My Top 5 Hamra Coffee Shops

Seeing that I spend most of my time setting up camp in coffee shops around Hamra, I thought I’d list my Top 5 in random order and share my knowledge of these little establishments:

1. Cafe Younes

This cozy slice of intellectual heaven is located up the left mafra2 before Roadster if you are going in the direction of the car traffic. I’m starting with how to get there because that’s usually the first thing people have a problem with. Now, Cafe Younes is basically a very good example of what many think Hamra embodies: Its full of foreigners and Lebanese intellectuals (pseudo or not is up to you to decide) who are soaking up some knowledge at one of the nearby universities and spend time reading or discussing Somalia while sipping on a latte. I’m serious. However true this might be, Cafe Younes is home to many studying students and laptop lovers pecking away while they inhale some grub. Which, by the way, is quite good. There are a few good couches, some high stools and tables, a garden style outdoor area complete with iron chairs that are comfortable for about 30min tops- BUT, if you want the good stuff, go upstairs where there’s 4 laptop stations and the best loveseat in town. The loveseat’s in the corner and has two outlet plugs to the left plus 2 armchairs facing it (you’re lucky if you get all 3). You can easily fall asleep there. I have.
What to order: everything I’ve tried has been awesomesauce but I recommend the Chicken Thyme Club, Maple Syrup Pancakes, or the Halloumi Sandwich. Peach Ginger Tea!
Warning: it gets really crowded so if you’re anal about noise then don’t go here if you need optimum silence for concentration. They do have free wifi for 2hrs if you ask for a password – it’s alright, a bit slow and gmail needs to reload 64x because of it but you can manage. Every first Wednesday of the month, there’s a Poetry reading at around 8 – it also gets a bit loud since they insist on using microphones to read their masterpieces. There are some good ones and some are just…entertaining. Michael Dennison, a creative writing teacher at AUB, reads his stuff and its got its own pizzazz, if you will.
Extra tidbit: they just opened a new branch facing AUH near Blue Building-its got the same menu but it’s a bit more dine-oriented and less I’m-going-to-live-here-for-the-next-6-hours.

2. Gloria Jean’s

If you take a right before Roadster and turn right at the COOP, then you’ll end up at Gloria’s. This place is pretty roomy but tends to be full during midterm/final exam weeks. It’s quieter than others and they’ve got their fair share of comfy seats. They offer a frequent-flyer-mile punch card so that you eventually get a free cup of joe, I’ve finished two so it does come as a nice bonus at some point. They ask for your name if you’re sticking around so when your order is ready, they yell it out so you can come get it. They have wifi stubs for 2hrs- also not the fastest around but it’ll do if you need to check some stuff.  Their food isn’t for the starving but there’s enough to choose from to get you full plus their cakes are supplied by Sugar Daddy’s: Chocolate chocolate, chocolate vanilla and RED VELVET with that orgasmic frosting (no sexual innuendo intended) so it tastes like you’re eating a gigantic cupcake. The slices are pretty generous for 5000LL.
What ELSE to order (because the cake should be a no brainer): poppy seed bagel with jalapeno cream cheese, mixed berry chiller
Mixed Berry Chiller + Red Velvet Cake Slice
(nom nom nom)
Warning: if you’re a group of people who want to study and will probably be loud, go somewhere else because Gloria’s is calmer and the others won’t appreciate your normal Arab inside-voices while their inhaling lecture notes.

Extra tidbit: the zaatar crisps near the cash register are nice to take home and eat with some labneh the next morning!
Wall Art at Gloria’s

3. Brisk

Brisk is located on the main street of Hamra near LaSenza and Crepaway, across from Aldo. Everything they make is fresh and organic; it resembles Pret in London in that its mostly self-serve but also has hot dishes. They also now have a mini-Gloria Jean’s inside so you can hit two birds with one stone if you want their coffee and Brisk’s food. Their wifi is better than others and you don’t need to deal with a sign-in code and I’m pretty sure its unlimited time wise. There’s wooden tables, a tall bar with high chairs, a couple couches and a nice little corner spot in the back. Noise fluctuates depending on how crowded it is and where people are sitting because I think its got some funky acoustics (that or there are just some really loud Americans from time to time).
What to order: Protein loaded salad or the cold Chicken Cobb Sandwich
Warning: they can be a bit pricey especially when it comes to beverages (waters for 1500, soft drinks for 3000) but your wallet-conscience is soothed when you remember you’re not hoovering a BigMac

Extra Tidbit: they have a recycling center for all their packaging and bottles so its environmentally friendly
Fruit Cups
4. Caribou Coffee

This place is a double story coffeehouse on the corner of the main street of Hamra before H&M and one of the 23 Vero Modas. The coffee is not my favorite but, then again, I’m not a huge coffee drinker. Ironic post, I know. To be honest, their paper cups and handwritten scribbles on the glass are what won me over. 
Paper Cups with Scribbled Answers to “What do you stay awake for?”
Scribbles on the glass
During the Christmas season, they had really cute napkins too. Apparently they are open 24/7, which is a rare find in this country. They also have free wifi but I have yet to try it.
What to Order: I really haven’t gone enough times to give a fair recommendation of what’s a definite choice. I’ll have to get back to you on that; however, the staff is pretty helpful when you’ve got a clueless dumbfounded look on your face.
Warning: The wooden chairs are stiff enough to keep you conscientiously at work but can be a literal royal pain in the arse after a while. Try to get a couch if you’re in it for the long haul.
Extra Tidbit: rumor has it, their cheesecake is imported from The Cheesecake Factory in the States. They’re not too bad and go for around 9,000LL a slice.

5. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Festive Paper Cup & Brownie
If you find yourself at the beginning of the main road, then skedaddle on over to this franchise that comes all the way over from California. It’s before Kababji & Dunkin and across from Chopsticks. The bar is nicely setup and they’ve got really nice gift-sets for those tea-fanatics in your life. They’ve got matching tins with different flavors all packaged together. One that stuck out was “Red Velvet Powder” for baking and such. Is it obvious that I have a weakness for red velvet? Anyway, they’ve also got a frequent-flyer-mile punch card – after 12 coffees, you get a free one. When you’re done ordering you get this pager that looks sort of like a taser; it buzzes when your order is ready to be picked up at the bar. Be careful with those things, they scare the heck out of you. Internet is regular IDM.
What to Order: Vanilla Latte, I give the brownie a B-
Warning: It’s a bit of a walk if you’re near AUB or LAU so if you’ve got a lot of luggage with you and don’t feel like making the trip/don’t have time, then get in the car and park closer or go somewhere nearer to you.
Extra Tidbit: Go for the brown suede seats. Trust me, you sink and they’re the right kind of soft for when you’re trying to concentrate or just chill out. Also open in Zaitunay Bay.

Just so you don’t start telling me that I left out all these other places in Hamra – I am aware that there a tons of other coffee spots but I’m just focusing on the ones that I frequent so here’s an extra one just for kicks: If you’re not all about boycotting, the best thing about the Starbucks on the main street is that it has 3 levels- top floor is ideal study space and really comfortable but not well lit in some places. The ground floor is your typical Starbucks space and the underground level is very intimate. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if couples take advantage of the private corners and subdued dimmed lights. But like all Starbucks branches, Internet is not free.

UPDATE: Gloria’s has discontinued their frequent flyer mile card. And their spiced ginger bagel crisps are awesomesauce. 

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