The aroma. The flavor. The buzz. The best places to satisfy your latter and mochachino addictions.
Westchester’s Best Coffee Houses
The Buzz on where to go
to get a tasty cup of joe
By Laura Joseph Mogil
Photography by Ian Londin
Imagine lying propped up on pillows in your bed drinking a morning cup of steaming cappuccino brought to you by your butler, Serge, on a silver tray. Except for the truly fortunate, most of us will snap to reality and realize we didn’t win the lottery. Don’t despair! You can still get up and drive—or walk—to one of Westchester’s top coffeehouses and order the caffeinated (or decaffeinated) drink you’ve been dreaming of, whether it’s a strong shot of espresso, a creamy café latte, a sweet moccachino, or a refreshingly cool iced coffee.
Globally, more than 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year, and there is certainly no shortage of java flowing here in Westchester. Granted, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts serve up a tasty cup of joe, but the focus of this article is on some of the premier independent coffeehouses that are unique to our area based on a survey
of some of Westchester’s leading restaurateurs, food critics, and serious coffee-holics. Just to make sure, I visited the shops myself to be certain that they offered the winning combination of great coffee, friendly service, and inviting atmosphere. The end result was a two-week caffeine buzz for the writer and a tried-and-true list of top coffeehouses for the reader.
» Politically Correct Coffee
When Michael Love and Alicia Kelligrew’s Labrador retriever downed a cup of coffee without spilling a single drop, they swore if the coffeehouse they were dreaming of became a reality they would name it after their pet. The couple opened Coffee Labs Roasters in 2002 and have been roasting and serving coffee from around the world ever since. Photos and drawings of adorable pooches make Coffee Labs a magnet for dog lovers, but this place also attracts commuters, moms, and students from nearby Marymount, Fordham, and New York Medical College, who sprawl their laptops and textbooks out on the shop’s small wooden tables and camp out for hours. The coffee here is not only seriously delicious but also socially responsible—85 percent of the beans are Fair Trade (which means farmers receive a fair price for their products), Rain Forest Alliance, and Bird Friendly-certified. Order the café rosetta ($2.70), a shining example of latte art with its beautiful rose design, with a chocolate-covered cranberry almond macaroon ($2) or a flaky pastry from New York City’s famed Balthazar Bakery.
» Coffee Labs Roasters
7 Main St., Tarrytown
Mon.-Wed.: 6 am-6:30 pm; Thurs.: 6 am-9 pm; Fri.: 6 am-11 pm; Sat.: 8 am-11 pm; Sun.: 9 am-5 pm
Live music Fri. and Sat. nights, jazz every other Sun.
» Cutting-Edge Design
I cannot stop thinking of my recent visit to Perks, where I gulped down a small caramel macchiato ($2.81), created with a shot of vanilla espresso, steamed and foamed milk, and a heavy-handed drizzle of caramel sauce. Following this with the granny apple coffee cake with walnuts and cinnamon streusel ($3.25) resulted in a caffeine-and-sugar-induced euphoria. While recovering, I leaned back against the curvy brown leather bench that extends along the store’s side wall, part of the desconstructivist style designed by Studio Rai Architects in Pleasantville. Brushed steel tables, sleek cherry wood counters, track lighting, and leather-textured walls in mustard, deep red, and green give the place a “warm and
cutting-edge feel,” according to Christine Megerdichian, who owns the shop with her brother, Alan Megerdichian. Perks’ glass display cases are stocked with gourmet goodies brought up from New York City, including mouthwatering pastries and the newly added soups from Hale & Hearty ($3.95). Want some coffee to take home? Try the Celebes Kalossi, a rich, smooth, and flavorful roast from Indonesia ($14.70/lb).
» Perks coffee & tea
197 Katonah Ave., Katonah
Mon.-Fri.: 7 am-6 pm; Sat.: 7:30 am-6 pm; Sun.: 8 am-5 pm
» Steam Heat
Owners Denise Amorelli, Bill Love, and Al Sassoon, all Pelham residents, opened Steam just over a year ago. Ever since then, the place has attracted a loyal local following who come in for the killer coffee as well as for the homemade muffins, cookies, and soups, plus super-fresh sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Sit back and enjoy the sleek silver and cream décor while sipping a cup of the house coffee ($1.40/12-oz. cup), a winning African, Indonesian, and Central-American blend with a full-bodied
flavor. I also loved the über-foamy cappuccino ($2.56/12-oz. cup) and the
sinful cinnamon coffeecake muffin ($1.63), which I swore I’d only eat a bite of but ended up devouring every last crumb. For a lunchtime treat, order the grilled-chicken panino with bacon, cheddar cheese, and barbeque sauce on a baguette ($6.98).
129 Wolf’s Ln., Pelham
Mon.- Fri.: 6 am-8 pm; Sat.: 7:30 am-4 pm; Sun.: 8:30 am-4 pm
» Cheers for the Coffee Crowd
The Stomping Grounds’ bright neon coffee cup and ice cream cone signs are like beacons attracting a constant flow of customers into this bright and cheery shop. Ranging from a gathering of the Somers Newcomers Club to local high school students and area businessmen and women, people feel comfortable running in for a cup of coffee or staying for hours. John Mallegol, who owns the business with his daughter Meagen, serves Illy coffee ($1.25/12-oz. cup) imported from Italy with a full-bodied flavor that makes customers ask, “Is this really decaf?” If you can’t decide between coffee or the Stomping Grounds’ 24 flavors of homemade gelato, have both—order the stracciatella, creamy vanilla gelato with chocolate bits and a shot of espresso on top ($3.85/small). In addition, the bakery case is loaded with cookies, like old-fashioned linzer tarts and black-and-whites, and a full lunch menu boasts soups, salads, wraps, sandwiches and panini.
» Stomping Grounds Café
249 Rte. 202, Somers
Mon.-Tues.: 7 am-7 pm; Wed.-Thurs.: 7 am-8 pm; Fri.-Sat.: 7 am-9 pm
» Italy on the Hudson
Walking into Caffelatte you could swear you’re in Italy. Posters of the Roman Coliseum and Venetian canals decorate the pale pink, faux-marble walls, while the music of Verdi and Puccini plays in the background, mingling with the ever-present buzz of laughter and conversation at the crowded tables. Owner Basilio Colaizzi, a native of Abruzzo, draws in his paisani (there is a large Italian-American population in Dobbs Ferry), joined by students from the local Masters School and devoted regulars who come as much for his company as for the coffee and Italian delicacies. On Colaizzi’s suggestion, I ordered a dark and robust Segafredo espresso ($1.75) made from flavorful beans imported from Bologna. If you’re hungry, try the panini deliciosi ($7) with shaved prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, romaine, radicchio, and tomatoes, or splurge on a dessert such as the refreshing hazelnut gelato ($3).
41 Cedar St., Dobbs Ferry
Tues.-Sat. 9:30 am-10 pm
» A Relaxing Oasis
East meets West at this calm and relaxing oasis located in the center of bustling Pleasantville and run by owners Diane Farrell and her daughter, Bridget Couto. Decorated with Japanese paper lanterns and antique Southeast Asian furniture, Dragonfly Caffe is the perfect place to drop by after catching a foreign flick at the nearby Jacob Burns Film Center. Warm up with a cup of the dark, rich house blend ($1.50/12-oz. cup) or cool down with a Dragoccino ($3.75), a sweetly satisfying frozen cappuccino flavored with your choice of mocha, coffee, or vanilla. While you’re there, choose from 25 coffees sold by the pound, including the specials for this winter season, Mistletoe Kisses with a hint of chocolate-cherry and Snow Angels with a raspberry truffle flavor (both $10/lb). If you’re hungry, try one of the tasty wraps, like the Thai-peanut chicken or tuna with Fiji apples and cranberries ($5.99), but make sure to leave room for the outrageous oatmeal, white-chocolate and cranberry cookie ($1.75).
» Dragonfly caffe
7 Wheeler Ave., Pleasantville
Mon.-Thurs.: 6 am-6 pm; Fri.: 6 am-11pm; Sat.: 8 am-11 pm; Sun.: 8am-6 pm
» A European-Like Haven
At Winston’s, I sat at one of the crowded tables in the front of the shop amid the Who’s Who of Armonk. I thoroughly enjoyed my steaming cup of the house blend ($1.25/8-oz. cup), a well-balanced mixture of light, medium, and full-bodied coffees, and felt almost no guilt eating a no-fat, mixedberry muffin ($2). Owners Christopher and Julie Johnson, who opened Winston’s nine years ago, had the walls faux-finished a soothing coffee color and decorated them with ivy and clouds to give the place a sophisticated European-style coffeehouse feel. The back wall features a long Italian marble countertop and display cases bursting with all types of baked goods, quiches, salads, and sandwiches. Popular with adults as well as the next generation of customers—kids who flock to Winston’s after school—is the Oreo Ice Rage, a frozen vanilla latte with cookies crushed into the drink ($4.39).
» Winston’s Coffee House
382 Main St., Armonk
Mon.-Fri.: 7 am-5:30 pm; Sat.: 7:30 am-5:30 pm; Sun.: 8 am-12 noon
» Java Heaven
The first thing you notice when you walk into Slave to the Grind is the antique mahogany-and-stained-glass bar back (salvaged from Bronxville’s burned down Hotel Gramatan). You might think you’re in a pub, but java is the only liquid owners Andrew and Carol Marshall have been serving here for the past eleven-and-a-half years. There’s a line for coffee all day and night as commuters, shoppers, moms, and students from the local high school drop by to get their caffeine fix. Eight different brewed coffees are available daily ($1.50/12-oz. disposable cup, $1.25 in a china cup), and more than 60 varieties are sold by the pound. For an all-out splurge or over-the-top gift, special-order the 100-percent certified Kona coffee ($27.50/lb). Cakes, muffins, cheesecake, and chocolate cake are big hits here, and don’t miss the chocolate chubby ($3.25), a decadent dessert that Andrew calls a “sugar coma in a cup.”
» Slave to the Grind
58 Pondfield Rd., Bronxville
Mon.-Thurs.: 6 am-11 pm; Fri.: 6 am-12 pm; Sat.: 7 am-12 pm; Sun.: 7:30 am-10:30 pm
» A Living Room Away From Home
Every Friday the aroma of coffee roasting at The Black Cow Coffee Company wafts outside where customers swear they’ve smelled it over a quarter mile away. Owners Michael and Peggy Grant brought in furniture from their own house when they opened the shop 10 years ago and have added armchairs, couches, and reading lamps to give the place “a comfortable, living-room type of feel,” according to Michael. The Black Cow attracts a diverse customer base, as I observed first-hand waiting in line behind a young mom with a toddler in hand and a teenage boy sporting a black leather jacket and blue hair. Sinfully delicious is the namesake Black Cow, made with two shots of espresso, steamed chocolate milk and a dollop of whipped cream ($2.80/small) accompanied by one of the store’s scrumptious dark-chocolate almond-pistachio biscotto ($1.60). Black Cow sells 21 coffees by the pound, including Mingus Java ($11.50/lb), an aromatic Panama-and-Colombian-Supremo combination developed for jazz radio station WBGO.
» The Black Cow Coffee Company
51 Maple St., Croton-on-Hudson
Mon.: 6 am-6 pm; Tues.-Fri.: 6 am-9 pm; Sat.: 7 am-9 pm; Sun.: 8 am-4 pm.
Live music most Fri. and Sat. nights
» Delightfully Eclectic
Located downtown in the old Flat Iron Building near the Paramount Center for the Arts, the Peekskill Coffee House is one of the true signs of the rebirth of this artistically booming city. Beautifully renovated, the shop’s copper painted tin ceiling, overhead fans, schoolhouse lighting, and mismatched furniture join together to create a delightfully eclectic atmosphere. Equally diverse is the crowd coming in for coffee, including local artists, gallery owners, policemen, firemen, lawyers, judges, city workers, and staff from the nearby Hudson Valley Hospital Center. On a Friday night, there can be more than 50 people listening to music and enjoying the “Coffee of the Moment,” because sometimes the “Coffee of the Day,” like the chocolaty Indian Monsoon Malabar ($1.40/12-oz. cup), is too popular to last more than a few hours. My foamy cappuccino ($2.25/8-oz. cup) arrived with a powdered-cinnamon heart stenciled on the top, and the espresso ($1.08) was rich and dark without “bitterness that comes from old beans and brewing incorrectly,” according to co-owner James Lorr. Enjoy the tiramisu ($6), made fresh by a local Argentine baker, which can be shared by two to four people, depending on how fast you are with a spoon.
» Peekskill Coffee House
101 South Division St., Peekskill
(914) 739-1287; www.peekskillcoffee.com
Mon.-Thurs.: 6 am-9 pm; Fri.-Sat.: 6 am-11 pm; Sun. 9 am-6 pm
Live music Fri. and Sat. nights and Sun. afternoons; open mic music or poetry some Sat.
Now that I’m not going to three coffee shops a day, perhaps my caffeine buzz will wear off. On the other hand, maybe I’ll just plug in my coffeepot, down a few cups of java, and then hurry off to clean the garage, organize my closets, and run the vacuum up and down the stairs.
When not drinking triple espressos, Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer and publicist who lives in Briarcliff Manor with her husband, two children, and faithful Farberware coffee pot.