It's both the salvation of the freelancer and the bane of the cafe owner's existence: the coffee-shop-as-workplace. And though the scenario's second-nature in most cities, finding a place to "laptop camp" in New York City can prove to be a bit of a challenge. With limited real estate and the high opportunity cost of allowing a seat to sit occupied for hours by one dude with a long-empty cup, offering extended hospitality (or in some cases, any hospitality!) to computer users isn't necessarily good business sense in the city.
That said, there are a handful of places that still let, and in some cases encourage, their working patrons to linger. We offer you this list of favorite spots in the assurance that—should you take our tips—you'll promise to do so with the utmost courtesy, buying more drinks or food for every hour you're taking up space, and being willing to share your table with incoming customers.
Sweetleaf (Long Island City)
We love both Sweetleaf locations for their modest charm and huge dedication to coffee, but the original, expanded location in Long Island City maintains a darling, factory-salvaged common table dedicated to the laptop crowd exclusively—a model more cafes would do well to employ.
This means people who want to talk and act like social humans can congregate in the rest of the cafe, whilst those who prefer to "be alone among others" may compute away—that is, if they're not too distracted by the sight of the on-premises baking through the windows surrounding them. And speaking of baking, there's no better place to coffee-compute than a spot that has both sweet and savory treats to keep you sustained. Needless to say, this shop checks all the boxes.
Stumptown (at the Ace Hotel)
Though the Stumptown coffee bar itself offers nowhere to sit and linger, this polished location within the Ace Hotel on 29th Street offers an unusual perk: cafe patrons are welcome, nay, encouraged, to populate the lobby looking beautiful, creative and productive, and free internet (available via a passcode obtained at the concierge desk) is available to help you do just that, or perhaps it might be more fashionable to pen your novel with a quill?
Whatever your proclivity, the Ace lobby offers library-esque communal tables (and power outlets!) or, for the more relaxed, a selection of rustic, Tartan wingback, or mid-century Scandinavian style chairs to tablet the hours away in. And you don't even have to clean up your own dishes!
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Cafe Grumpy (Greenpoint)
The last shop standing of the four-store Grumpy empire to allow computer use, this neighborhoody spot is often as quiet as a library on weekends, as Greenpointers and those vacationing to Brooklyn fill up the seats to quietly exist online...with cappuccinos.
Though outlets are scarce, frankly, people who need more battery life than their laptop can handle should probably be going home, rather than dominating what's meant to be a public space with reasonable turnover. That said, Grumpy Greenpoint remains a great place to relax and get caught up on some things, in between ordering great coffees roasted right there in the back, and their own homemade pastries as well. If only they still sold hard boiled eggs, life might be perfect here.
Ninth Street Espresso (9th and C)
Gloomy Alphabet City hipsters won't like me saying it, but this, the original location of Ninth Street Espresso, is just a lovely place to sit for a bit and work. The cafe's most recent renovation made table space (and walking around room) far more negotiable, and added a huge amount more light through the willow-tree facing windows.
Wifi is provided along with intense espresso drinks, and last we checked you could even get a slice of buttered bread, too. Don't forget to share your table when it gets crowded, though—there's only so much room in this part of town.
Ninth Street Espresso
Another see-and-be-seen-computing hotspot, relative newcomer Toby's Estate came out of the gate running with their super-hospitable, hugely sunny room and tables eager for patrons who just love a Flat White with their virtual office environment.
Along with the onsite-roasted coffee and free-flowing wireless connection, Toby's stands out for offering that elusive cafe element—real food—along with a laid-back, "we totally understand how people are going to use this cafe" vibe that makes you feel about as guilty about lounging as you would at a Starbucks, i.e., not at all. Pull up an egg sandwich and a stool at Toby's and settle in!
Toby's Estate Coffee
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.