New Orleans, if you're judging by its relative low cost of living, burgeoning entrepreneurial scene and recent explosion of co-working spaces, is a freelancer's town. A "co-working space" is a fresh term for a newer phenomenon: offices available for rent not by companies, but rather by individuals, who pay to rent a desk. In New Orleans, software developers, writers and even attorneys rent these desks for as much as $20 a day or $500 a month.
But the city also shines when it comes to the co-working space's predecessor: the coffee shop. And $500 a month can buy you an awful lot of dark roast with chicory. Here are the city's best offerings for Wi-Fi-enabled, laptop-friendly coffee shops:
Best for settling in all day:
Fair Grinds, at its original location in Mid-City, is known as a freelancer's haven. So much so that Freelance Friday, a monthly gathering of remote workers, used to meet there every month and work all day. (They have since moved on to co-working spaces.) Fair Grinds prides itself on being a community meeting point, so you can double up with yoga classes, public interest meetings and live acoustic music.
Honorable mention: A few blocks down Esplanade, the staff at CC's Coffee will also let you settle in all day, with the added bonus of free refills as long as you're there.
Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, 3133 Ponce De Leon St., fairgrinds.com
CC’s Coffee House, 2800 Esplanade Ave, ccscoffee.com
Best for late nights:
Envie, despite its cutesy wrought-iron tables, French name and location on Decatur Street, manages to avoid being an overpriced tourist trap. The baristas welcome locals to sit and stare at screens, often armed with their signature café au lait, into the wee hours. The cafe is open till midnight or later, with the caffeine and Wi-fi flowing freely.
Honorable mention: If you're really starving to get some work done, Melba's in the St. Roch neighborhood is open all day and night. Fair warning, it's not really a coffee shop—more like a combination lounge-laundromat-casino-diner. But it sells coffee for $1 and pancakes for $2, so if it's 4 a.m. and you need to kick your butt into high gear, what else could you want?
Envie Espresso Bar & Café, 308 and 1241 Decatur St., www.cafeenvie.com
Melba’s New Orleans Po Boys, 1525 Elysian Fields Ave., eatatmelbas.com
Best for students:
Rook Café tops a bevy of Uptown establishments to offer the booksiest, nerdiest, late-night joint to welcome both the remote worker and the DnD crowd. Rook offers board games, drinks named after chess pieces, wide open spaces, comfy chairs and hours till at least 11 p.m.
Honorable mention: Zotz, another worthy mention on Oak Street, is wondrously open from 7 a.m. till 1 a.m. the following morning, every single day. The quirky little spot is for booklovers: they house their own lending library, and flashing a library card or bookstore membership will guarantee you a discount.
Rook Café, 1000 S Jefferson Davis Pkwy #100, facebook.com/TheRookCafe
Zotz, 8210 Oak St., www.zotzcafe.com
Best for coffee snobs:
Sadly, the best coffee in town, French Truck, does not pair well with the laptop/Wi-fi lifestyle. The fancy roastery's café on Dryades Street (not to be confused with its commercial store on Magazine Street) allows for one blessed hour of Wi-fi in a smooth, open, comfortable space. The biggest downside is its steep prices: If you tip your barista, be prepared to pay over $5 for a plain cup of coffee.
Honorable mention: You can work around these dilemmas by getting French Truck brew at Gracious Bakery in Central City. The bakery trades its high-end (and high-priced) baked goods for French Truck's beans, making for a delicious but expensive combination. Gracious, possibly due to its location in a business desert, closes in the middle of the afternoon.
French Truck Café, 4536 Dryades St., frenchtruckcoffee.com
Gracious Bakery, 1000 S Jefferson Davis Pkwy #100, graciousbakery.com
Best for sitting outside:
Morning Call, the café inside City Park, offers a panorama of everything you could ever desire on a New Orleans postcard: live oaks, swamps, musicians, café au lait and, of course, beignets. While the city offers free Wi-fi in the park, the café offers tables outside in the scenic swampland. Downsides: tourists, children and a laptop covered in powdered sugar.
Honorable mention: Satsuma in the Bywater offers a substantially spacious indoor space as well as a scenic, not-overly-humid courtyard where the Wi-fi reaches out. Since Satsuma has been part of a recent wave of change in the Bywater, you've got to be okay with a scent of gentrification. Also, cats.
Morning Call Coffee Stand, City Park Casino, morningcallcoffeestand.com
Satsuma, 3218 Dauphine St., satsumacafe.com
Best for live music:
Neutral Ground, from its flower child logo to its faded upholstery, tries to evoke a laid back '60s folk house. Whether or not the Sunday open mic recalls that historic past, there is free music every night. Biggest downside: it doesn't open till 7 p.m., so it's best for night owls and procrastinators.
Honorable mention: If you're more of an early bird, Live Oak Café on Oak Street has music practically every morning and afternoon. It's more of a restaurant than a coffee shop, so you likely won't see anyone else hanging out on a laptop for hours. But the staff refills your coffee cup for as long as you sit, and the chefs make the best biscuit I've had in town.
Neutral Ground Coffee House, 5110 Danneel St., neutralgroundcoffeehouse.com
Live Oak Café, 8140 Oak St., liveoakcafenola.com
Best for a Uniquely New Orleans Experience:
Sacred Grinds, located at the bottom corner of Lakeside, plops you down almost inside one of New Orleans' famous graveyards. What other city encourages you to stare down death a few feet away from your laptop? The downside to Sacred Grinds is that it only offers two tables, period. So you're risking making quite a trip for a place to sit.
Honorable mention: Either PJ's, for its relentless Mardi Gras cheer, or Flora's, for its ancient hippie aura. The latter is a Marigny stronghold offering regular coffee and pastries, but with a slightly strange ambience. Once, during one of Louisiana's epic rainstorms, someone started playing Let It Be on the communal piano. Everyone joined in.
Sacred Grinds Coffee Shop, 5055 Canal St., sacredgrinds.com
Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop, 2600 Royal St., facebook.com/Flora.Gallery.And.Coffee.Shop
PJ’s, Multiple locations, pjscoffee.com