As quarantine comes to an end, many of us (if not most of us) are still working remotely. I’ve wondered whether the pandemic will bring permanent change to the way business is done––people have moved out of the city at such a high rate, and we’ve all shown that we’re capable of doing our jobs from the comfort of home. Some companies have already announced policy changes indefinitely allowing employees to work from home, which is pretty exciting. Hungry in between meetings? Finish last night’s takeout. Not in the mood to wear pants? Just make sure your webcam only catches you from the waist up. No commute, no in-person interaction with annoying co-workers. Great, if it weren’t for the fact that some of us simply aren’t as productive at home. It’s too comfortable, potentially noisy, and full of distractions. So as soon as the city started opening up again, I returned to my favorite workspaces and found some new ones too. From cafes to bars to hotel lobbies, here are my favorite places to work and study in the City.
Ludlow Hotel: Look for a neon sign that reads “dirty”––the lobby of the Ludlow Hotel is similarly cool, Instagrammable, and a little edgy. Even if you’re not a hotel guest, you can stay as long as you want. I’ve worked there morning ‘til night many times and only bought a couple cups of coffee. There’s free wifi, and plenty of comfy seating (my preferred spot is on the leather couch in front of the grand fireplace, but you have to be pretty lucky to find space there). The drinks are reasonably priced for New York, and the bartenders at the Ludlow are particularly good at ad-libbing. Tell them what you like and they’ll make you something you’ll love.
Maman: Feels like a little French village on Sunday morning. Aside from the calming, cozy cottage energy (which I find very conducive to good writing), Maman has delicious pastries, quiche, and plenty of other breakfast / bakery fare, all served on cute little floral dishes. There are now several locations, but I prefer their original Soho location. The environment just gives me energy. It’s bustling but not chaotic, beautiful but low-key. Also a great place for a meeting over lunch. You can just conduct business from your little window seat, with breaks for coffee and people watching when you need a break from your computer. I love watching people come and go at Maman, and the coffee is incredible––and I say that as someone who knows nothing about coffee and can’t usually tell how good it is.
The New York Public Library: Specifically the main public library on Fifth Avenue by Bryant Park. Even more specifically, the Rose Reading Room on the third floor. The entire library is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, but the Rose Room literally looks like something out of Harry Potter (except it’s not dirty and old as everything in the wizarding world seems to be). There are fancy brass lamps and grand chandeliers, huge windows, and an ornately carved ceiling. There are laptop docks and desktop computers available, as well as a really useful book delivery service. You can request books, which a staff member will bring to your workspace (seats are numbered for this purpose). Come before closing on a rainy afternoon for a hefty dose of aesthetic dark academia.
Pietro Nolita: Pink as fuck (so their slogan goes). It’s written on their napkins and cups, and the restaurant certainly lives up to the description. Everything is pink. Even the bathroom. The food isn’t all pink…it’s mostly summery Italian food––light dinners, not-so-light desserts. My go-to order is the heart shaped butternut squash ravioli. If you’re looking for a meal as pink as the restaurant itself, get the “Pink as Fuck Pancakes”, which actually have the slogan written on them in powdered sugar. There’s not a ton of seating, so if it’s crowded at all you kind of have to order food in order to work there. But the staff is super friendly and accommodating, and usually I’ll have an entree, then stay for a few hours with a cup of coffee. I haven’t worked here since before the pandemic, so policies may have been adjusted. But if you’re looking for somewhere to work in the evening, this is a great option.
Intelligentsia / The Highline Hotel: The coffee shop at the Highline Hotel usually operates out of the cozy-chic lobby, which looks like the home of an aging professor with an eye for design. Seriously, everything in the place looks like it came from an estate sale (some of the furniture actually is from the estate of the psychic Ingo Swann). There’s even a vintage typewriter you’re unlikely to find a seat in front of. But that was pre-COVID. During the pandemic, Intelligentsia was moved outdoors to the garden patio in front of the hotel, and as of now they’re still outdoor only. Go when the weather’s nice, order from the London style double decker bus and grab a seat nearby. Intelligentsia is the perfect spot to work on a not-too-hot summer morning, and I can’t wait to work inside here again on a stormy day––seriously, if I could afford to renovate a large townhouse in the city, it would look exactly like the interior of the Highline Hotel. And naturally, I write well when I feel at home (just not so at home I decide to take a nap instead of work).
Sweetleaf: Small music themed coffee shop in Long Island City…I haven’t tried their other locations, although I would assume they’re not too different from the original. I spent almost every morning in the shop near Queens Plaza when I was working in the area, and can confirm good vibes and great coffee. Sweetleaf is like the cool girl-next-door who’s so likable and naturally beautiful she has nothing to prove. The cafe and the staff are down-to-earth and friendly. I feel like a lot of NYC indie coffee shop baristas either intimidate me or subconsciously seem like they want to intimidate me (or is it true, as my friends say, that I’m always looking to start shit?); Sweetleaf is always welcoming, and hip without being pretentious. The walls are covered in classic rock photography, and there are huge murals honoring Queens natives Louis Armstrong and the Ramones. There’s a decent amount of seating, but not a ton, so it’s best to go at an off time. Although I’ve never had trouble finding a seat there. Their other locations actually seem cooler, so I would advise checking them out even though I haven’t been. Two of them are also in LIC, and one doubles as a cocktail bar. The other has a collection of vinyl available to customers.
Remi Flower and Coffee: This place makes me dislike myself more than I already do. I continue to go here and order $6 bitch drinks, usually the very pink rose latte. I swear, I’m usually a black coffee girl, and feel the need to tell people this so they know how cool I am. But Remi’s lattes (and everything else I’ve tried there, especially the flavored lemonade) are really, really good. They’re also beautiful. Aside from being a solid workspace with a uniquely delicious selection of drinks, Remi Flower and Coffee is like one big photo op––very commonly Instagrammed, and for good reason. It’s also a flower shop, filled with greenery and blooms available for purchase. They’re overpriced, but not outlandishly so. Great place to work when I’m writing something creative. Great place to work when I don’t know what to write. Remi Flower and Coffee is similar to Maman in that its beauty is kind of contagious.
Two Hands: Airy, cute little cafe with multiple locations and a well-priced selection of relatively picky-eater friendly healthy food. I go to the one in Williamsburg, and while the food is good (I would even say very good), I go for the coffee and upbeat, inviting atmosphere. In my opinion, atmosphere is everything when it comes to being productive. They also have a juice bar, and they serve alcohol too. Lots of options. Pop in for breakfast, meet a friend for drinks, or work all day. God bless any establishment that allows me to sit in one place for eight hours and still stay healthy; the summery blue and white color scheme in itself cleanses my system.
Felix Roasting Co: The only word I can think of to accurately describe this place is exquisite. It’s incredibly extra—the people behind the shop planned every detail to be part of a true *experience*. Before trying any new place, I read reviews to make sure it’s worth it and not just overhyped (who’s extra now?), and when I read the reviews for Felix Roasting Company, someone said that it was like if Wes Anderson designed a coffee shop. This is so accurate I don’t need to say much else. Coffee is wonderful, of course. Great pastries, beautiful seating indoors and out. Yes, they’re trying too hard, but at least they’re not failing.
Ace Hotel: I’ve included the Ace Hotel in multiple posts in the past, but I can’t help mentioning it yet again. It’s not only my favorite place to work in the City––it’s probably one of my top five favorite spots in NYC. It’s dark and witchy, a mix of rugged Americana and New York sophistication. Working here makes me feel cool. Usually, they welcome anyone into the lobby, no questions asked. I would say a significant majority of the people hanging out there on any given day are not staying at the hotel, which does tend to make it pretty crowded. Currently, the lobby is open at limited capacity, and reservations are recommended. They serve Stumptown coffee, and if you’re in a place to spend a bit, the bar and lobby restaurant are quite good in a hipster-y, dimly lit way. It’s what restaurateurs call “elevated American”, but there’s plenty of classic comfort food on the menu. And even if you only buy a cup of coffee, there’s free wifi, and you’ll never feel pressured to leave. They also have a cute little photobooth, and an Insta-friendly sign on the basement staircase that reads everything is going to be alright––a much-needed message when you’re almost kinda wishing you were back in the office.