Perhaps once or twice you've been like me, stumbling around Union Square aimlessly looking for a coffee shop with both free WiFi and enough seats to be able to sit and use it for an extended period of time. Finding a good cafe to work in can be difficult and annoying, especially when you're lugging your laptop around, already beginning your workday with a roadblock. You might say it should be easier, but I patently refuse to patronize corporate coffee joints where there are so many independent businesses all over the city that I could support. In order to ease your frustration and ensure a positive coffee shop work environment for you, here is a short list of some of my favorite spots in Manhattan. If you go to these places, many of which I have sat in for hours and hours at a time, I promise you will not only get your work done, but you won't be in a dark, cramped corner battling a temperamental internet connection while you do it. In my pursuit of 1) coffee shops with 2) free WiFi that is a 3) independent business, these have become some of my favorite locations. Fun fact: I know nothing about coffee because I can't drink it for health reasons--at all of these places I can only speak for their tea (often English Breakfast Tea with milk and one Splenda please, if you must know), so please keep that in mind.
1. Everyman Espresso
136 E. 13th Street
Everyman Espresso is easily my favorite work location in the city. I don't remember exactly how I found it, but it's gotten to the point where I've learned the names of the people behind the counter and greet them warmly because I see them so often. They're friendly, and they aren't jerks when you tell them you want a Splenda in your tea instead of organic agave syrup. Everyman doesn't serve meals, but they do have pastries and bars for sale if you get hungry, and they allow outside food if you want to bring in something from the several surrounding to-go joints. Also, the coffee shop is actually in the lobby of the Classic Stage Company, so you'll see an occasional celebrity passing through on their way to a rehearsal or call time in the theatre (a recent sighting was Taylor Schilling, when she was doing Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country with Peter Dinklage). WiFi is always on point, they play funky tunes (Chaka Khan, Nine Inch Nails, Robyn) and I've never had too much trouble finding a place to sit.
2. Ground Support
399 West Broadway
Ground Support is great because it has a nice little menu of pastries, salad, and sandwiches, and their sandwiches are half-off after 5pm. Not to mention they also have small PB&J sandwiches on baguettes for a $1.25 if you're trying to save a buck or two. Their tea sizes are nice and large, baristas are cooler than you with interesting tattoos in only black ink and they have good taste in music (aside from the one time I was in there and they played Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town" four or five times in a row). There's a lovely sun roof in the back room, and a large glass window in the front room that give the space great light. WiFi behaves pretty well and pretty consistently. Occasionally they have free books in the back, or maybe they just did one time, but I was able to grab a copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark so I was pretty psyched about it. When it's nice out, they open the back doors and everyone sits on the Eileen Fisher stoop even though technically I guess you're not supposed to. If you're lucky, you'll run into rad writer Harris Sockel, who works in the area and frequents the spot. Also, lots of other attractive men who are graphic designers or work at startups and use the cafe as their office.
3. Tisane Pharmacy
340 E. 86th Street
Working at Tisane makes me feel like I'm in a 1950s drugstore, but updated and with high-end moisturizers I can't afford. There's a blue-tiled counter with barstools and flavored syrups on tap resting on top of it. There are also two small tables in front, but I usually prefer the one closest to the window because it's also the one nearest an outlet. Sometimes there's an older woman who sits there reading a book and I internally glare at her, when I should really just ask her if we can please switch tables because my computer's dying please? They have pastries from Balthazar and at least one kind of deal each day. They also have a punch card where you can earn a free beverage. There are endless varieties of loose tea, which they'll shovel into a little pouch for you as a personal teabag. I sit there for hours (no problems with WiFi) and nobody bothers me.
4. Think Coffee
73 8th Avenue
Whenever I have to be in Chelsea or the West Village at some point after working for the day, I head to this spot. It's important to note that there are multiple locations of Think, and not all of them have WiFi, but this one does. Lots of young people work there, I imagine since it's in NYU territory. I recommend getting a table in the front where there's a nice big window because it's a little dark in the back, but you have to move fast because people will jump on that real estate pretty quickly. They make a mean grilled cheese if you get hungry, but they have a variety of other sandwiches available as well. All their containers and paper products are made from recycled materials, and the coffee is fair-trade.
5. Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
224 W. 79th Street
I've had to have some meetings on the Upper West Side when people say, hey, let's meet at [corporate coffee shop name redacted]! And I'm like, no, let's meet here! Irving Farm is another scenario where there are multiple locations, but it's not a chain, and all of the locations are in New York--either in the city or in the Hudson Valley. Tables are wood and chairs are metal but not uncomfortable, and it's easy to find a spot if you're working by yourself or with a friend. Full disclosure--I've never actually worked here using the WiFi so I can't speak to the quality of it, but I know it's difficult to find an independent joint in that neighborhood with WiFi, so I wanted to mention it. They have a menu of great breadth and depth--you can get everything from salads to pretzel sticks and all varieties of coffee/tea beverage. Everyone is busy working there, so you don't have to overhear inane conversations where a college student is wondering why the guy she's having sex with isn't texting her back, and you aren't distracted with your own loud thoughts like JUST GET OUT NOW AND STOP WASTING YOUR TIME WITH STUPID BOYS WHO DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU OR TREAT YOU LIKE A HUMAN AND JUST LOVE YOURSELF PLEASE. They also have some outdoor tables in the warmer months if you'd like to work outside (though I'm not sure what the WiFi situation is with that).