Ox Coffee

A beautiful Gibraltar (Cortado) from Ox Coffee.Ox Coffee is a lovely spot, which I visited on my first-ever trip to Philadelphia, becoming a firm favourite of mine. I try my best to pop in whenever I visit the city, calling in back in February 2016 to see the “new” back room/garden, and again in March 2018 to sample Ox’s coffee after it had started roasting.

With its stripped-back, clean looks, Ox wouldn’t be out of place in either New York or London. It brings to mind New York spots such as Gimme! Coffee or the Bluebird Coffee Shop, as well as London’s White Mulberries. This, by the away, is more of a commentary on the rents: most places in (central) London or New York just can’t afford the sort of floor space I regularly see in Philadelphia outside of the city centre!

Ox has a similarly clean, stripped-back menu, with just a selection of cake to accompany the coffee, which these days is roasted in-house. There’s a blend, Ox Coffee #1, on espresso, and another (Ox Coffee #2; you can see where this is going) on bulk-brew, which is joined by one of two single-origins (a Guatemalan while I was there). Finally, there’s a decaf, from Stumptown.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On sunny 3rd Street in Philadelphia, you'll find Ox Coffee, complete with bench outside.
  • Nice window.
  • This is the view from my visit in 2016, looking just as lovely.
  • And just to prove it's always sunny, here's the view from my latest visit in 2018.
  • The view from the door: one of the least cluttered counters I've seen in a long time.
  • There's not much seating up front, just this bar opposite the counter...
  • ... and this lovely bench in the window and along part of the left-hand wall.
  • However, there's lots more seating. This is the back room, as seen in 2016.
  • Another view of the delightful, cosy back room.
  • However, there's even more. If the weather's good, you'll find this door at the back is open.
  • Head outside and down this narrow passage at the side of Ox and you'll come to...
  • ... this lovely, sheltered garden! It's ideal for sitting out in the warm weather.
  • However, it was a chilly -7C when I was there in 2016, so I went straight back inside!
  • I did like the artwork in the back room. This was from my visit in 2014.
  • Interesting juxtaposition. However, Ox rotates its artwork every two months or so.
  • When I returned in February 2016, these were some of the pictures on display in the back...
  • ... while this lovely painting was in the front, by the window.
  • The chandelier was one of the back room's many highlights (pun intended).
  • Not that the front part was too shabby on the lighting front.
  • Lights in a line...
  • Obligatory close-up shot, with tin ceiling behind/above.
  • And here's the same light, looking just as good in 2018!
  • The music is always good at Ox Coffee.
  • What a neat shelf of coffee-making kit (all for sale).
  • When Ox Coffee opened, it used Stumptown, with the Hiar Bender blend on espresso.
  • However, since September 2017, it has been serving its own coffee, all roasted in-house.
  • One of the more stripped-back menus I've seen.
  • Additional options on the side: Gibralter = Cortado.
  • There's also cake.
  • The counter, seen from the back. That's Max, one of the owners, hard at work.
  • Max weighing out the beans for the filter coffee. Don't worry, it's bulk brew.
  • The twin-filter machines, allowing Ox to offer two options on drip.
  • On my first visit, I tried the Ethiopian Duromina, a single-origin from Stumptown.
  • But what about the espresso?
  • Max makes me a Gibraltar.
  • I love watching good latte art...
  • It's a skill I sadly lack...
  • Here it comes...
  • ... the finishing flourish!
  • It tasted every bit as good as it looked by the way!
  • On my return in 2016, I had an equally good decaf Gibraltar, made by head barista, Nicole.
  • And again, in 2018, I started with another decaf Gibraltar.
  • This one was made by Max again. Lovely latte art.
  • It's always a good sign when the milk holds the patern...
  • ... all the way...
  • ... to the bottom of the glass.
  • I only realised Ox was roasting after I'd ordered. This is the seasonal espresso blend, #1.
  • Naturally, Max pulled me a shot. It was awesome!
  • There's a second blend, #2, which can also be used for espresso or filter...
  • ... and there's a pair of single-origins (this one, the Guatemalan, was on during my visit).
  • Naturally, Max made me try them too. #2 is on the left, the Guatemalan on the right.
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Ox Coffee is on Philadelphia‘s South Side, occupying an east-facing spot on South 3rd Street. The layout’s a model of simplicity: rectangular in shape, the counter (a reverse-L) on the left, takes up most of the space. There’s a low, L-shaped bench in the window to the left of the door, while opposite the counter, a narrow bar, directly ahead as you enter, runs along the right-hand wall and provides the rest of the seating with its three stools.

The generously-sized counter has an uncluttered feel. The short side, holding the espresso machine, faces the window; while the long side has the brew bar and cakes. In size/layout (although not looks), it feels much like the front of Dunne Frankowski at Sharps in London, just without the barbers at the back. Talking of which…

Ox has a lovely little back room, the ideal cosy hideaway in the winter and a bright, airy space come summer. Essentially square, there’s a bench against the right-hand wall, accompanied by a coffee table. The only other seating is a table extending from the left-hand wall, a pair of bar-stools on each side.

However, that’s not all. Tucked away behind the shop, accessible through the back room, is a lovely garden, about same size as the back room. A sheltered affair, with a brick wall on one side and wooden fence on the other two, there’s enough space for four two-person tables. I imagine that in the summer it’s a lovely, sunny spot.

I’ve always been struck by how bright and welcoming Ox feels. The large, front windows let in plenty of light, while numerous light-bulbs hanging from the ceiling for gloomy days. This is helped by plain, whitewashed walls and widespread wood (floor, counter and furniture) plus a tin ceiling (a look which I love). The back room feels similarly bright and airy.

Ox opened on October 1st 2012 and rather than trying to do everything at once, owners Max and Will have taken a “steady as she goes” approach. The result has been measured, organic growth. When I first visited in early 2014, only the front section was open. When I returned in 2016, the back room and garden had been added. And on my most recent visit, Ox had started roasting its own coffee, using a San Franciscan roaster (sadly located off-site).

Will, one half of the team behind Ox, had previously spent five years as a roaster at Stumptown, so moving into roasting was a natural progression. Although Ox has been roasting for a year by the time I visited, it had only been serving the coffee in the shop since September. Currently offering two seasonal blends, conveniently named Ox Coffee #1 (on espresso) and Ox Coffee #2 (on filter), these are joined by two single-origins, one of which sits alongside #2 as an alternative filter.

Naturally, Max made me try everything, starting with the Ox Coffee #1. This turned out to be a really smooth, rich, well-balanced espresso which I thoroughly enjoyed. I followed that up with the Ox Coffee #2, a very drinkable, smooth, well-balanced filter coffee. Ox currently has an African and a Central American single-origin to provide contrast, the latter being a Guatemalan that was on during my visit. This was a fruity coffee with plenty of body which, on balance, I preferred over #2.

Max and Will have created something really special, a delightful, friendly neighbourhood spot. It’s been a delight following Ox Coffee’s evolution over the last four years and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll have in store for my next visit to Philadelphia.

March 2018: this is an updated version of the original post which was published in June 2014 and subsequently updated after my visit in February 2016. You can read about the most recent changes at Ox Coffee from my visit in March 2018.

www.oxcoffee.com +1 215 922 2531
Monday 07:00 – 17:00 Roaster Ox Coffee (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 17:00 Seating Benches, Bar, Tables, Bench & Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 17:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 17:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 17:00 Wifi No
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 9th March 2014
Update: 11th February 2016, 3rd March 2018

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

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