Going to a Starbucks in Philly is sort of like going to a Pizza Hut in Sicily. Sure, you'll get a reliable, familiar product. But you'll be missing out on something truly exceptional. Here are some of the best coffee shops in town. Most offer free Wi-Fi.
Center City (West of Broad) -- The city has had a longtime crush on La Colombe (www.lacolombe.com), a roaster of beans for New York's best, such as Daniel, and operator of two very French-style shops at 130 S. 19th St. (tel. 215/563-0860) and Manayunk at 4360 Main St. (tel. 215/483-4580), where it serves the same buttery croissants and perfectly foamy cappuccino in pretty Fima Deruta pottery as the first location, and also offers tasty panini.
America's first outpost for Trieste's popular Hausbrandt coffee can be found at 207 S. 15th St., just south of Walnut Street (tel. 215/735-2242). Practice your Italian on the baristas while you sip your espresso.
A few of blocks south of the busy business district, Ants Pants, 2212 South St. (tel. 215/875-8002; www.antspantscafe.com), is a sunny spot for lingering over a cup of joe and an open-faced bacon stack breakfast sandwich.
Center City (East of Broad) -- Tucked between 2nd and 3rd streets on tiny, cobblestone Church Street (down from Christ Church) Old City Coffee (tel. 215/629-9292; www.oldcitycoffee.com) roasts and brews its own yummy beans. The cafe sells pastries and light lunches, and offers a pretty spot for hanging out. Old City Coffee has a second location in Reading Terminal Market.
South Street & Bella Vista -- Popular Chapterhouse, 620 S. 9th St. (tel. 215/238-2626), is a spare, modern space with monthly art shows, plenty of elbowroom, excellent fair-trade coffees and teas, and homemade sodas and smoothies.
Families and students have made Philadelphia Java Co., 518 S. 4th St. (tel. 215/928-1811), a regular hangout: They serve La Colombe roast and yummy open-faced sandwiches smeared with thick yogurt cheese, green olives, and herbs.
If you're looking for a latte to wash down your cheesesteak -- or, if you're the one person out of your group who would prefer a Nutella panini -- walk 1 block east of Pat's and Geno's to the corner of 8th and Wharton streets to Benna's Café (tel. 215/334-1502; www.bennascafe.com). Owner Nancy Trachtenberg is the consummate hostess. (I should know: Much of this guide was written from Nancy's second cafe, B2, at the corner of 10th and Dickinson, tel. 215/271-5520). Thanks, Nancy Sue!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.