Best Coffeehouses: North

Need some extra pep in your step? Grab a piping hot cup of the good stuff from any of these delightful North Jersey coffee shops!

Erica’s Hot Choffee (coffee with hot chocolate, whipped cream, cocoa powder and marshmallows) from The Fine Grind in Little Falls.
Erica’s Hot Choffee (coffee with hot chocolate, whipped cream, cocoa powder and marshmallows) from The Fine Grind in Little Falls.
Photo by Erik Rank

9 Bar Cafe, Jersey City
Order an espresso at the counter and eavesdrop on the plainclothes cops speaking Italian with Stefania Cocozza, the Roman-born proprietor of this old-school shop. Cocozza’s lips are sealed as to what’s in her two blends (one for drip, one for espresso, macchiato and cortado drinks), but she’s happy to share the secret of perfect espresso: an atmospheric pressure on the machine of 0.9. (9 bar will soon offer free classes on how to make a perfect cup at home.) Classic Italian sandwiches like tomato, basil and mozzarella ($6.50) are made fresh daily, along with a soup and salad of the day. The biscotti and other baked goods are made in house. The ingredients for her cannoli ($2.75 small, $4.50 large) are flash frozen and delivered from Sicily. 18 Erie Street.—LB

The Able Baker, Maplewood
Buttery, fresh-from-the-oven scones (try the blueberry!) and other delicious baked goods often upstage the coffee. But the coffee is terrific. Two dollars buys a 12-ounce cup of Philadelphia roaster La Colombe’s Corsica blend, a smooth but rich medium-to-dark roast that holds up well in cappuccinos and lattes. “It’s a food-lover’s coffee,” says owner Julie Pauly. The bakery also sells it by the pound, whole bean or ground. 187 Maplewood Avenue.—TLG

Ahrre’s Coffee Roastery, Westfield and Summit
With roughly 55 coffees on the menu, Ahrre’s is not for the indecisive. There are no seats or AC outlets in the small Westfield shop, but the back wall is lined with an absorbing display of labeled glass jars filled with beans from around the world. All are roasted at a facility in Plainfield. Sumatra—light, with a nutty aroma and sweet, maple-syrup flavor—and Morning Blend—a robust and complex blend of light and dark roasts—are the most popular, but customers are invited to create their own blends. For $3, they’ll even make you a cup with the bean of your choosing.—MM

American Bulldog Coffee Roasters, Ridgewood
Co-owner and barista Gadi Gilan artfully inscribes a leaf pattern into the thick crema on her satisfying cappuccino ($4). It’s part of the genteel stylishness of the Bulldog, with its Art Deco fixtures, antique benches, milk-glass tables and working fireplace. Gilan and co-owner Maleigha Liburdi roast their Arabica beans at their shop in nearby Chestnut Ridge, New York. In addition to espresso beverages, they offer two single-origin coffees of the day—a light and a dark roast ($3). The dark-roast Brazilian is smooth, with hints of chocolate and walnut. Almond and soy milk are offered, as well as the stuff cows give. Liburdi bakes organic cookies, muffins and quiches on-site, using no refined sugars. Packaged whole-bean or ground coffee costs $17 to $22 per pound. 31 North Broad Street.—MACF

&grain, Garwood
This airy shop is one of the few New Jersey cafés to serve Portland, Oregon’s famous Stumptown Coffee, though only one blend—the brightly citric (and faintly chocolatey) Hair Bender ($2.25). The cold-brewed Nitro is served cold from a tap ($5). With its foamy head, it looks a lot like a pint of Guinness, but it’s one of the smoothest, naturally sweet coffees around. &grain bakes all its breads in house. In fact, while you sip you can watch the bakers at work through glass panels separating the store from the bakery. 700 North Avenue.—MM

Bean Vault Coffee, Hoboken
Commuters cram into this tiny, standing-room-only café for the monthly latte specials and Toby’s Estate coffee. Red Velvet Latte gets its name from simple syrup infused with cocoa powder and vanilla bean ($4.50). The Brooklyn blend ($2.25) is flavored with cocoa powder, graham cracker, toasted hazelnuts and toffee. Post-early-morning rush, customers revel in pour-overs from one of the five single-origin coffees offered daily. Almond, coconut and soy milk are available alongside the usual dairy options. Freshly baked sweet and savory treats arrive each morning. 1 Newark Street.—LB

Bluestone Coffee Company, Montclair
When Harvey Shilling opened this bustling coffee emporium 17 years ago, he wanted to stand out, so he installed a massive roaster in the center of the dining room. He still roasts his meticulously sourced beans daily with that machine. A 12-ounce cup is $2.20. The fresh-roasted beans can be bought whole or ground on site. “To me, coffee is kind of like bread,” Shilling says. “It has to be consumed within two or three days.” Bluestone also serves breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch. 123 Watchung Avenue.—TLG

Brewshot, Jersey City
Daterra, a chocolately, dark blend of Brazilian beans, is one of the most popular coffees at this warm, spacious corner shop. Brewshot also makes its cold brew ($3.75) from Daterra; straight up, it tastes impossibly sweet and creamy. Hot coffees are available drip, French press or pour-over ($3). The single-origin espresso beans and large range of organic teas come from Artisan Coffee and Tea in Vermont; the sweet and savory pastries arrive from Tisserie’s bakery in Union City; and bread cups (a roll stuffed with sausage or other ingredients) come from Jersey City baker Grandma Downtown. Seating is ample, the staff friendly and knowledgeable. 9 Regent Street.—LB

Bwè Kafe, Hoboken
The friendly, family-run café embraces all things Haitian (bwè kafe means “to drink coffee” in Haitian Creole). Papier-mâché masks look down upon the rows of students and freelancers who plant themselves at the communal benches. The brother-and-sister team behind the counter directs the uninitiated to a pour-over of the single-origin Mare, a delectable coffee made from Haitian heirloom beans with notes of chocolate, malt and walnut. The house-blend drip coffees all contain Haitian beans. Chilled drinks include a Japanese slow-drip coffee and the Bwè Kafe version of a frappé: an icy blend of cocoa, milk and espresso. There are daily soups, vegan and gluten-free snacks, and sandwiches made with Amy’s Bread. 1002 Washington Street.—LB

City of Saints Coffee Roasters, Hoboken
This tiny haven (which just changed its name from Red Lion Cafe) uses different brewing methods for different coffees. The sweet, earthy YMJ (Yemen Mocha Java) blend ($2.50) is done as a SoftBrew infusion, with grounds and hot water poured into a large porcelain pot with a micro-etched, stainless steel filter. The shop claims to be the only one in the U.S. to use this method. It also sells City of Saints, its own line of beans roasted in their Brooklyn facility. Croissants and Danishes arrive daily from Balthazar in Englewood and cookies from Jersey City’s Milk, Sugar, Love. 320 Bloomfield Street.—LB

Cloveberry, Sparta
Nestled on the first floor of a quaint old house near Lake Mohawk, Cloveberry provides comfy armchairs facing a bay window overlooking the side yard. Owner Dev Mehta says the single-serve French press ($4) is the best way to enjoy the shop’s popular organic medium roast. Drip coffee, he says, tends to filter out flavors and oils, but he offers it ($2.10). The house medium roast combines Guatemalan, Costa Rican, Sumatran and Kenyan organic fair-trade beans for a smoky, lingering finish (available in a 12-ounce bag for $13.95). In addition to espresso drinks, Cloveberry sells non-coffee treats like the cold Peanut Paradise, made with cocoa, peanut butter, bananas and soy milk. Breakfast and lunch menus use local organic ingredients. 21 Main Street.—JB

Coffee Coop’s, Belvidere
Donald Danart Cooper calls himself a “one-man industry.” He roasts his own beans—imported from South and Central America—while running the gallery in his coffee house and creating the art that appears in it. A cup of the house blend, Organic Nicaragua, is $2.50. It’s also sold by the bag, as are his Peruvian decaf and organic granola or trail mix. Cooper will entertain you with his vast coffee knowledge while personally making your cup. 587 County Road 519.—KK

The Coffee Mill Roasters, Millburn
Gennaro Raimo and his son Daniel opened this tiny, stylish shop around the corner from the local Starbucks in 2013. “We definitely feel our coffee is fresher,” says Gennaro. “We can do smaller batches and more varieties, because we don’t have to wait for executive decisions.” Especially popular is the house dark roast ($1.85), a blend of Arabica beans “that’s never burnt,” Gennaro says. Espresso and cappuccinos are done right, he asserts, because “I’m Italian, and I get it.” Red stools flank a long counter. Treats like biscotti are delivered fresh daily from Balthazar. 41 Main Street.—TLG

Cool Beans International Coffees & Teas, Oradell
This spacious yellow-and-cayenne-hued shop offers a rotating list of six coffees from various roasters. The house blend ($1.75) is mild, the cappuccino ($3.50) nicely balanced between the richness of the coffee and the creaminess of the milk. Typical selections include super-dark Café Tico; Double Chocolate Fudge; Honduran decaf; hazelnut; and Avicenna’s Blend, a mix of Sumatran, Kenya AA and Kona. The “food for the soul” menu includes breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and wraps. On-site programs range from Mommy and Me mornings to Motorcycle Ride-In evenings. There are two TVs, a fireplace—and a piano, should your bold coffee inspires a bold move to the keyboard. 304 Kinderkamack Road.—MACF

Dames Coffee 
Espresso Bar, Jersey City
Dames buys Counter Culture beans, and brews them expertly, also creating cool non-coffee drinks like a green-tea latte ($4.25). The narrow, minimalist space is immaculate. Banana bread, brownies and blueberry muffins are baked on the premises. A spacious back garden nestles customers amid the surrounding row houses. 581 Jersey Avenue.—LB

The Fine Grind Coffee Bar, Little Falls
The most popular offering at this friendly community-gathering-place-and-gift-shop is the Vanilla Snuggle ($4.70), a vanilla-and-cinnamon latte topped with whipped cream, marshmallow and cinnamon. Owner Rhonda Mallek likens it to “a hug in a mug.” Their extensive list of coffee concoctions ($2.60 to $4.50) include Erica’s Hot Choffee (coffee with hot chocolate, whipped cream, cocoa powder and marshmallows). Espresso drinks range from $2.50-$4.70. The house blend is medium bodied and smooth, with moderate acidity ($2.10 for 18 ounces; $1.50 for refill). Each week, a South Jersey micro-roaster delivers the blend, along with the espresso beans and a single-origin, organic, fair-trade special. Beans sold by the bag are $12-$15 per pound. 101 Newark Pompton Turnpike (Route 23).—MACF

Greene Brothers Specialty Coffee Roasters, Hackettstown & Sparta
The Greene Brothers locations will remind you of Grandma’s house: comfy, inviting and full of knick-knacks. Greene Brothers offers 50 blends of beans, roasted and flavored on site. Crowd favorites include Hackettstown Hazelnut and Morning Buzz, a caffeine-enhanced blend. Pour-overs are a special feature. Want more? The shop purveys baked goods, beans (whole and ground), loose-leaf and bagged tea, and all manner of coffee accessories.—KK

iSpresso at Park, Union City
The children’s menu includes a 12-ounce Baby Chino—warm milk with a dollop of froth ($2.50). Parents will enjoy the serene interior with racks of books and magazines, the art on the walls, and the light flooding through large picture windows. The pour-overs ($2.75) take a while, but are brought to your table, along with milk, if desired. The espresso and flavored drinks include concoctions like maple-syrup and peppermint-chocolate lattes. Artisanal baked goods are offered along with sandwiches made to order. 4701 Park Avenue.—LB

Java Love Coffee Roasting Company, Montclair
“Our most popular coffee is the Badass Blend,” says Kristine Petrik, co-owner of Java Love. Badass, a blend of four beans balancing bold with sweet, is one of about 20 blends and single-origin coffees the charming shop offers daily ($1.98; also sold by the pound). You can order biscotti and monuts—a signature mashup of muffin and doughnut. Java Love’s water-processed decaf “tastes so much like regular,” Petrik says, “people think we’re giving them the wrong drink.” 244 Bellevue Avenue.—TLG

Legal Grounds, Jersey City
Cups of the house blend—Costa Rican, Colombian, Sumatran, Brazilian and Guatemalan beans ($1.60)—fly over the counter each morning at this comfy, although somewhat messy, little shop. The proprietors roast their own beans and pride themselves on the perfect crema of their espresso. An extensive list of single-origin coffees are offered in rotation, either brewed or as bagged beans. Mornings mean hefty bacon-and-egg sandwiches and locally baked Wonder bagels. Indoor seating is limited, but a large, dog-friendly patio and garden opens in warm weather. 170 Grand Street.—LB

Mara’s Cafe & Bakery, Denville, Fanwood & Berkeley Heights
If you want delectable, bakery-fresh desserts with your coffee, Mara’s is the place. They carry 10 single-origin beans and offer 11 types of roasts, from light to double. Flavors range from traditional hazelnut to a tropical pina colada. The spiced iced chai latte is particularly smooth with just the right amount of sweetness, and the Colombian Supremo house blend is memorably smooth and dark. Morning and late-afternoon rush are best avoided, but the food and drinks are worth the wait.—KK

modcup, Jersey City
You won’t find Wi-Fi at this tiny shop in Jersey City’s Heights. “Our motto is, ‘Unplug and connect,’” explains co-owner Justin Hicks. “We want people to experience coffee as they would wine. The taste of coffee is influenced by the same factors: climate, soil and elevation.” The house blend, Humble Jefferson, is pleasing. But modcup is all about its wide range of single-origin, sustainably harvested coffees. Espresso drinks are prepared with a smooth blend of Colombian, Sumatran and Ethiopian beans, aptly titled A Love Affair. 479 Palisade Avenue.—LB

Moon Doggie Coffee Roasters and Retro Espresso Café, Maywood
Bins containing 14 arabica specialty-grade beans, packed to order, line part of a wall at this casual, ’50s-style storefront café attached to the roasting operation in back. Another 60 flavored coffees (and a selection of coffee-related giftware) are available. Co-owner Bob Funk insists on brewing coffee within two weeks of its roasting; otherwise, “the flavor starts to fade.” The self-serve brewed coffee of the day is a bargain ($1.45), as is the froth-capped cappuccino ($2.95). Muffins and scones are sold, some baked by Funk’s wife, Donna. Sales of fancy dog biscuits help fund basset hound rescue. Bagged coffee ranges from $14.95 a pound for Brazilian Cerrado to about $60 a pound for Hawaiian Kona. 108 W. Pleasant Avenue.—MACF

Perk Up Café, Bayonne
This pretty café buys beans from Hudson County roaster Kobrick. Espresso ($2.75) is made from beans ground to order. For sustenance, try a hearty egg sandwich ($4.95 with bacon or ham). Cold coffee drinks include the delicious chai tea latte ($4.25 for a regular). The extensive lunch menu includes soups, salads and wraps. 317 Broadway.—LB

Red Eye Café, Montclair
Red Eye, which opened in Montclair in 2012, is stylishly appointed with subway tiling and local artwork. The laptop crowd settles in for business meetings and neighborly schmoozing. A second outpost will open in May inside Mana Contemporary, the Jersey City art mecca—which is close to its Hudson County roasting company, Kobrick. The house blend ($1.50), a medium-to-dark roast, was developed to complement the restaurant’s own baked goods and lunch and dinner menu. For espresso, Red Eye uses Black Cat Classic from Intelligentsia Coffee. “It’s a blend of Brazilian and Colombian that we believe is the most well-balanced espresso available for retail,” says owner Anthony Brinton. 94 Walnut Street.—TLG

Ridgewood Coffee 
Company, Ridgewood
A trio of glass coffee makers in the window of this cozy corner shop calls attention to its cold-brewed coffee ($3.50 to $4). Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee supplies all the beans, including Ridgewood’s smooth, chocolately house blend made from Colombian, Ethiopian and Rwandan beans ($2-$2.50); a rotating single-origin premium drip ($2.50-$3); and Intelligentsia’s El Diablo decaf. There are several Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso-based coffees. Croissants and breakfast pastries come from Balthazar in Englewood. Another plus: outdoor seating in warm weather. 90 E. Ridgewood Avenue.—MACF

Rockn’ Joe, Five New Jersey Locations
Gold records, posters, concert tickets and other memorabilia line the walls of this rock ’n’ roll themed mini-chain with locations in Cranford, Westfield, Union, Millburn and Caldwell. With rock music always on the soundtrack, customers can choose between two signature blends—Velvet Underground (medium roast, from Central American and Papua New Guinean beans) and Sledgehammer (darker, bolder, from Central American and Indonesian beans). The decaf is the aptly named Unplugged. Muffins, scones and croissants are made in-house each day; the rest of the baked goods come from Ceci Cela French Patisserie in Manhattan.—MM

SmartWorld Coffee, Morristown & Denville
Magic City, SmartWorld’s popular medium roast, is rich and satisfying. If you want it with milk, the baristas will pour in steamed milk, which imparts a pleasing froth and doesn’t cool your drink as cold milk would ($1.75.) The staple dark roast is Smart Mudd, but it doesn’t taste muddy. All coffees are organic. Seasonal offerings include Toasted Almond (spring/summer), Pumpkin Spice (fall) and Graham Cracker (winter). The six Smart Swirl Blends start with iced espresso, adding cold milk and sweetener in flavors such as mocha, caramel, chai or Hazelnut Mudd Pie. Seating is limited in the narrow Morristown shop, but there are plenty of power outlets. The Morristown location offers grilled flatbread sandwiches and salads for lunch, and the breakfast egg sandwiches are made in-house and easily beat the fast-food competition. Both stores sell house-made SmartCrunch granola, chia bars and packaged fresh-ground coffee.—JB

Smith and Chang General Goods, Jersey City
This gorgeous storefront formerly housed an antiques and furniture store. Some of the vintage chairs and benches now accommodate young families and well-dressed couples while they enjoy a pour-over and the unique ambiance. Smith and Chang serves La Colombe coffee—blends and single-origin varieties. Choc-o-Pain in Jersey City provides breakfast baked goods like a $4 ham-and-cheese. Soups and sandwiches are served at lunch. The store also sells coffee equipment, kitchen supplies, and Smith and Chang’s line of bath products. 230 Pavonia Avenue.—LB

Sogno Coffeehouse & Creperie, Westwood
“Coffee keeps you busy until it’s time to drink wine,” reads a plaque in this narrow shop with only counter seating. It’s apropos because Sogno is attached to Caffe Anello, a small restaurant. Both are owned by roaster/executive chef John Vitale, his wife, Alissa Napoletano Vitale, and her parents. The shop offers mugs of bold (forte) or light (luce) single-origin roasts ($1.75-$2); a nuanced espresso blend ($1.75-$2.25); and several espresso drinks ($3.25-$3.75). More than two dozen fresh-made sweet and savory crepes can be enjoyed in the comfort of Caffe Anello’s dining room until 5 pm. Vitale roasts his Caffe Anello brand coffees daily in no more than 10-pound batches and packages them for sale ($16-$18/pound). 425 Broadway.—MACF

T.M. Ward, Newark & Chatham
T.M. Ward has flourished since 1869 selling coffee by the pound, along with tea, roasted nuts and candy. They offer more than 200 flavors of coffee, “and we’re always creating new ones,” says Scott P. Sommer, great-grandson of the founder. The flavors have fun names like Jamaican Me Crazy, a blend of rum- and vanilla-flavored beans. Ward’s is not a café—there’s nowhere to sit—but you can linger amid the giant jars of coffee beans and tea leaves after filling a self-serve cup. Most popular is the medium-roast yet full-bodied Deluxe House Blend ($1.25 for a 12-ounce cup in Newark; $1.50 in Chatham).—TLG

Van Gogh’s Ear Café, Union
Van Gogh, though reclusive, understood the magnetism of gathering places like the one he painted in The Night Cafe. We like to think he’d enjoy the delightfully mismatched furniture and lived-in décor of this bohemian café, with its large reproduction of one of his most famous paintings, Starry Night. Food ranges from falafel wraps to chorizo-and-white-bean salad to a pulled pork sandwich. Van Gogh might not have seen the humor in a drink called the Other Ear (double cappuccino with chocolate and Irish cream, topped with whipped cream), but customers love it. The S’mores latte is so sweet you can skip dessert. A simple cup of house blend (with Honduran, Ethiopian and Sumatran beans) is $1.85. 1017 Stuyvesant Avenue.—MM

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  1. Susan

    No Palermo’s Cafe, the new branch of the FAMOUS bakery that supplies 90% of Northern and Central New Jersey’s Wedding Cakes? How can that POSSIBLY be? For people who agree that NJ Monthly is a joke, check this out.