long!), and a great atmosphere. They have plenty of seating due to an expansion in the last few years, so that although there’s almost always a line no matter what time of day, you’ll be able to find a place to sit and not feel guilty about taking up a table. Wonderful breakfast place to return to for an afternoon coffee break from the races.

Woodstar Cafe
60 Masonic Street; Northampton, MA01060; Tel. (413) 585-9777

This is perhaps, dare I say, my all-time favorite cafe. It was only a two minute walk from my dorm at Smith, and opened in my last couple years there. On any given day you can find many “townies” and “Smithies” there, and I often sat right near my professors (me doing their homework, them doing whatever reading or research project they were working on). Their coffee is fantastic. The best thing: they make everything you see in their cases on the premises. Even the bread they sell is baked fresh daily. They have tasty sandwiches and amazing pastries. There’s no comparing a fresh fruit tart from them with anyone else’s! The only drawback is that there is very limited seating and when it gets busy, it gets quite loud because it’s in an old refurbished firehouse. In the summer months they have outside seating.

Rao’s Coffee
17 Kellogg Ave; Amherst, MA01002; Tel (413) 253-9441

Across the river in Northampton’s sister town, Rao’s serves delicious coffee, and also mostly (if not all) home-made pastries. They are roasters and you can find their beans all over Massachusetts. They don’t have much competition in Amherst and are a great place to hang out. It’s also hard to get a seat, due to its proximity to both UMass Amherst and Amherst College, but its outdoor seating is a nice oasis, much quieter than inside, in the summer.

Diesel Cafe
257 Elm Street; Somerville, MA 02144; Tel (617) 629-8717

This cafe in Davis Square, serves great coffee and pastries. Word on the street is that they have good sandwiches, but I’ve never had them. They have tons of seating, a pool table, and good music. It’s “the” place to be in Davis. They’ve also recently opened a new cafe in Union Square called Bloc 11, which resides in an old bank and has tables for customers set up in former vaults (I hear the doors are cemented open).

Darwin’s Ltd.
1629 Cambridge St; Cambridge, MA; Tel (617) 491-2999
148 Mount Auburn St; Cambridge; Tel (617) 354-5233

Where to start? I love this place – and not only because I get to work at the Mt. Auburn shop! It’s full of great food (sandwiches are the specialty, there’s a grocery, wine, and beer section at the Mt. Auburn store, and coffee is the added perk). The Cambridge St. store has a lot more seating, and is the newer of the two. Sandwiches are named after the streets that surround the shops, so although they have different names at the stores they have the same ingredients. Like most of these cafes, Darwin’s is a Cambridge institution, and many of the customers are regulars. If you come often enough, the workers may even be able to memorize your drink order! The ambiance is great – plushy chairs as well as tables, lots of light, and not too loud on most days. You may have some difficulty getting a seat, but if you hang around long enough you’ll find something. There are benches outside for use in the summer months as well, or you can take your sandwiches to the park along the Charles River and enjoy them there.

Bagel Park
Grindelallee 32; 20146 Hamburg, Germany; Tel. (+49) 40 – 414 666 10

Europa Passage; Ballindamm 40; 20095 Hamburg, Germany

The original was in the Grindelallee, just near the University of Hamburg. They serve the best bagels I’ve ever had. Hands down. And I mean not only in Germany, I mean in the States as well. They make them fresh there every day (sometimes several times a day). I would often go there for their “morning specials” at lunchtime and get a PB&J whole wheat bagel with a latte for a “mere” 2.50Euros. At the time, that was cheap! Their coffee is great – as is most of the coffee in Germany. “Kaffeelatte” is the catch phrase these days, and has become the drink of the chique. They’ve since opened a place in the huge new mall downtown called the Europa Passage. It’s not as nice, since the seating is in the concourse, but they do serve wine and beer there now.

Zum Arabischen Coffee Baum
Kleine Fleischergasse 4; Leipzig 4109, Germany; Tel (+49) 341 961 0060

This is Germany’s first coffeehouse, and has neat rooms devoted to different styles of cafes. They have a Viennese room, an Arabic room, and a French room. Like many German cafes of this kind, they serve excellent cakes and tarts, and their coffee is exquisite. Not really a place to sit and do homework though, more of a touristy place to indulge in a historic Kaffee und Kuchen. You might even sit next to some wonderful people

Cafe Toscana
Schillerplatz 7; 01309 Dresden, Germany; Tel (+49) 351 3 10 07 44

This cafe is similar in style to the Coffeebaum. It is an incredible Konditorei and serves what locals claim to be the best Christmas pastry called the Dresdner Stollen in the city. But it’s worth going there throughout the year, and when the weather is warm enough it’s nice to sit outside next to the riverbank and look out over the bridge quaintly named the “Blauer Wunder” (Blue Wonder). The area around the cafe is full of gourmet shops for fish, cheese, tea, and more.

Last but certainly not least, please visit the following links to my recounts of some amazing Viennese cafes:

Cafe Griensteidl

KunstHaus Wien

Cafe Central

Cafe Hawelka

Cafe Sperl

4 Comments to “A Coffeehouse Culture: Revisited”

  1. No Haymarket Cafe?!! Talk about an institution that has striven toward perfection over the many years it has graced downtown Northampton, MA! The recent addition (at least relatively) of a great food menu only adds to the attraction of the cafe which has pots of tea and good prices on refills. And they have also recently improved lighting, so that there are good tables for studying.

    I would also add the following two cafes:

    Kaldi’s Coffee House & Market Bakery
    700 De Mun Ave; Saint Louis, MO 63105
    Great food, great coffee, and a nice view of a park. Perfect for studying and for chatting with friends with indoor and outdoor seating.

    Gumpendorferstr.10-12; 1060 Wien
    Cool retro furniture for use and for sale, nice breakfast foods, good coffee, great music, and books, DVDs, CDs for sale. This cafe is in the city of great historical cafes, but it is a new generation.

  2. Ah, Haymarket and I have had many interesting encounters. I stopped going before they changed the lighting situation – that had been my biggest complaint, and at the time it was enough to switch to Woodstar permanently when that opened. I agree though, their teas are tasty, and so were their scones! I love their scones. I’ve never eaten in the kitchen downstairs though, I always wanted to try.

    I will put “Phil” on my list of cafes to seek out next time I go to Wien!

  3. Have you ever been to the Mathilde Bar in Bornstraße, across from the Abaton? They have good coffee, couches, windows in the back (possibly a “back yard” but I am not sure), books, and they give you a small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with every latte you order. The breakfast is good, though not spectacular. At night it turns into a bar. It has a “twin” in Bogenstraße, the Mathilde Café. Both locations have a lot of literature events. You should check it out next time you are in Hamburg!!

    I LOVE Bagel Park but since they have gotten rid of all the couches, it’s not the same any more.

    Finally, you know I am addicted to Balzac. They just make the best coffee in the city, and if you – like me – keep going to the same Balzac, (mine is on Eppendorfer Markt in Hamburg) it can become “your café” like any smaller, non-chain places can. Also, most of their pastries are really good!

  4. Thanks for the tip on Mathilde Bar Wiebke! It sounds quite nice. I know there is a Balzac there, and a tasty Turkish restaurant accross the street. I can’t place Mathilde though in my mental map. I’ll look out for it next time I come!

    I’m also sad to hear that Bagel Park no longer has couches. Most of the time though I didn’t stick around and took the food to go to eat at the Smith Center…

    Balzac is good, but I never thought they got the espresso drinks hot enough. I did like that they were the Starbucks replacement in Hamburg for so long. I’m sad Starbucks has invaded… I love Balzac’s angel-on-a-moped logo though!

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