FORT GREENE/CLINTON HILL — Fort Greene and Clinton Hill house coffee shops that run the gamut of style and taste.
From the small mom-and-pop shop to the chic, minamalist industrial "coffee laboratory", and from urban artsy coffee galleries to laid back and comfy chill spots — there is something to get every coffee lover's heart racing in these small twin neighborhoods in northern Brooklyn.
And at some point or another each has claimed to serve the best neighborhood coffee.
DNAinfo New York visited each unique spot to see what the locals think. Most have a deep loyalty to a cafe near their home that has become part of their daily lives, others travel from other neighborhoods to get just the right mix of caffeine and flavor. But almost everyone thinks that their chosen coffee shop is the best, and here's why.
There are no comfy couches, tables, or relaxing music at WTF. The small storefront is minimally designed with wooden stools and counters so that patrons can focus on the pure, industrial strength coffee.
The brews at WTF are not for the weak of heart.
Baristas take their time creating a masterpiece in a cup — be prepared to wait ten minutes for a cup. They brew coffee manually using a variety of methods and tools including Chemex, French press, syphon, ceramic pourover, and woodneck, or "sock filter" coffee. Not to mention the intriguing wood-and-glass concoctions mounted on the walls that are used for "Kyoto" style drip cold coffee.
Owner Asio Highsmith and his wife Angela have also dabbled in high-end sneaker shops in the neighborhood and their newest endeavor, the creation of highly-addictive, brewed to order potions, is catching on.
“They have really great coffee, their iced coffee is crazy strong,” said Will Howard, 32. “I can’t think if anything that is nearly as good as this in the neighborhood.”
Americano: $3.50, Regular latte: $4.50
Pillow Café moved into their current spot at Myrtle Avenue and Ryerson Street in 2008 and they have been causing a commotion ever since. Locals say owners Biola Odunewu and Robin Richardson are the friendliest around and their local following is fiercely loyal.
The café is located behind blue latticework and French doors and an inviting smile greets every visitor. Local artwork lines the walls and occasionally poetry reading, parties or live music is hosted in the space. The backyard is inviting on a sunny day.
Pillow Café has some of the strongest coffee around, according to almost every patron in the café. The large latte, complete with three shots of espresso, is an instant eye-opener.
Small coffee: $2.00, Regular latte: $2.75
Greene Grape Annex has a cult following. On most mornings the tiny coffee shop on Fulton Street has a line to (or out) the door. They serve Blue Bottle coffee, gluten-free muffins and house made granola. Owner Amy Bennett is a fan of fresh and seasonal ingredients and it shows in some of her gloriously addictive pastries like the strawberry lemonade thumbprint cookies and seasonal plum tarts.
Greene Grape Annex also does savory well with offerings like hash brown nests with quail eggs, goat cheese and bacon.
And the coffee is strong.
“The coffee will take you to level two,” said Alisa McKay, 32. “They don’t mess around.“
McKay added that in her opinion, Greene Grape Annex is the best coffee shop in the nabe.
Small coffee: $2.75, Regular latte: $4.00
Somewhat of a hole in the wall near Fort Greene Park, BitterSweet serves pastries from Choice, doughnuts from Dough, and coffee that brings regulars from near and far.
"Every weekend I come here from Bed-Stuy for my coffee," said Shukri Sindi, 36. "It's just the way I like it."
This little neighborhood gem opened in 2006 and fit right into the quaint neighborhood at the corner of DeKalb and Cartlon Avenues. It has a family feel, serving free treats to dogs who wait eagerly outside and babycinos for those too young for caffeine.
On weekends the benches and stoops nearby are filled with people sipping coffee, about to take a stroll though Fort Greene Park.
Small coffee: $1.75, Regular latte: $3.50
A relative newcomer to the Clinton Hill coffee market, The Joint is a haven for laptop users looking to get some work done. The gut-renovated space boasts exposed brick, deep red walls and delicate crown moldings. Plus, the backyard garden is a great place to relax on a hot day.
Owner Taryn Groth and her girlfriend, Tanya Rynd hope to one day host art shows, open mic nights, and poetry readings in the artsy space.
A sign outside the café states that The Joint serves the neighborhood’s best coffee. But one local disagreed.
“The coffee is a bit weak,” said a Waverly Avenue resident who declined to give her name. “And the lattes basically taste like milk."
Still some think The Joint is a great place to spend the day. “This is my third day in a row here,” CUNY student Joanna Spinks, 28, told DNAinfo New York. “It’s a great place to study and feel creative.”
Small coffee: $1.50, Regular latte: $3.75
Smooch is the kind of coffee shop with diehard regulars. Some locals come so often that they have been seen washing their own dishes behind the counter. It is also a place where love connections are formed. Two neighbors met at Smooch’s nightly “lovelounge” and had little Ezra, the coffee shop’s newest regular.
Smooch is a good place for the little ones, serving the babycino, a non-caffeinated play on the adult version.
They make tasty sandwiches with longwinded names like “The ‘Cry Me a Rivera Diego Cos I Just Dumped My Cheating Ex’ Mouthful of Satisfaction” that incorporate roasted chicken, turkey sausage, orange and chili chutney and Ciabbatta bread.
When the lights go down, laptops are banned and wine and beer is served.
But while Smooch was once a neighborhood gem, recent Yelp reviews have been less than kind with one comment by R. Amir summing up the general feel.
“Smooch is a caricature of a pretentious coffee shop,” he wrote.
Americano: $3.00, Melbourne latte: $3.50
This spacious coffee shop near the border of Bed-Stuy is ornamented with vintage knick-knacks from floor to celling. Though often filled with patrons, there is always a place to sit and spend the day. Huge windows provide tons of natural sunlight.
Urban Vintage also sells pressed sandwiches, wraps and quiches all made on the spot with locally sourced ingredients.
This niche shop sells an artfully curated selection of jewelry, housewares, and vintage finds plus plays host to wedding showers, movie shoots and special occasion parties.
Small coffee: $1.50, Regular latte: $2.75
Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are home to two Connecticut Muffins. Both are popular spots with neighbors often filling up the outdoor space on Lafayette Avenue and cozying up in the back room on Myrtle Avenue.
The Connecticut Muffins usually have a line and serve consistent coffee from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Many times this is the only place to get a strong cup of coffee in the neighborhood. They also have free Wi-Fi and great sandwiches.
Small coffee: $1.90, Regular latte: $3.50
A bicycle-lovers' dream, Red Lantern is a bike shop, coffee shop, and beer hangout all wrapped in one. Customers get their bikes tuned up while sipping a latte made from nut milks made right in the shop.
One of the owners, Collin Crockett, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011 and wanted to treat it with raw foods. That desire led to the creation of a line of nut milks, which they serve at the shop.
The space itself is raw with bicycle spokes hanging outside, the smell of grease inside, and a bike rack near the coffee bar. There are a group of friendly regulars who love not only the coffee, but the laid back welcoming feel of Red Lantern.
Red Lantern also hosts film nights, bike repair classes and live music.
"We have the best mechanics, the best coffee, and the coldest beer," the owners write on their website. "Need we say more?"
Small coffee: $2.00, Regular latte: $4.00
Around the corner from the now closed but very popular coffee joint, Tillies of Brooklyn, Baguetteaboudit! has some big shoes to fill. But they do well with a full house of locals who come daily for the freshly baked bread and warm coffee.
"Every coffee shop has something special," said 50-year-resident and artist Harvey Wilson. "This place has interesting, real and cutting-edge people."
Their slogan "Where Paris Meets Brooklyn" may be cheesey, but locals let it pass after tasting the homemade croissants some call "perfectly flaky and buttery."
Small coffee: $2.00, Regular latte: $3.50
This corner cafe opened at the beginning of 2013 directly across the street from Fort Greene Park. But owners Joe and his sister Jackie Juliano have been baking at their other location on Henry Street for 80 years, according to The Local.
The large space seats about 30 people and also has outdoor tables for the warmer months.
"The coffee tastes just like real Italian coffee," said Micol Hernandez, 32, who is from Spain but lived in Italy for years. "It is very strong."
Small coffee: $1.63, Regular latte: $4.25