Cafe Lalo

Walking through the Upper West Side, you would be hard pressed to uncover this neighborhood gem. Cafe Lalo, a full table service European-style cafe, is tucked away into the residential corner of West 83rd St. and is demarked only by a pair of light-adorned trees. This incredibly sunny and highly-vaunted bakery and restaurant (claim to fame: being featured in the movie You've Got Mail) brings in the old timers, young tourists and buzzing socialites alike. If you're lucky enough to find yourself at Cafe Lalo, be sure to order with your nose pressed up to the glass at the front counter, as the myriad cakes, pies and tarts (three rows deep on every shelf) just aren't the same when viewed on the itemized menu. Keep reading for recommendations, photos and a full review!

Latte: 5/5

  • Served in sunny yellow cups with a complimentary Toblerone chocolate.
  • Consists of a milder brew of espresso and a gentle, milky flavor. Its incredibly smooth texture compensates for its minimalist flavor profile. Overall, a refreshingly simple cup. 
  • Goes down wonderfully with one of Lalo's fresh and flakey buttered croissants!
  • Note: If it's hot outside or if you're just in the mood for something a little different, there is also a selection of juices, milkshakes, and--in the evenings--alcohol. :)

Pastries: 5/5

  • Lalo has the most extraordinary variety of European and American cakes and pastries we have discovered to date! Selection includes every kind of cheesecake, fruit tart, and pie you can possibly imagine, plus croissants, danishes, and breakfast pastries galore. A feast for the eyes and for the palate!
  • The overwhelming majority of cakes and pastries are rich and decadent, with heavenly, melt-in-your mouth textures. Our favorites: the Bailey's coffee cheesecake, tres leches cake, honey lavender custard pie (only available in the spring time!), and Amaretto tiramisu. Make sure to come here hungry for dessert!
  • Note: Though everything looks amazing, a few of the items can be a hit or miss. Beware of the buttercream-based cakes (they can be a tad too sweet) and some of the pies (if it doesn't look fresh in the case, it probably isn't).

Food: 4/5

  • French-Belgian-Mediterranean-American fare, with an expansive (perhaps even overwhelming!) menu of breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner options.
  • Food is unique and flavorful but, sadly, is not made with the freshest or highest-quality ingredients. It hits the spot if you're hungry for something savory, but isn't really Lalo's strongest suit.
  • Our favorite: the grilled cheddar cheese and mushroom sandwich, on a croissant, with a side of organic baby greens and roasted potatoes.

Atmosphere: 5*/5

  • Simply glorious. Lalo transports you to somewhere in Europe--the south of France, perhaps--where sunlight cascades through wide-open, floor-to-ceiling French windows, Toulouse-Lautrec-style art lines the elegant brick walls, soft jazz plays in the background, and time seems to stop. 
  • The charming ambiance is completed by waitresses taking your order in cute white blouses and colorful aprons, and--at night--holiday lights illuminating the trees directly outside as well as occasional live music.
  • An incredibly vibrant and lively cafe, open from the crack of dawn well into the night. Ditch your books/laptop/work materials/headphones/typical coffee shop accessories and come here with the New York Times in the morning or your favorite people after dark. You won't be disappointed!

Hungry Ghost

Once known as Prospect Perk, this coffee shop became integrated into the small, Brooklyn-based chain when its owners saw the popularity of Hungry Ghost rising. Standing at the point of Grand Army Plaza and straddling the line between Crown Heights and Park Slope, Hungry Ghost offers a sunny and energetic blend of quaint and hip-- we had a great time here and used it as the perfect launch pad for apartment window-shopping in the neighborhood. Keep reading for ratings and photos!

Latte: 5/5

  • Rich espresso flavor on first sip, and a light, smooth, creamy cup overall. Everything a latte should be!  
  • The first coffee shop we've seen that brews another's coffee (Stumptown) and does it with equal panache. 

Pastries: 5/5

  • Selection consists of several varieties of cookies, which are extremely flavorful, fresh, and moist and buttery in texture--clearly made with high quality ingredients and love.
  • Cinnamon walnut cookie and chocolate peanut butter cookie were top notch.

Food: 4/5

  • Serves paninis made with local ingredients. We tried the roasted mushroom and smoked mozzarella sandwich.
  • The flavors each hold their own and also blend beautifully, but the texture is a bit chewy and soft and the bread too soggy, making it difficult and messy to finish (though you want to!)

Atmosphere: 4/5

  • Pinnacle of the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, with small tables crafted from tree trunk cross sections, opera music playing in the background, and lots of natural light.
  • Personable and friendly staff provided very detailed descriptions of pastry offerings and smiled for a photo.
  • Feels like a Brooklyn establishment. No bathrooms, unfortunately, but the place is perfect for a coffee date or brief study session.


Irving Farm

The crown jewel of the Upper West Side, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters (always a good sign to see roasters in a cafe name) offers a complete package with the best espresso and pastries in a richly-populated coffee landscape. Offering shade, food, natural light, a cozy interior and the deep, proud smell of continually roasting coffee, Irving Farm brightens an already warm, cosmopolitan neighborhood replete with family-owned groceries, bakeries, and bars. Read on for ratings and photos, and then hurry up and take a trip to 79th and Broadway! 

Latte: 5*/5

  • Full-bodied, complex, and fruity espresso flavor without any hint of bitterness at all. 
  • Overwhelmingly smooth and creamy in texture. The cream enhances the latte without diluting or weakening its flavor.
  • Extra points for quite possibly the most beautiful latte art ever. A truly unique cup--Adaora's favorite in the city!
  • Note: The chai latte here is also an excellent option if you're ever craving a different kind of caffeine fix. Spicy and delicious!

Pastries: 5*/5

  • Wide selection of both made-in-house and outsourced pastries, from the basics (plain Balthazar croissant) to the delightfully unique (chocolate cream cheese farm muffin).
  • Extremely decadent flavors and moist, melt-in-your-mouth textures. Everything tastes like it was made with supremely high-quality ingredients. 
  • Consistently excellent pastries overall--they never fail to impress. Our favorites: The vanilla cream donut (pictured above) and the chocolate pistachio roll.

Food: 4/5

  • Extensive breakfast and lunch menu featuring local, organic, humanely-raised ingredients. 
  • Sandwiches are rich and hearty, perhaps even a bit too heavy on the cheese and condiments at times. But the avocado grilled cheese on a croissant makes for a very satisfying meal if you're hungry and in the area.

Atmosphere: 4/5

  • There is a cozy front room with an urban-rustic-chic feel, exposed brick walls, and hanging yellow lights, as well as a larger back room with cool wall art and a bright skylight. Also a cute outdoor seating area, well-sheltered from the street.
  • Wonderfully aromatic ambiance--you're literally enveloped by the scent of freshly roasted and brewed coffee. The music draws you even further in--think smooth indie, electronic, lounge music, plus plenty of Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor, and company.
  • The chairs aren't the most comfortable and the tables feel a bit cramped if you are trying to spread your books out to study, or eat and read a novel at the same time. Though the communal table mostly solves this problem if you can snag a seat there. 
  • Beware of long lines and higher noise levels on weekends around lunch time. The place is popular, with good reason!