By Christina Blacken
The beauty of working for yourself is the freedom – but with that freedom comes an overwhelming number of choices. If you’re not quite ready to commit to the pricey cost of a coworking space and are tired of working on your couch at home, the list below is a great start to finding beautiful spaces (with ample WiFi!) that won’t break the bank.
Ground Central Coffee (Midtown and Financial District) — Great for knocking out long projects that take focus.
With three locations in Midtown and one in the Financial District, Ground Central Coffee is the escape you didn’t know you needed in the middle of busy Manhattan. You want to pretend you’ve got front table access to a Kendrick Lamar spoken word performance being held inside the basement of Hogwarts? Want to be surrounded by vintage albums and books? Craving low lighting that puts you at ease? (Or to sleep depending on how sleep deprived you are these days). You’re in luck with Ground Central Coffee.
It provides an arrangement of unique drinks, snacks and booze. There’s a variety of seating from high top tables with industrial cafe chairs to long leather couches with mobile tin tables and velvet wing chairs. The menu doesn’t disappoint with sandwiches, salads, and pastries that go beyond standard cafe fare. The drink menu provides an attention to detail that all coffee drinkers will love, including nitro cold brew (which I don’t drink but I hear is an energy jolt). Downsides: There’s not a ton of outlets, and the seats are cozy (close quarters) – meaning you may overhear a murmured conversation or two. Overall it’s a great location to escape the bustle, put your head down and get to work.
Felix Roasting Co. (Flatiron) — Great for meetings and phone calls.
Felix Roasting Co. is what Alice’s home (of Alice in Wonderland) would look like – pastels, florals and lots of velvet with a modern industrial twist. This is probably the prettiest damn cafe I’ve been inside of, but Felix is still welcoming and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s lively but spacious, because who wouldn’t want to sit in such a pretty place and drink a latte with coffee beans sourced from Ethiopia and flavored like s’mores? The cafe is designed with the coffee making bar in the center of the action, with sprawling velvet couch seats along the walls for working.
Felix feels thoughtfully designed and curated, making it a great option for having meetings. This is also a place for hardcore, serious coffee drinkers. Their mission is to make elevated coffee accessible to the mainstream and they have house-made non-dairy milks, proprietary syrups. They also develop their recipes from scratch and source coffee beans globally by season. The food and cocktail menu is as elevated as their coffee beverages. While they don’t have many outlets for recharging a laptop, they do have fast WiFi – making it a great spot for a few hours of work.
Paper coffee – Made Hotel (Midtown) – Great for meetings.
Hotel cafes are sorely underrated when it comes to finding free and easy coworking space. You get the access to the hotel bar if you’re needing a nightcap with friends when you close the laptop down and it’s typically less crowded because the cafe isn’t public knowledge. Located in the Made Hotel, Paper Coffee is one of those coworking gems. This cafe is in a quaint nook on the side of the lobby with just a few seats along a wall. It has high quality coffee options and even their own coffee blend created by Devocion. The lobby next to the cafe has a mixture of gorgeous leather and mod wood seating to get cozy and get to work. This place is also great for quick meetings given its central location and is busy enough that a meeting won’t be disruptive to the cafe environment.
Rose Wolfe Coffee (East Williamsburg) – Great for guaranteed low-key space and seating.
There are few places in NYC left unturned, but Rose Wolfe Coffee is one of them. What I love about this laidback shop is its eclectic design and location on a side street (it’s deep in a residential block that doesn’t have a ton of foot traffic.) They have light sandwiches, poached eggs and waffles, fun pastries (think rainbow donuts), standard coffee, and even gluten free and vegan options. There’s outdoor seating available for warmer weather days. If you want a place that will always have guaranteed seating, plenty of outlets to recharge, fun decor and games if you need a mental break and a steady standard cafe menu, Rose Wolfe Coffee is the location for your next coworking destination.
Cafe Martin (Park Slope) – Great for brainstorming and avoiding internet distractions.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came — and Cafe Martin feels like that type of place. I strolled into Cafe Martin on a whim and was delighted to see this cafe almost completely empty. It literally feels like you’re stepping back into a cafe you would find in 1972: quiet, simple and full of neighbors. There’s one long high-top bar with wooden benches along the walls. Funk, soul and 70s rock gently pumps through the speakers. It’s a simple, cozy, friendly cafe meant for completely unplugging and doing analog work (sorry no WiFi, although I was able to pick up free Link NYC WiFi that was strong and steady most of the time I worked there). The menu isn’t extensive with straight-forward coffee and pastry options, but has all the key staples you’d expect at a small, low-key coffee shop.
Cafe Madeline (Flatbush) – Great for good food and lunch meetings.
In most cafes, even if they are good, the food is a bit of an afterthought. At Cafe Madeline the food is the Beyonce of the show. Most people come here for brunch and lunch but given the sheer size of the place and the ample WiFi, it makes for a great coworking spot after your lunch meeting is over. The ingredients are incredibly fresh, there’s plenty of healthy options and the menu is extensive with American classics infused with Greek flair (get the grilled halloumi, you won’t be disappointed). They also don’t skimp on the coffee options and cover all the bases that coffee drinkers love from drip coffee to lattes. If you need a place with a continuous supply of incredible yet simple food and lattes that will fuel your creativity, Cafe Madeline is a great option.
Breukelen Coffee House (Crown heights) – Great for inspiration.
I am a lover of music while working and the type of music a cafe plays can put me into a big productivity mode. Breukelen is the soundtrack of Brooklyn, pumping classic R&B and hip hop, from Biggie Smalls to Janet Jackson and Q-Tip. This cafe feels like it was created in your cool cousin’s exposed brick apartment, and it’s always full of folks plugging away at their computers. There’s a small unassuming menu with a few staples to hold you over and a ton of seating that goes into a backroom that’s turned into a performance space on select evenings for local artists and performers. The seating consists of small wooden tables with 2-4 industrial cafe chairs per table. This place was designed with nomadic workers in mind from the ample amount of space, tables, light music, and comfortable lighting. You know you can sit down and stay for hours.
Brooklyn Central Library (Prospect Heights) – Great for people on a budget.
I was the type of kid that loved the library growing up – not only because I was obsessed with books but because there was always some interesting event popping up there. The Brooklyn Central Library is an under-the-radar coworking goldmine for entrepreneurs on a budget. It’s a massive space with multiple floors and has a designated working space on the second floor that’s quiet and has WiFi. There’s also many business related resources listed in the library, from pitch competitions to finance workshops. Of course, this doesn’t come with a menu of food and drinks, but if you’re more keen on carrying your own snacks and need guaranteed quiet and ample outlets, this is a perfect location.
Christina Blacken is the founder and Chief Story Strategist of TheNewQuo.com – a professional development and communication consultancy. She helps bold entrepreneurs and organizations cut through the noise, deepen their connection, and inspire their clients and teams to take action by discovering their unique status-quo shifting message for their big ideas and lived experiences, through brand voice strategy, public speaking development, content creation, and communication workshops focused on culture challenges like unconscious bias and change management. Need messaging and content strategy that moves hearts, minds, and culture for the better? Contact Christina here or at email@example.com.