Been Parking your Slopes or Cobbling your Hills with little clue as to where best to sit and sip? The food-filled, cute-shop-lined streets of South Brooklyn are full of coffee purveyors eager for a share of your cup. But among them are some truly special spaces whose clean sunny spaces and no-nonsense approach to preparing excellent coffee are joined by exemplary staff, extra-tasty goods, or simply just the right vibe. We round up a few of the finest (notably mourning the indefinite loss of Stumptown's brilliant manual brew tasting bar in Red Hook, now on hiatus due to having too much coffee to store anywhere else) and encourage you to air up the bike tires for a tour.
This capacious, country-clean space on grateful Court Street is into its third year, continuing to serve the diabolical combination of nearby Red-Hook-roasted Stumptown beans and even closer (down the street) baked pastries from the Frankies Spuntino empire. If you can tear your mind away from the buttered pretzelbrot stick long enough to enjoy your coffee, you'll find lush cappuccinos and potent espresso shots, or grab a cold brewed or urn-ready drip coffee to go.
A small selection of coffee wares are available, along with Mast Brothers Chocolate bars and a newly introduced line of pasta salads-and-sandwich-to-go-suchlike. There's no wifi at this neighborhood charmer, but you don't yet have to beat your way through too dense a thicket of stroller parking, either. Yet.
Cafe Grumpy (Park Slope)
Don't blink or you might pass this diminutive outpost of the Greenpoint-based roaster right by. Cafe Grumpy's Park Slope store is an intimate experience, the best of the cafe's few seats being those immediately alongside the baristas working on your delicious beverage—the setting makes them feel more like personal bartenders. Seasonally rotating coffees, single origin espressos, Clover, pourover, cold brew coffee and the house Heartbreaker espresso blend were joined earlier this year by the shop's own bakery line. Pink peppercorn cookie with your macchiato...and a toy plush coffee bean to go? They can hook you up.
Making a truly unpretentious act out of the mere idea of "specialty coffee" is a feat and a half, and no one in New York City has done a better job of it—while doing an incredible job with their coffee—than Southside. A two-dude partnership that sees both owners constantly behind the bar, this very-neighborhood spot is makes the South Slope the luckiest coffee spot in Brooklyn, walking that perfect balance between everybody-knows-your-name and "just give me an amazing coffee and don't talk to me, it's too early". A rotating cast of super-high-quality roasters, including most recently Counter Culture Coffee, 49th Parallel and George Howell's Terroir, fill out the very simple, espresso-heavy menu.
And if you're hungry and lucky, the house baker may pop over with some steaming bacon-cheddar buns while you caffeinate. Consistently serving some of the city's best espresso drinks, Southside is worth the venture just a little bit further south.
652 6th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215 (map) 347-599-0887
Root Hill Cafe
An oasis on the industrial highway that's become of 4th Avenue, Root Hill—with its odd angles and postcollegiate lounge feel—is just the cozy place to stop for a balanced shot of espresso or a cool iced anything. Though the spot moonlights as a bar at night and spreads themselves across a diverse menu (need an ice cream sandwich? kombucha? a quad shot vanilla latte?) the overall vibe is a quiet, friendly space putting their all into espresso and seasonal drip coffees from Queens roaster Dallis Bros. It's an anchored neighborhood spot that's likely to outlast any trends—and we can all drink to that.
Root Hill Cafe
How Smith Street isn't already saturated with coffee bars of this caliber is still a little bit of a mystery, but leave it to savvy resto Seersucker to spawn a takeaway-and-cafe that lives up to its potential. The space is a reimagined apothecary, hanging on to a gorgeous tile floor, woodwork and a crisp marble-heavy bias. In this airy room you'll find a full line of Counter Culture Coffee's brews, from espresso to cold brew to the menu's simple "cup of coffee". Their Aficionado espresso is graceful in a milky cortado, and pairs well with the butter-rich line of savory baked goods. (Soups, sandwiches, and other more formally lunchlike items are also enumerated on the revolving blackboard menu.) They may be focused a little more on food than coffee here, but the shop—whose tiny tables make it feel more Continental chic than library-like—is long on charm.