Plenty Café, Rittenhouse

The A-board outside Plenty in Rittenhouse, proudly displaying its coffee credentials with local roasters Rival Brothers and Square One CoffeeWe continue my mini-coffee tour of Philadelphia with Plenty Café. It seems harsh to call Plenty a chain, since there are only two of them, but there you go. I visited the second one, on Spruce Street, which has only been open since Thanksgiving the previous year. It’s in the area known as Rittenhouse, just south of the centre, around the corner from such luminaries as Elixr. The contrast between the bustle of Elixr and the relative, relaxed calm of Plenty was striking.

Plenty was introduced to me as a “sandwich joint” which, I feel, is understating its coffee credentials. With local Philadelphia roasters, Rival Brothers, providing the house blend, and guest roaster, Square One from Lancaster PA (not Lancaster, Lancashire, and not, as I first read it, London’s Square Mile!) providing the beans for the pour-over and guest espresso, it’s coffee credentials are pretty decent.

Add to that perhaps my favourite space in Philadelphia (although it had plenty of competition from the likes of Menagerie Coffee and Ox), a great atmosphere, amazing cakes and probably the best cup of coffee I had in Philadelphia and you have a clear winner! Ironically, the only things I didn’t try were the sandwiches…

March 2018: Plenty Café is now a chain of three, and exclusively uses Square One. You can also see what I made of the original Plenty Café on East Passyunk Avenue.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • When I rule the world, parking outside coffee shops shall be banned...
  • Plenty Cafe's coffee credentials. And no, it's not Square Mile, which was how I first read it!
  • Despite taking the picture, I totally failed register that there were pancakes!
  • Stepping inside, a view from the end of the counter...
  • ... and another from the bottom of the stairs.
  • One of the two tables downstairs...
  • The window bar was temping...
  • ... however, the stairs were even more tempting...
  • I think I've found my seat!
  • You can look down over the cafe...
  • ... or down over the counter. Nice marble worktop!
  • But don't look too far down if you suffer from a touch of vertigo!
  • That's better!
  • I liked the light-fittings up on the mezzanine...
  • ... a bare bulb hangs from the tin ceiling.
  • The lights in the main part of the cafe were pretty interesting too...
  • I was very taken by these...
  • ... and by this one.
  • Barista William hard at work at the espresso machine. Time to go down to say hello.
  • The food menu looks tempting...
  • ... but I'm more interested in the coffee...
  • ... but what to have? There's bags of it around.
  • A pour-over perhaps?
  • No, something from the espresso machine, I think.
  • I put William to work. It's such a lovely counter...
  • So, which bean to have? Eeny, meeny, miney, mo...
  • ... oh, sod it, let's have both of them! Classic cups, by the way.
  • William also made me this piccolo...
  • ... which I paired with this cracking almond tart.
  • The piccolo had great milk structure...
  • ... it's a giveaway when the pattern holds all the way to the bottom of the glass :-)
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If there’s one thing Philadelphia does well, it’s Coffee Spots in beautiful spaces, but I’m prepared to stick my neck out and say that Plenty’s new branch tops the lot. It’s not huge, but with its lovely mezzanine level, it packs a lot in.

You can sit outside at a four-person table (a viable option in the spring sunshine while I was there). Alternatively the window bar with six bar stools also took my fancy. This is to your right as you come in, along with a pair of two-person tables, while the counter, up against the left-hand wall, is directly in front of you. Opposite the counter, stairs lead up to the mezzanine, which sits over the kitchen beyond the counter.

In this respect, Plenty reminds me of a shorter, wider version of Ten Belles in Paris. However, Plenty’s mezzanine is much bigger, and the ceiling higher, giving it a much greater sense of space. In all, the mezzanine has seven square two-person tables arranged along a padded bench on the back and left-hand walls. If you sit up front, as I did, you get a great view of the café. The lovely smell of food/coffee wafting up from the kitchen/counter below makes it the place to sit!

The generous front window, with a top-light above, lets in lots of light. The mezzanine is well-lit by multiple spots and bare bulbs, while downstairs has interesting light-fittings too. Plenty has wooden walls and floors, with the ceiling alternating strips of tin and wood, separated by wooden beams. Quiet pop music, which I really liked, completed the atmosphere.

My host, Greg of Coffee Guru App fame, really wanted me to try Rival Brothers, but I arrived too late on Friday for their coffee truck, while their new coffee shop hadn’t opened yet. Fortunately, Plenty’s house-blend is Rival Brothers’ standard espresso blend (made from five different beans), so I got to try their coffee. The guest espresso was an intriguing Yirgacheffe from Square One, so, recalling my experience at Vagabond, I convinced William, the barista, to make a single shot of each for me to compare.

I really liked the Rival Brothers blend. It was a solid espresso, traditional, full-bodied, smooth, but with a hint of bitterness. The Yirgacheffe was nowhere near as unpleasant as I had steeled myself for. A little too fruity for my palette, it was perfectly drinkable. It was quite smooth, with a back/roof of the mouth feel and definite fruit notes, but no sharpness/acidity. If that was the house-blend, I’d be perfectly happy.

William also made me his favourite, a piccolo, which is where the Yirgacheffe came into its own, blending superbly with the milk, which was beautifully steamed, holding its structure really well. Sometimes the coffee comes strongly through the milk in a piccolo (which I like) but here they were in harmony; I couldn’t taste the coffee separately, but it wasn’t lost in the milk (which can also happen). The notes which I hadn’t appreciated so much in the straight espresso blended with the milk’s sweetness to make a wonderfully smooth drink.

I paired this with an amazing almond tart: good pastry (not too solid), sweet and with a strong taste of almonds, it was the perfect accompaniment to my piccolo.

1602 SPRUCE STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19103 • USA +1 215 560 8684
Monday 06:00 – 21:00 Roaster Square One (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 06:00 – 21:00 Seating Tables, Bar
Wednesday 06:00 – 21:00 Food Breakfast, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 06:00 – 21:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 06:00 – 22:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 22:00  Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 20:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 8th March 2014

Liked this? Then take a look at the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia for more great coffee Spots.

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