The corner coffee shop is as integral to New York neighbourhoods as brownstone and yellow cabs. It’s a morning ritual, a buzzy work-place, a hotspot for late night catch ups and the perfect place to put off weekend chores with a caffeine fix.
New Yorkers call it their “third place” after home and work. Think of nineties TV show “Friends” and the fact that Starbucks caught on to their popularity back in the seventies.
The criteria is simple; decent coffee, free Wi-Fi , friendly baristas and space to think, chat or work. Real-life sprinkled in fresh muffin crumbs and set against exposed brick.
In Dubai coffee has come a long way. It has moved out of malls and into neighbourhoods and while you can order a slow drip, flat white of French press - there’s now a new focus away from speedy trends and hipsters demands towards down-to-earth walk-in-off-the-street relaxation. A humble place sewn into the fabric of our growing community – our own third place. Here’s a list of Dubai’s take on the NYC corner coffee shop – and we don’t mean New York themed cafes, that’s an entirely different list.
1. Arrows and Sparrows
Set in the heart of The Greens community, this little place caused quite the stir on social media by saying not much at all. It is open, and the mysterious culprits behind the hype, Davron Hamidov and Zee Alikhonov - who also brought us the insanely popular Friends’ Avenue Café in JLT - designed the interiors themselves. You can’t get much more personal than that. Think white washed brick, teal banquettes, lots of copper, plus hanging plants and strings of bombastic fairy lights crawling the ceiling. The menu is full of brunch favourites that move comfortably into elegant takes on humble treats for lunch and dinner. Coffee is poured all day until 10pm. You'll soon be searching for copper and teal home accessories in Ikea.
Location Emaar Business Park, The Greens Cost varies Timings Daily from 8am to 10pm Contact 055 9505979
2. Brew Café
Rough wood, high stools, hanging light bulbs in jam jars and direct views on to a busy street. This place couldn’t be more Williamsburg if it tried. It couldn’t be any smaller either, but that only adds to the charm. And Brew isn’t trying too hard. Set snugly on the edge of Umm Suqeim's villas and not that far from Jumeirah Beach Hotel (its opposite Emarat Petrol Station) expect eclectic art pieces on the walls and lots of framed coffee appreciation. They serve Right Side coffee (from Barcelona, Spain) and delicious treats like homemade chocolate truffle pie, brownies and organic tosi bars. Friendly staff will welcome you sandy off the beach or dressed down and ready to plug in your laptop and catch up on emails. Expect a warm goodbye whatever time you leave.
LocationJumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim, Cost varies Timings Daily from 7.30am to 11pm Contact 04 3312333
3. The Brass
Community spirit is important here. A clue being the fact they describe the café as, “your local community coffee house”. And it is just that, even if you’ve made a trip from the Marina. Walking in you’ll meet a comforting cloud of coffee aromas, smiley baristas and a relaxed atmosphere infused with Arabic hospitality. Feel free to dash in for an on-the-go latte or spend an afternoon trying their signature coffees like the Coconut Latte or the Lavender Honey Latte. The White Coffee is no diluted Americano, but the black stuff infused with rosewater and served with honey. At night the lights dim and the music mellows. Coffee prices don’t tip Dhs22, so this could be the elegant after dark hangout you need in your life.
Location 2nd Phase of Citywalk, Al Safa Street Cost varies Timings Daily from 7am to 12am Contact 04 3856971
4. The Pantry Café
A café offering itself up as “Neighbourhood gourmet” and if that means exposed pipes, pot plants and those hanging jam jars lights, plus Dubai’s RAW Coffee Company blends with bottomless upgrades, we are there. The Pantry café has two branches; Bay Square in Downtown and Al Hadeeqa Street, Wasl Square, where there’s also a Tim Hortons. Can you buy a shakerato (an espresso shaken with ice) at Tim’s place? Probably not.
The Pantry Café have an impressive food menu decorated with quotes like “I eat cake because it is somebody’s birthday somewhere”, which we dig. There’s a mind-blowing amount of organic egg-based options and that’s just brekkie. Grab a table outside and revel in high-end homely all day.
Location Al Hadeeqa Street, Wasl Square, Dubai Cost varies Timings Daily from 8am to 11pm Contact 04 4298863
5. Café Martinez Dubai Marina
You won’t see Café Martinez on Instagram that much. It’s got the exposed brick, free Wi-Fi and decent coffee – a superb café con leche we hear – but there copper and teal game is weak. It’s quite old fashioned really, but that’s not a bad thing. You’ll get a warm welcome, sockets to charge you mac, a big TV to watch and freshly baked goods each morning. Open 22 hours a day, there really is no rush. The air of cozy charm will have you feeling at home almost instantly. Spot the lone ranger firing up their laptop and couples chattering over deep-bowled salads. Not the stuff of Instagram gold, but it is functional, friendly and always on hand when your Wi-Fi is down at home.
Location Princess Tower, Dubai Marina Cost varies Timings Daily from 5am to 3am Contact 04 430 3737
6. The Surf Cafe
Everyone’s favourite café right now. Bookmark it now if you haven’t been. The walk in off the street laid back vibes, extensive coffee menu and delicious food across everything from breakfast stuff, healthy mains and fresh seafood have got people talking and rightly so. But this place has real-life staying power. Rock up in your yoga gear, sprinkling sand from Umm Suqeim beach or straight from the office – no one will bat an eyelid. There’s a social feel to this place so if you’re there to get work done expect some distractions. Or just ditch the spreadsheets, order the Surfers Breakfast and make this your third home - no wait, your holiday home.
Location Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai Cost varies Timings Daily from 8am to 12am Contact 04 3466292
7. The Sum of us
We couldn’t complete this list without a nod to Tom and Serg, who are pioneers of the coffee shop revolution in Dubai by taking it to the streets (So Brooklyn, right?). The Sum of Us throws around buzz words “humble, wholesome, honest, direct” like confetti, but having been we believe it, they deliver humble in ladles. Everything is made from scratch on site, the coffee included. And while, things tilt towards the trendy, those warm aromas of freshly baked sourdough, roasted coffee beans and the sounds of careless chatter and the chink of cutlery on plates brings things back down to earth. And there's always the French toast with salted caramel.
Location Burj Al Salam Residence, Trade Centre Area Cost varies Timings Daily from 8am to 12am Contact 056 445 7526