Square One Coffee

My favorite spot to blog hands down has got to be Square One Coffee. Their original location is in Lancaster, PA, but their Philly location, on S 13th St, just past Spruce, opened earlier this year.

I found Square One completely by accident. I was playing assistant for Pablo Batista, an amazing Latin percussionist who was rehearsing with his band The Mambo Syndicate for their jazz residency at the Kimmel Center. Pablo sent me on a coffee run, and I knew he hated Starbucks so I went around to look for a local shop. It was just nearing 8pm, so every shop I found had closed or was close to closing. Then I walked down 13th St, about to concede defeat and grab some Starbucks,

and that’s when I found Square One.

The two baristas were bringing in the outdoor seating and they were generous enough to make one last drink for me since they hadn’t turned off their cappuccino machine yet.

I guess you wouldn’t consider it new anymore, but back when I went, they were on their 3rd day of business. They hadn’t even had an official grand opening. The little hipster inside my head was rather pleased at our find. But I’m getting distracted.

I told them I needed something strong but pretty sweet, large, and make it two. Mac (she’s the best), made me caramel lattes and I sipped mine and it was flipping great. Back then I had only really used Starbucks as my office, and I didn’t even know of the wonderful world of local coffee shops. As you can see I haven’t been the same since. Square One was the true descent into my deep espresso addiction. It’s the gateway. I of course didn’t stay for long because I had to get back to the Kimmel, and when I gave Pablo his coffee, he flipped out too. Square One then became the fuel behind the whole Kimmel production. I went four days in a row.

That was a longer story than I had planned it to be. Anyways! On to my reviewing bit.

Coffee
As I already described, their coffee is fan-freaking-tastic. I live on their caramel lattes, but their vanilla lattes are great too and they let me try a glass of their cold brew one day and it was actually pretty good. From someone who likes all the creamy and all the sweet, I actually enjoyed it. I’d still prefer all the creamy and all the sweet, though. Also, during the summer they had affogattos, and that was pretty amazing and I wish I didn’t have to wait for next summer to have another one.

Service

The Square One baristas are my good friends now, having spent so much time in there. We follow each other on Instagram, so you know it’s legit. They’re all great, super helpful and friendly, and open to random conversation. There is no pretentious air in there, everyone is of the utmost chill. If you sit down before they finish making your coffee, they’re happy to bring your drink over to the table if they don’t have other guests to take care of. They’d probably even give you a hug if you asked. My friend who works there even let me film behind the counter for my media project (that’s where I filmed my coffee piece in my video), none of which I ended up using. For SHAME. But it was still pretty cool she let me film.

Variety

You know, I haven’t even paid that much attention to what else they have on the menu besides my beloved caramel latte. Oh wait, they have assorted pastries! Yeahhh I’ve eaten baked goods there. The brownie is ridiculously good, and their cupcakes are great too. I think my friend had a chocolate croissant once and she liked it. I actually don’t even know if they have meal-ish food like sandwiches. They…might. But!  Square One is surrounded by food stuffs, and they don’t have any rules against outside food. Or at least if they do, nobody has yelled at me yet. There’s a little deli right on the corner of the block and I’ve had good stuff from there. There’s also some pizza and sushi spots around. So yeah, you can easily chill in Square One all day like it’s your job. And I do, all the time.

Atmosphere

I love Square One’s layout. It’s a really big space, and instead of crowding it with sitting space, they kept it really open. All the seating is along the walls, and the counter is right in the center of the shop. There’s a glass storefront, so there’s tons of natural light.

square one instapic

Look at how BRIGHT! Also, those flowers are REAL!

Yellow is their theme color, which makes me happy. Because yellow is my favorite color. And sometimes yellow can be overwhelming and so happy that it’s offensive, but they utilize it perfectly in my humble opinion. Also, they had their espresso machine custom painted yellow, and it looks fantastic. They play decent music in there too. Well, it varies. Some days it’s all these awesome old tunes that force you to sing along and then quickly remember that you’re in a coffee shop and people are trying to get work done. Like True by Spandau Ballet, and You Get What You Give by the New Radicals. I get nothing accomplished on those days. And I’m not even mad about it, because unsolicited karaoke is too much fun. And then other days it’s like indie coffee shop playlist. Which is iight. But they don’t play it very loud, which is appreciated, and I usually play my own music from my laptop.

Bathroom

Square One’s bathroom is definitely one of my favorite coffee shop bathrooms. Actually, it seems like Philly coffee shops take great pride in having fabulous restrooms. Rivals’ is nice, Elixr’s is really cool, Chestnut Hill Coffee Co makes me wish I had to go more often…Is that weird to say? Eh, whatever, you just have to see it. Anyways, Square One’s bathroom! It’s a decent sized bathroom. Like I could have a one person dance party in there. And that’s saying something when you just picture five feet and twelve inches of limbs flailing all over the place. That could be dangerous in small quarters. But I could have a dance party in there. So you have so much space while using the facilities. And there’s a yellow chandelier in there! It’s cute. It’s always clean and looks clean in there. And they have that industrial, blow-the-skin-right-off-your-hand dryer! I love those things. Their toilet is weird though. It’s like this environmentally friendly commode, and you can kick it up or down depending on how much water you need. I have no clue if I’ve ever flushed it correctly. I can at least say I’ve tried to use less water. It’s entirely possible that I’ve been flushing down extra water by accident. Oh well, if anyone more competent than me figures it out, which you probably will, please tell me how it works. Thanks friends.

So anyway, that’s Square One, my favorite shop to date.

Rival Bros.

Rival Bros is one of my favorite coffee shops. I wish I could make it over to the store more often, but it’s a little out of the way, being located at 24th and Lombard and all.

rival store front

I discovered them at the Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival, and the latte I got was fantastic. I was talking to the guys in the truck while they made my order as well and they were super pleasant and informative and whatnot. As I do with all of those food festivals, I followed them on all the social medias, and I later discovered that they were working on opening a store. I was excited to visit when they opened, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Coffee

As I already knew from the truck, the coffee is great. My latte is smooth with no bitterness, the vanilla is subtle but very…there, and the espresso is pronounced well and not overpowered by the vanilla or the milk. Look at me, trying to explain coffee like some connoisseur. I don’t really know what I’m talking about, and I don’t speak barista so don’t yell at me. The coffee is good. And their mugs are nice.

Service

The baristas who work there are friendly. I like harassing employees at food establishments, so I like talking to people, but they’re a little more to themselves except when conversating with the regulars. Nothing wrong with that, and it might just be me. I’m socially awkward even though I enjoy throwing myself into social situations. But yeah, I never got the vibe that I should attempt small talk with them. They are very informative and know their coffee though, and they are always helpful in answering questions and figuring out what it is you want when you don’t really know what you want.

Variety

Rival Bros has a decent menu. They have espresso drinks I’ve never heard of, mainly because I’m just barely past a Starbucks level understanding of coffee. Their menu is very simple, and they have more offerings than what is displayed, and if you ask the baristas about more things, like flavors for lattes and whatnot, they’ll tell you more. And they have food! And pastry! And it’s good. I had a chocolate croissant once and I was pleased. They have sandwiches and even ice cream! Well I don’t know if they’ll be serving ice cream throughout the fall and winter, but they might. Because they get their ice cream/ice cream sandwiches from Zsa’s Ice Cream, which if you haven’t had, you should have. Oh, and they get all of their foodstuffs from High Street on Market, so yeah. Good stuff.

Atmosphere

I get good vibes from Rivals. It’s a small space, but I don’t feel cramped unless there is a ridiculous amount of people who refuse to leave, much like myself. That happens, but not too often. There’s a decent natural light coming in, and they use darker colors, like navy and gray. It puts me in a more focused, but deeper mood, and if I get the idea to write about something more serious, I go to Rival Bros. And not necessarily more serious, but even just more peaceful topics with less tirades. I actually find it difficult to be funny there. Or at least not in the erratic direction my humor usually starts heading. It’s too sophisticated of an atmosphere in there, and if you have to think really hard to produce nonsense, it’s just not meant to be. My post, Nobody’s Immune was written at Rivals. So yeah. I have not fully evaluated the space, and I always end up sitting at the same table, but there’s an electrical outlet right there, so I always have power. I believe there’s an outlet by the couch they have as well. The seating is comfortable. And there is music, but it isn’t too loud. I actually haven’t listened to it much before putting on my own tunes, which is weird, I usually listen in. So I can’t tell you if the music is questionable with bizarre lyrics about counting freckles and eating mayonnaise, so sorry. I’ll pay attention next time I go. But me having no memory of the music should be considered a good thing, because oh my goodness some places and their playlists! It’s such a mess.

Restroom

Uhmmm, so Rival Bros’ bathroom is a freaking work of artness. It is beautiful. You almost want to walk somewhere else to another bathroom so you don’t make it less nice. I walked in there feeling like Doge.

Such toilet paper. Very soap. Much clean. Amaze.

It means nothing, but their bathroom has two trash receptacles. TWO TRASH CANS. I don’t know why I noticed or why I cared, but yeah. There’s two. And I never know which one to use. So I use both. Don’t judge me. So the bathroom is really nice, okay? Feel free to pee there. I’m done with my review. Go there. The end.