Where to Drink Coffee in Philadelphia


[Photos: Liz Clayton. Pictured: Cappuccino at Spruce Street Espresso]

At long last, we can call it the city of coffee-ly-love: Philadelphia, long lingering in that spot where a great food city waits for great coffee to chase its heels, has come into its foamy own. From the true tiny-shop artisan pioneers Spruce Street and Ultimo Coffee has followed a community of baristas, brewers and aficionados.

Here's a little tour of what's new and brewing.

Spruce Street Espresso


One of the first serious Philly cafes, this tiny boîte on Spruce is no-nonsense—and really, how would they have room for it? The family-owned cafe serves Counter Culture Coffee brews as espresso and single-origin drip, the latter steeped to order in Clever Dripper by-the-cup brewers. A third grinder lies in reserve within the cozy, blue space, ready for single origin espressos or feature espressos (like Counter Culture's new delicious Apollo blend.) Watch out for Spruce Street's second shop, which will feature a new La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. (Lucky for their name, the next store will be located conveniently down the way...on Spruce Street.)

Spruce Street Espresso

1101 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map) 215-609-4469; sprucestespresso.wordpress.com



A surprising (and stylish!) oasis in Philly's city center is newcomer Elixr—a just under three-month-old coffee bar done to the nines in rough-cut marble, slate, and reclaimed wood. One of the few, new, East coast outposts of acclaimed Kansas-based roaster PT's, Elixr's setup includes espresso drinks (from PT's Southpaw blend) and drip coffees brewed on Chemex and Clover. Where'd they get the money for all these toys and great baristas? Philadelphia Eagles Offensive tackle #74, Winston Justice, is one of the owners. And though that weird fact's not what makes the coffee taste so good...I can't say that it doesn't help.)

Elixr Coffee

207 South 15th Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); elixrcoffee.com

Ultimo Coffee


Over in South Philly, creep across Broad Street to the supercharming Ultimo Coffee—one of the country's loveliest places to enjoy a beautifully crafted coffee. From the sunny garage doors to the curved wood bar, from the pourover bar to the espresso drinks (your macchiatos and cappuccinos made supple via milk from Maplehofe Dairy), to the innovative (and weird) Chemex filter adapters, Ultimo is clearly striving to work at a higher level.


Counter Culture beans are in the hoppers again here, where we were steered towards a light, citrusy pourover of Kenya Kagumoini. And, um, wouldn't it be convenient if a coffee shop were partnered with a high-end beer boutique and bottle store? Ultimo is, and just beyond the pastry case you'll find the amply stocked aisle of beers at Brew.

Ultimo Coffee

1900 South 15th Street, Philadelphia PA 19145 (map) 215-339-5177; ultimocoffee.wordpress.com

Shot Tower Coffee


With a city as rich in neglected, old, beautiful spaces as Philadelphia, it's lucky that coffee's finally coming up in the culinary ranks. Spots like the ridiculously sunny Shot Tower, a Stumptown-brewing shop in Queen Village in a 50-years-shuttered former stonecutter's shop, are among the best examples. The quiet corner shop fills with light—and beautiful coffees, and a great tea list—and is decorated with local conceits like a common table scavenged former Tastyake factory breakroom.


Enjoy an espresso drink off the barista-nerd La Marzocco Strada, or a drip coffee on Fetco urn (the manual pourover program, we're told, is still under development.) Between the creamy cappuccinos, exotic flowers, whitewashed wood and, yes, artisanal whoopie pies...you may not find a more tempting atmosphere in Philly.

Shot Tower Coffee

542 Christian Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map) 267-886-8049; shottowercoffee.com

Bodhi Coffee


This narrow little Queen Village shop is functional, clean, and a little gourmet-curious. Stumptown coffee (via Synesso espresso machine or Beehouse pourover cones) is served alongside a small supply of foods and sundries—you'll be able to replenish your supplies of yam bitters and Maldon sea salt should you find the cupboards bare at home.


The atmosphere is fairly study-centric, with tables lined up like a classroom, but the hushed vibe won't dampen the pleasures of a stiff, politely dispensed cortado.

Bodhi Coffee

410 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map) 267-239-2928; bodhicoffeephila.com/

Lovers & Madmen


And let us not forget West Philly: Lovers & Madmen hasn't, and it's been humbly delivering quality Counter Culture brews for a few years now to a largely student population. Blue, not red, stands for love here, from the paintworn railings to the blue La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine.


Grab a cupcake and a sofa and a foamy drink in this University City outpost that feels refreshingly more like a social center than a library annex.

Lovers & Madmen

28 S 40th Sttreet, Philadelphia PA 19104 (map) 215-243-9851; www.loversandmadmencoffee.com

Philadelphia coffee has done a swift job of growing up in the last few years—do you have a favorite new spot?