10 Great Wi-Fi Cafes In NYC’s Lower East Side

88 orchard

As a freelance writer without an office to call home, it was probably inevitable that I would become intimately familiar with the cafes in my neighborhood. Thankfully, the Lower East Side of New York City offers dozens of options, each with different atmospheres but all with great gourmet coffee and blazing fast Wi-Fi.

In recent months, I’ve fallen into a steady rotation of these establishments, with the selection of each day’s “office” based upon a careful calculation of that day’s assignments, my budget, food cravings, the weather and my mood. Do I have to hunker down with my laptop for the entire afternoon? Berkli Parc has tons of electrical outlets. Is it focus time? Bruschetteria’s free Wi-Fi has a block on social media sites. Do I feel like being transported to Mykonos for the afternoon? The white walls and open windows at Souvlaki GR do the trick.

Hopefully, this roundup of my favorite Lower East Side Wi-Fi cafes will assist you in finding the right spot for you.

Berkli Parc
Run by a UC-Berkeley alum, this cafe successfully invokes the laidback organic spirit of northern California … without all the tree huggers.
Pros: laptop-friendly, plentiful outlets, daily happy hour with $4 craft beers and $5 wines
Cons: pricy sandwiches, few breakfast options
63 Delancey Street

Bruschetteria
If you really need to focus, take advantage of Bruschetteria’s Internet ban on social media. Your deadlines will thank you.
Pros: super attentive staff, great natural light, $12.50 two-course lunch special with wine
Cons: very small, few outlets
92 Rivington Streetsouvlaki gr

Souvlaki GR
Feel like an escape? Head to popular gyro spot Souvlaki GR, where the white walls, pink bougainvillea and smell of grilled meat will instantly transport you to Mykonos.
Pros: unique atmosphere, delicious food
Cons: limited outlets, only coffee options are Nescafe and thick Greek “Elliniko” coffee
116 Stanton Street

Konditori
Located under the trendy Thompson LES hotel, Konditori combines Swedish coffee tradition with a Brooklyn sensibility. The space is light and airy, if small.
Pros: opens early, delicious Swedish pastries
Cons: few tables, uncomfortable seating
182 Allen Street

88 Orchard
A neighborhood anchor, 88 Orchard offers an extensive menu and two levels of seating, though the sunnier upper level is more suited to conversation than computers.
Pros: rustic atmosphere, locally-sourced food options
Cons: outlets only available on dim underground lower level, weekend no-laptop policy on upper level
88 Orchard Street

D’espresso
Spend enough time at D’espresso and you’ll see why it’s a neighborhood favorite. The coffee is on the pricier side, but the friendly staff makes up for it.
Pros: extensive beverage options, plentiful outlets, minimalist decor
Cons: high prices, no bathrooms, heavy foot traffic
100 Stanton Street

earthmatters

Earthmatters
Founded more than a decade ago, Earthmatters is a true community hub, offering a place where people can gather, shop, eat, talk and yes, use the free Wi-Fi.
Pros: low prices, great community, large variety of organic and natural foods
Cons: laptops only allowed upstairs with minimum food purchase
177 Ludlow Street

Teany
Originally co-founded by Moby, Teany is one of the city’s best known vegan teahouses. Though it’s changed management multiple times over the past few years, it’s still a good bet for great tea, though the food and service can be hit-or-miss.
Pros: hundreds of tea varieties, outdoor seating
Cons: few outlets, inconsistent food and service
90 Rivington Street

Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop
Huge glass windows and a corner location make Tiny’s the perfect place for people watching when you need to take your eyes off your laptop.
Pros: great natural light, cheap coffee, inventive sandwiches
Cons: no outlets, hit-or-miss staff
129 Rivington Street

The Bean
Technically over the “border” in the East Village, The Bean’s three new locations offer sunny window seats and free doggie biscuits for neighborhood canines.
Pros: friendly atmosphere, plentiful outlets, open late
Cons: always crowded, often difficult to find seating
Three locations at 54 2nd Avenue, 147 1st Avenue, and 824 Broadway

Explore the Colorful History Behind the Lower East Side

[Images: H.L.I.T., Robert Barat]

World’s only ski-up Starbucks open for business at Squaw Valley

squaw valley diningTwo days ago, while visiting my brother and his family in Lake Tahoe, my nephew uttered the words I’d hoped never to hear. “Starbucks just opened a ski-up window at Squaw’s Gold Coast mid-mountain complex!” he snorted, before pondering aloud how it was possible to ski with a triple venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte while wearing gloves and holding poles.

Truly, I think the world has enough Starbucks in it, and if you can’t get through a day of skiing without a fix, you just might have a problem. Not everyone feels that way, however, as reported on Eater.com today. Says Squaw Valley president and CEO Andy Wirth, “Nowhere else in the world can skiers and riders enjoy a delicious Starbucks coffee without missing a beat on the slopes.” My nephew might disagree with the logistics of that statement, but never underestimate the power of a Frappuccino habit.

How to Break the Caffeine Addiction Cycle

Tomoca: the best little coffee house in Africa

coffee, Coffee
Ethiopia has a lot of great attractions–castles, medieval cities, even werehyenas–yet the thing visitors rave about the most is the coffee.

And why not? Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia. Legend has it that long ago a boy was tending his flock and saw his goats eating unfamiliar berries off a bush. Soon they were dancing around and looking happy. The boy brought some of the berries home to his mother and the rest, as they say, is history. The same story is told about the discovery of the narcotic plant qat.

Most people arrive in the capital Addis Ababa first, and this is the place to try Ethiopian cafe culture at its best. There are hundreds of cafes throughout town, from chic Italian-style places to little roadside stands. In Ethiopian markets you’ll often see women carrying around a thermos and a few battered cups, selling a shot of coffee for two birr (12 cents). No matter where you buy it, Ethiopian coffee is always rich and strong. If you’re lucky, you’ll get invited to a private home and be treated to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

My personal favorite cafe in Addis, and the favorite of many locals, is Tomoca. They’ve been serving it up since 1953. Many Ethiopian businessmen from nearby Churchill Avenue come here for a pick-me-up, and more relaxed patrons will read a newspaper or watch BBC News on the TV. It’s certainly on the tourist map, so if you want to pretend you’re the only foreigner in town, this place isn’t for you. The coffee is great, though, and they sell vacuum-sealed bags of beans, both ground and unground, for you to take home. Any time I’m in Addis I load up on a couple of kilos.

Tomoca, like most Ethiopian cafes, has a friendly atmosphere and is a good place to meet Ethiopians and practice a bit of Amharic. To get you started: buna means “coffee”, buna bet means “cafe”, and betam konjo means “very good”! You’ll be saying that last phrase a lot.

So give Tomoca and the other cafes in Addis a try, and if you want to explore something stronger, check out this post on Ethiopian alcohol.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Harar, Ethiopia: Two months in Africa’s city of Saints.

Coming up next: Ten (more) Random Observations about Ethiopia!

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Dutch coffee shops face crackdown

Is it the beginning of the end for Dutch tolerance of weed? The recently elected conservative coalition has promised a number of controversial measures, including curbs on immigration, banning Islamic face covering, and of more interest to travelers, cracking down on legal marijuana smoking.

The Netherlands has been a destination for pot smokers ever since marijuana was made legal in the 1970s. The experiment intended to allow the use of soft drugs like pot while clamping down on hard drugs like heroin. It has had mixed success and as the political pendulum has swung to the right in recent years, more and more curbs have been put on the coffee shops where customers can buy and smoke pot. Magic mushrooms were banned recently, and some towns are restricting coffee shops or even closing them all down. There are currently about 700 coffee shops in The Netherlands, compared with 1,200 at their peak.

Now the coalition government wants to make all coffee shops into private clubs, effectively getting rid of the drug tourists. The question is, will this work? Common sense dictates that where there’s a demand, there will be a supply. Coffee shops might get around the law by offering temporary memberships or international memberships, or allowing members to bring guests. The measure would also not stop illegal sales of drugs. What it will do, however, is reduce the number of people coming to The Netherlands specifically to smoke their vacation away. While some of the bigger and more established coffee shops will no doubt survive, it looks like the industry is in for a bad trip.

[Image courtesy Tyson Williams via Gadling’s flickr pool]

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South by Southeast: Hit and run Hanoi

You don’t just visit Hanoi. Hanoi visits you. Take a walk down any street of this fast-paced Vietnamese capital of commerce and communism and prepare to be overwhelmed by sensory delights (and annoyances). Motorbikes buzz around intersections like nests of angry hornets. Your feet trip over small plastic stools at street-side noodle shops. Vendors chase you down the street like used car salesmen, endlessly peddling a mish-mash of boat trips, tropical fruits and Lonely Planet guidebooks. It’s enough to make a Southeast Asian traveler go mad. But beneath this cacophony of life and movement lies an emerging must-see destination of achingly beautiful architecture, vibrant street life and cutting-edge culture. Get out of the way – we’re taking a “hit and run” tour of Hanoi.

For many years, getting to Hanoi was more of a roadblock than a green light. Situated in Vietnam’s furthest northern reaches, it was a capital both hard to get to and literally hard to enter. Veiled behind a curtain of communism and painful memories from decades of war, it was a destination most American travelers couldn’t and didn’t visit. But with the normalization of relations in 1994 and Vietnam’s admission to the WTO in 2007, tourism has been on the move. Nowhere is the “new Vietnam” more evident than in rapidly changing Hanoi. Where infamous prisons once stood, there are now luxury high rises. And in place of guns and grenades, you’ll find fashion boutiques and trendy coffee shops.

Ready to take another look at this on-the-move Vietnamese capital? Keep reading below for the ins and outs of a proper Hanoi visit.Getting In
Getting to the furthest northern reaches of Vietnam has never been easier or more inexpensive. Thanks to cheap budget airlines like Air Asia and Jetstar, flying into Hanoi from other Southeast Asia capitals is a snap. If you’re coming direct from the U.S., consider United Airlines and Delta, both of which now fly to Vietnam (with a layover in Asia) from the United States. For those arriving from points south in Vietnam, the country’s competent rail system offers sleeper trains for around $30-40 depending on the point of origin.

What to See
Hanoi is a city with a rich history. Anyone interested in the history of the Cold War will find lots to explore at the city’s many war monuments and museums, covering Vietnam’s struggle for independence as well as the conflict between North and South. In addition, Hanoi is increasingly home to a thriving arts, food and nightlife scene.

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – The body of “Uncle Ho,” architect of modern Vietnam, is entombed at this vast complex. There’s no more surreal (and creepy) sight in Hanoi than paying a visit to Ho’s preserved body. Surrounding the mausoleum visitors can investigate a large museum and complex of buildings where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked.
  • Old Quarter – To see where old and new Hanoi collide, head to the city’s Old Quarter. Just north of Hoan Kiem Lake, the area is home to a growing collection of trendy art galleries, bohemian coffee shops and happening bars. These businesses mix effortlessly with the area’s chaotic array of merchants, selling everything from textiles to fruit shakes to motorbike parts.
  • Beer, Ahoy! – Hanoi’s street food is legendary. Stumble down any street and you’re likely to find delicious local specialties like Bun Cha and savory bowls of Pho noodle soup all accompanied by Vietnam’s infamous brew, Bia Hoi (draught beer). And for 25 cents a glass, you can afford to buy a few rounds for your pals.
  • Temple of Literature – Take a trip back in time to ancient Vietnam at this well-preserved monument to the teachings of Confucius and Vietnamese scholarly works. The Temple of Literature represents an oasis of serene Chinese-style pagodas in the city’s chaotic traffic-choked center.

Where to Stay
A stay in Hanoi is incredibly friendly on the wallet. Considering the range of amenities like free WiFi and satellite TV available at most hotels and guest houses, a budget traveler will find themselves spoiled for choice starting at around $15 per night. Great options include the Especen Hotel situated just west of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake. Shoestring travelers should check out Hanoi Backpackers, which attracts a happening crowd for its daily happy hours and is a great bargain at $7.50/night for a dorm bed. High rollers frequent the Sofitel Metropole, a grand dame of Asian colonial elegance, with rooms starting at just over $200/night.

Gadling writer Jeremy Kressmann is spending the next few months in Southeast Asia. You can read other posts on his adventures “South by Southeast” HERE.