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]

Montreal Musts, to stay: Downtown digs at Opus Hotel

The boutique hotels of Old Montreal are an obvious draw. The neighborhood is charming, with cobblestone streets flanked by art galleries and cute eateries. This is the Montreal most tourists seem to want to visit. But, especially if you’ve been there before, it may be worth trading the old world time for the energy in the downtown area. The Opus Hotel, on the corner of la rue Sherbrooke and boulevard Saint-Laurent is centrally located, not far from a metro station and wraps you in style from the lobby to the pillow.

Upon entering the hotel, you find a carefully decorated lobby. It’s clear immediately that design is a priority at Opus Hotel, and the open concept provides a glimpse of a seating area, away from the bustle of the front desk, where guests can relax, peck away at their laptops, drink coffee and sit either together or apart. The columns provide something of a dividing line between check-in and sitting area, but the concept is reinforced by various forms of sculpture … giving you something to enjoy whether you’re waiting for your key or sipping an espresso on the other side.

Remember to have your key handy when you step into the elevator (security measure for the property’s guests); it will save you a few seconds of fishing through your pocket when you want to get to your room and wash the smell of the plane off your body. The ride is short, and before you know it, you’re in your space for the next few nights, a carefully appointed guestroom that offers plenty of elbow room and design that is sufficiently tasteful and edgy to leave me feeling like Opus Hotel made a mistake in letting me stay there.

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The rooms may vary slightly, with those not yet renovated having a separate room for the toilet. I prefer the post-renovation style, which has the entire bathroom in one room (didn’t like the closet concept). Flop onto the bed – fortunately it was firm enough for me without feeling like a sidewalk, so I think it will appeal to almost everybody – and look up. The ceiling has an unfinished cement look, which complements the soft colors used on the walls.

Dine at the hotel’s restaurant, Koko, at least once. I enjoyed the restaurant a little over a year ago and was excited to see that nothing had changed. The menu – which brings together Asian and continental European cuisine, is tasty, carefully presented and attentively served. The cocktail menu will keep you busy (don’t try them all, at least not in one sitting), but skip the usual after-dinner drinks when it’s time for dessert. Instead, opt for a Canadian specialty such as ice wine or ice cider … or both, as I did (it was worth it, and I’d do it again).

Perhaps most important, I noticed that the staff at Opus Hotel didn’t need to wait for a stupid look to cross my face before offering to help with anything … and they entertained my feeble attempts to speak with them in French. Being able to listen to me butcher the local language with a straight face is pretty much the height of customer service, so it’s unsurprising that they nailed everything else.

If you want to feel like a star, this is the hotel to call home on your next trip to Montreal. You’ll be treated like a celebrity – but without the worried looks about how much damage you’ll cause to the room. And, you’ll feel like one in this style-savvy establishment. A stay at Opus is always a smart move.

Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.

Layover: Seattle

Despite being the largest airport in the Pacific Northwest and serving as the hub for Alaska Airlines,(and its subsidiary, Horizon Air) Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport is surprisingly easy to navigate. Airport Revenue News honored it with the Best Overall Concessions award, and it does offer some great restaurants and shopping to keep you busy on a short layover.

If your plane isn’t delayed on arrival (as is often the case due to heavy cloud cover) and you have a longer layover, you can hop a 30-minute bus from the airport to downtown and spend your time exploring the “Emerald City”. You can even store your carry-on luggage at the airport.

Short Layover (2 hours)
You’re pretty much confined to the airport with a short layover, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to spending your time face-down in a mug of beer at the airport bar…unless of course you want to be. If that’s the case, there are choices in every concourse, from beer at the Seattle Taproom to wine at Vintage Washington to margaritas at Case del Agave. You’ve got plenty of options for food too – full-service, casual, or to-go. Anthony’s Restaurant and Ivar’s Seafood Bar, downtown Seattle favorites, both have outposts at the airport and local celebrity chef Kathy Casey offers fresh-made sandwiches and salads with local ingredients at Dish D’Lish.

If shopping is more your thing, there are a few stores worth checking out. In addition to browsing the standard Borders Books and Hudson News, you can wander over to the Made in Washington store for last-minute Seattle souvenirs and Pacific Northwest food products or pop into Discovery Channel to play with educational games and toys.

Got work to do? Charge your cell phone for $3, or get online for $7.95 (for a 24-hour pass). If you’re too stressed out, you can relax with a massage, manicure or pedicure for very reasonable rates.

Longer layovers (4 or more hours)
With a little more time, you can spend your layover in downtown Seattle. The express bus, #194, departs from the airport every 15 minutes or so and takes about half an hour to reach downtown. If your layover is on the short end, it’s best to stick close to the bus stop and limit your exploration to a stroll through Pike Place Market, but if you have more time, you can see most of the major sites in the city in one afternoon. Here are some of the highlights.

Pike Place Market
Combine lunch and sight-seeing with a visit to Pike Place Market. This hundred-year old farmer’s market sells plentiful fresh produce and cheap, colorful flower arrangements, but there’s so much more to it than that. In a matter of minutes you’ll pass by countless stalls of fruit and vegetables, handmade jewelry, organic soaps, local honey, and fresh seafood. And that’s just in the main market. Wander down to the arcade and you’ll see antiques, comics, and magic supplies, and across the street you’ll find an olive-oil boutique, jerky shop, a Piroshky seller, wine shop, French bakery, truffle cafe, crumpet shop, and cheese-maker. The Market is also home to the original Starbucks and the Pike Place Fish Market, where the fishmongers famously throw fish around whenever an order is placed.

Pioneer Square
The oldest part of Seattle, Pioneer Square is an historic district with lots of art galleries, and plenty of vagrants. The square is part of the downtown “Ride Free” zone where buses are free, and it’s just a short ride from the rest of downtown. The big attractions here are the Smith Tower (which is much shorter than the Space Needle, but costs less and provides a different view), and the Underground Tour, a fascinating hour-long tour of the city-beneath-the-city. When the majority of Seattle was burned in 1889, a new city was built of stone and brick on top. The tour, which nearly always sells out in high-season, takes visitors underground and gives them a unique look at Seattle history.

Waterfront
Seattle’s waterfront is admittedly kitschy. It’s from here that sightseeing cruises depart and there are always tons of tourists milling about, coming and going from the Aquarium and Waterfront Arcade, and browsing in souvenir shops. But the views of Puget Sound really are something to see, and there are some great restaurants scattered further north towards Pier 70 (which was the pier the Real World kids lived on way back when and now houses the Waterfront Seafood Grill). A trolley runs the length of the waterfront, up to the new Olympic Sculpture Park.

Monorail, Seattle Center, and Space Needle
From downtown, you can take a bus or the waterfront trolley (or even walk about 20 minutes) to the Seattle Center, but for a more memorable ride, try the Monorail. The Monorail was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and, when it’s not being repaired after another crash or break-down, it ferries passengers on a 1-mile ride from Westlake Mall to the Center. The Seattle Center, the downtown area’s main park, is home to the Pacific Northwest Ballet, several theaters, the Children’s Museum, Pacific Science Center, and the Space Needle. To see the 360-degree views of Seattle, Puget Sound and its islands, the Olympic Mountains, and Lake Union, you’ll need to pay $16 for adults. But if you have the time and money, you can enjoy a meal in the revolving restaurant, Sky City. Like most observation-deck dining establishments, it’s expensive and the food is just a touch above average, but the views are spectacular.

An animated version of New York City shows a timeless quality

No matter how many ways New York City is depicted in film, there is always another view that offers a surprise. Here is a link to a video by New York artist and filmmaker Jeff Scher. He writes the blog The Animated Life for the New York Times. As he says about this particular 2:06 minutes of visual artistry he created in 1975, there is a timeless quality about New York.

What Scher made more than 30-years-ago looks similar to the essence of New York City today. That’s not true about many places.

A few years ago when I was on a six-hour walking tour of Cleveland, I thought about how that city had changed since the 1960s when the Terminal Tower was the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was the world that Ralphie of A Christmas Story went to on his visit to Santa Claus. Higbees where Ralphie gazed in the window at animated wonder has long closed. Downtown Cleveland on a Saturday morning along Euclid Ave. is not a crackling place. I really love Cleveland. I really do. I’d live there if I didn’t live here. But if you did a video 30-years-ago of Cleveland, it would not look the same as today’s version–at least not if you shot it downtown. Maybe it would, if you squinted and imagined people.

Scher’s vision of New York City is a jazzy rendition of a city that no matter what happens has a constancy that one can count on year after year. Jeremy is capturing much of it in his weekly series “Undiscovered New York.” Plus, Scher’s film is a cool art piece besides.

The photo is from another one of Scher’s blogs, Reasons to Be Glad. The blog has other shots of New York City that are examples of the variety of intersting angles out there.

A few years ago when I was on a six-hour walking tour of Cleveland, I thought about how that city had changed since the 1960s when the Terminal Towers was the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was the world that Ralphie of the movie A Christmas Story went to on his visit to Santa Claus. Higbees where Ralphie gazed in the window at animated wonder has long closed. Downtown Cleveland on a Saturday morning along Euclid Ave. is not a crackling place. I really love Cleveland. I really do. I’d live there if I didn’t live here. But if you did a video 30 years ago of Cleveland, it would not look the same as today’s version–at least not if you shot it downtown.

Scher’s vision of New York City is a jazzy rendition of a city that no matter what happens has a constancy that one can count on year after year. Plus, it’s a cool art piece besides. The photo of a bus and a taxi is another Scher creation and a feature of his blog “Reasons to Be Glad”.

Brasa Restaurant – Seattle, WA

BrasaAllow me to apologize before proceeding to discuss the incredibly mouth-watering meal my taste-buds recently tangoed with during dinner at Seattle’s Brasa Restaurant. I apologize because I attempted to take photos of my dishes, but the lighting was far from favorable for a food photo shoot and so I ditched the camera to nosh on my meal and give it full attention. So there – sorry.

Dinner at Brasa (‘live coals’)was a real treat compliment of my father who wanted to treat me and my friend to a post-marathon meal and Portuguese inspired foreign fare. It was also a huge change of pace when looking back at some of our previous dining destinations on our weeks long road-trip. In any event the atmosphere was cozy, intimate and warm. The hostess and wait staff were friendly and especially attentive, but onto the food! To start I had a Judy Jetson martini and ordered a cooked octopus appetizer to help move the wait along for the main course. Shortly after the meal I had been waiting for arrived and it was time to really get down. I was excited for one because I had never eaten monkfish before and the waitress made it sound absolutely to-die-for. My running and travel companion ordered the cod and after a short moment of silence and thanks we went in for the kill. It was like we had burned up everything in us from the race or like we hadn’t eaten for months. I found that the monkfish wasn’t exactly as great as the waitress described, but it had its fine tasting and texture qualities to it unlike other fish I’d tasted. Everything else was top-notch and I couldn’t have asked for a better post-race dining experience.

If you go take $$$ for a real nice meal, luckily mine was on my Dad! Check out their website for any additional details, like the menu for the month through from what I can tell it hasn’t been updated since June. Reservations recommended.

Brasa is located at 2107 Third Ave, Seattle, WA. Ph. 206.728.4220.