I’ve come a long way on my coffee journey since my Starbucks days. I would frequent the local drive-thru each morning like clockwork, unready to start the day until I had an iced latte with two shots of vanilla in my cup holder. Also a must: their sausage, cheddar, and egg sandwich that was always so unbelievably hot, it’d burn my mouth no matter how patient I was.
Over the years, my taste in coffee has evolved—though I’ll still lean on Starbucks when I’m in need of caffeine and it’s the best available option. I even invested in a home espresso machine recently that has quickly become one of my most-prized, and most-used, kitchen possessions (it’s a slightly more compact version of this one). While I love the luxury of sipping a freshly brewed cappuccino in my pajamas each morning while Good Morning America buzzes in the background, there’s something extra special about discovering a neighborhood spot that not only serves up an excellent cup of coffee, but also has the type of atmosphere that makes you want to settle in and stay awhile.
From Our Shop
There are a few coffee shops in my New York City neighborhood that have become a regular fixture in my coffee rotation, but the one that I love most is in my hometown of Delray Beach, Florida: Deke’s Coffee. Situated just off the corner of Atlantic Avenue, which is Delray’s main street for restaurants, Deke’s is set up in a space that actually used to be a coffee shop way back in the day. The windows are always wide open to let the breeze and sun in, there’s a long counter that invites you to hang out over an espresso or two, and it’s dog-friendly (ours, Lucy, loves to stop in and say hi to everyone).
Oh, and the coffee. The coffee. Nico, who runs the place, has created a chill, laidback vibe for the shop but clearly takes his coffee very seriously. He carefully curates the selection of coffee and freshly roasts the beans in the back of the shop according to each flavor profile. Even the milk is serious business—you can choose from just two options: whole milk or a house-made, plant-based milk made from cashews, coconut, and dates. My order? A simple-yet-perfect cappuccino (or iced latte if it’s really hot, which is often) with whole milk, sipped on one of the patio tables out front.
Of course there are many, equally beloved neighborhood coffee shops just like Deke’s around the country, so I asked the other editors at Food52 and Schoolhouse to share their favorites. Here’s what they said…
“The Patio Cafe in Conway, Arkansas has been a staple since childhood. When I was a kid, it was called Something’s Brewing and was exactly what you’d picture from a small-town coffee spot. The house-turned-cafe sat on a corner downtown, was always filled with students from the nearby college, and stayed open until 12 a.m. most nights—the only other places in town serving anything that late were Waffle House and IHOP.
“My first memories going there are early mornings before elementary school with my dad, brother, and sister. I’d order a strawberry smoothie and a blueberry muffin as my dad sipped his cup of black coffee. As a teenager and in early college, it was where my friends and I would meet up for breakfast before heading to campus or where we’d attempt to study, bottomless cups of coffee covering the table. A couple of years before I moved, the cafe changed owners, hours, and its name, but the important things stayed the same. Now, anytime I’m back home visiting family and friends, I always make a point to swing by The Patio Cafe for breakfast and a cup of coffee.”—Julia Gómez Kramer, commerce editor at Food52
“As a remote worker, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. My favorite in Boston is Pepita, which operates out of the Lamplighter Brewery space during the day. They’ve got plenty of seating, amazing lattes, and really great breakfast tacos (plus plenty of pastries, which is a must for any coffee shop I frequent). I’m originally from Atlanta, and coffee shops always figure prominently into my plans when I’m visiting my folks. A few favorites—because I can’t choose just one—in no particular order: Spiller Park (I’m not a baseball person but I’m obsessed with the baseball-inspired vibes here, and they’ve got really great toasts), Alon’s Bakery (specifically the Virginia Highlands location, an oldie but a goodie), and Perc (get the Good Times Shake!).”—Madison Trapkin, associate editor at Food52
“Corto in Brooklyn came to me at a time in the pandemic when I was freshly vaccinated and still weary of indoor dining, but was craving a gentle reintroduction to the dining experience. There were only so many mornings I could repeatedly stand having coffee on my couch making small talk with my cat. Outfitted with a bevy of outdoor seats (half are nestled in a courtyard in the back of the shop, the other half are sidewalk seats abutted against the windows), and just a quick little scenic walk from my apartment, I decided it would do.
“Though the romance of a freshly made latte outside of the house was the key driving factor, I became a repeat customer because of their (honestly, perfect) focaccia sandwiches. Thin, but still plush, focaccia with a bevy of cured meats, spreads, and veggie options. I was hooked. Corto became my go-to for any and all occasions. Quick grab-‘n’-go breakfast before driving upstate for a weekend away? Corto. Focaccia sandwiches tenderly wrapped in parchment and iced lattes for the beach? Corto. Meeting new coworkers for the first time in-person? Corto.”—Emily Ziemski, food editor at Food52
“When I’m home visiting my family in Los Angeles, Kiff Kafe is the coffee shop I always return to. The coffee and food are both great (they source their pastries from Gjusta), but the best thing about this neighborhood cafe is its huge, gorgeous patio. Sectioned off from the parking lot and filled with plants and vines, it feels almost like a hidden sanctuary. There’s also tons of seating to choose from depending on your mood, from communal tables and benches to lawn chairs.”—Anabelle Doliner, editorial assistant at Food52
“A Portland, Ore. favorite, Prince Coffee is my pick. Known not only for delicious drinks, this Scandinavian-inspired shop makes stroopwafels from scratch daily—nothing beats a slow morning sitting in the sunshine with a treat and cappuccino in hand.”—Elizabeth Yunmi Hokyo, senior editor at Schoolhouse
“Cafe Volan is one of those cozy-yet-unfussy coffee shops that has built a strong community of people who love good coffee and a place to collaborate with each other. They roast their own coffee and serve up a rotating baked treats menu with items like Balthazar croissants, ricotta toast, and homemade banana Nutella muffins that are to DIE for. On the walls, you can find art made or photographed by local artists, plus old surfboards. I may be biased—one of the co-owners happens to be my cousin and my aunt bakes the muffins—but when I think of Asbury Park and it’s unique city-by-the sea vibe, I think of Cafe Volan.”—Ariel Pietrobono Costa, creative strategy director at Food52
“These days, mornings are good because they often start with a cold brew from St. Kilda Coffee. For months I walked by this placed and didn’t even know it existed. There’s nothing on the outside that asks you to come in. It’s on a block that’s often dirty, loud, and packed with people. And yet, when you’re inside St. Kilda, there’s nothing but good energy, mood-boosting greenery, really cool T-shirts (I’m wearing one as I write this), and truly delicious coffee. Also, the baristas are friendly and play fun music. If you’re ever in Chelsea in New York City, give it a shot.”—Paul Hagopian, content intern at Food52
“Never Coffee in Portland, OR has always been my go-to. From their minimal yet color-forward shops, to their innovative drinks, there’s nothing like stopping in on the weekend to enjoy a yuzu and salt latte with a good book.”—Chelsea Harris, copywriter at Schoolhouse