Best Places to Work Outside Your Apartment on the Upper West Side
UPPER WEST SIDE — The surge in freelancers has been called the "industrial revolution of our time," with more and more people reporting that they work from home or have no office in the city.
There are more than a dozen Starbucks between 59th Street and 110th Street — and now Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is trying to edge its way in — but savvy residents have also found other favorite local spots to work, study or just get out of the house.
Finding the ideal spot is not easy, said Jennifer Toth, who lives in the upper 90s and works from home.
"It can be hard on the Upper West Side to find the right place to work where you can actually get a seat, have Wi-Fi and the staff is friendly and accommodating," she said.
DNAinfo New York has found the best unconventional places to get down to business in your neighborhood.
Hampton Chutney, 464 Amsterdam Ave.
Chai, not coffee, is the centerpiece drink at this shop, which feels like a one-of-a-kind despite its additional locations Downtown and on Long Island.
While a carpeted bay window with toys and books seems like it might invite noisy rugrats, Hampton Chutney has a mostly sedate atmosphere. Soothing Indian music plays, while the faces of serene yogis look down from the walls.
Choreographer Abigail Levine, 35, usually sits on a high stool by the window looking out on Amsterdam Avenue, away from any bustle at the counter, where large dosa (Indian pancakes) are dolled out.
“I sit and think. I like that [Hampton Chutney] doesn’t have wireless because that invades too much of what we do,” Levine said.
She appreciates the homey atmosphere — the friendly staff know her by name, she said — and the shop’s special feel.
“I certainly avoid Starbucks if I can. That level of packaged-ness is not conducive to reading and thinking,” Levine said.
Levine said she avoids Hampton Chutney on school holidays, when it can get overrun, but she visits weekly, coming back for the peace, the great chai and the food, she said.
Hampton Chutney has a well-maintained bathroom and free water available — critical perks for those working away from home.
Irving Farm, 224 West 79th St.
The mini “artisanal” coffee chain came to the Upper West Side a year ago and has garnered a faithful following.
Though the shop does not have Wi-Fi, it is very friendly to the laptop set, who find ample space at the back. Copious power outlets and a large skylight also create a work-friendly atmosphere.
“I’m here every day,” said screenwriter Nick Amadeus, who is in his early 30s. “Besides the fact that it has great coffee, everyone is very friendly here.”
Staff members play music from their iPods, he said, and it’s generally good, with selections similar to The Shins or Andrew Bird.
Amadeus said customers are respectful and don’t talk loudly on their cell phones, which he said separates Irving Farm from coffee chain stores.
A lifelong Upper West Sider, Amadeus lauded the café for its outside-the-neighborhood feel.
“It’s a younger vibe. They’re not corporate,” he said.
Biscuits, breakfast treats and sandwiches, plus beer and wine, are also available.
American Table, 1941 Broadway
This new, 75-seat Lincoln Center café garnered a lot of buzz for its well-known celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson, when it opened this summer.
The space’s refurbishment, extended nighttime hours, and free Wi-Fi are appreciated by guests as well.
“There’s plenty of room, [a] great view, and [it’s a] good place to meet for business if you can get people to venture north,” said Helen Whelan, who works for Success Television, a leadership and management training video company.
For Whelan, as for others, the beauty and unique nature of the space are the main draw, second only to its good food.
“American Table has these beautiful ceiling-to-floor windows and great food, wine, coffee,” she said, adding that it was a great spot to bring out-of-town guests.
Birch Coffee, 750 Columbus Ave.
The coffee shop just opened, a mere two blocks from a Starbucks and a block from Whole Foods — both of which have coffee bars, work spaces and free Wi-Fi.
But Birch owners Paul Schlader and Jeremy Lyman chose their new location in part because of the presence of chains, welcoming the competition.
“Our baristas and the way we interact with people is really what separates us…If your focus is on your employees, the customers will feel that,” Lyman said.
Birch has free Wi-Fi, a bathroom and food, beer and wine, making it an easy place to linger.
There’s also a leather-covered window seat for stretching out.
La Toulousaine, 946 Amsterdam Ave.
This family-run French bakery is filled with the smell of freshly baked bread, straight from the shop's oven, which also produces madeleines and sticky buns.
French pastry chef Jean-Francois Gatorze and his Nicaraguan wife, Nora, moved into the neighborhood last year and their croissants are among their best sellers.
Workers camped out there often have a hard time resisting the light, buttery treats, stacked in rows at the counter.
The café is small, with fewer than a dozen tables, and has an old-school feel, with simple metal tables and chairs.
There is free Wi-Fi and reasonable prices, but no bathrooms.
David Rubenstein Atrium, 61 W. 62nd St.
One of the only free indoor public spaces in the neighborhood, the atrium is often packed with people from all walks of life — students, retirees, homeless people, tourists and businesswomen.
Visitors to the cavernous space, with huge ceilings and dozens of tables and chairs, don't have to feel guilty about nursing a cold cup of tea for hours since it's completely acceptable to sit and not order anything from the café.
If you are hungry, the 'wichcraft shop has "great food," said Whelan, who said she finds herself there often. The salad and sandwich shop has specials every day and will deliver food to your table after you order at the counter.
For those times when the atrium feels mobbed, "security guards will help you find a seat," said Jennifer Maguire Coughlin, who owns her own PR firm.
There are spacious and fairly clean bathrooms on the second floor — if you can get someone to watch your laptop.