Plenty Café, East Passyunk

The sign hanging outside Plenty on East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia.When I first visited Philadelphia, Plenty Café, in Rittenhouse, was one of the first coffee shops that my friend Greg introduced me to. Back then, Plenty was a chain of precisely two, the Rittenhouse branch having recently joined the original on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. Having really liked the Rittenhouse branch, I was determined to try out the original on my return to Philadelphia in 2016. Sadly, for various reasons, I never actually got around to completing my write-up, so when I finally returned to Philadelphia two years later, I decided to rectify matters…

The original Plenty Café is quite a different beast from Rittenhouse. Here the emphasis is more on food, with full (and excellent) breakfast, lunch and evening menus, backed up by a generous selection of cake. There’s also beer, wine and a fully-stocked bar. And then there’s coffee, for, despite the focus on food, Plenty has the sort of coffee-offering that you’d find in any decent speciality coffee shop. There are bespoke blends on espresso (Gallivant) and bulk-brew (Wayfarer), roasted by Lancaster’s Square One. The Gallivant blend is joined on espresso by a bespoke decaf (Voyager) and by a rotating single-origin, also from Square One.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • If ever there was a case for my 'no parking in front of coffee shops' law to be introduced...
  • Fortunately, I was able to get a better shot of Plenty Cafe on my return in 2018.
  • The view from the same side of the street, looking northeast along Passyunk Avenue...
  • ... and the view the other way.
  • You can sit out side if you like, although you'll need to be hardy to do it in February/March.
  • If you don't fancy sitting right next to the busy road, you can always sit here instead.
  • I appreciate a place that puts the menus in the window.
  • I also appreciate a good sign.
  • The door's on the left, an airlock style arrangement that delivers you to the front of Plenty.
  • There's a window-bar here that stretches across the windows at the front.
  • A view of the front of Plenty...
  • ... and the view the other way, with Plenty stretching off into the distance.
  • There's a solitary two-person table on the left, then this row in the middle...
  • ... and another row down the right-hand wall (seen here from the back).
  • Talking of which, this is view from the back...
  • ... while if you turn around, you'll see the second part of Plenty, up a small step.
  • There are two of these tables here on the right...
  • ... while on the left, beyond the till, the counter stretches out, complete with seating.
  • There's very little natural light back here, so there are plenty of light bulbs instead.
  • Unsurprisingly, I was very taken with them...
  • ... particularly this one, for some reason.
  • Meanwhile, these, hanging over the tables at the back, at least had shades on.
  • At the front, this magnificent creation provided lighting from the centre of the ceiling.
  • Other nice touches included this mirror on the wall at the back, opposite the counter...
  • ... although for me, at least, pride of place goes to this on the right-hand wall.
  • The counter is on the left, at the back, starting with the coffee.
  • The coffee set-up as seen from the till. The three grinders are house, single-origin & decaf.
  • The coffee set-up seen from the front...
  • ... while tucked away to the left is this little takeaway station in case you're not staying.
  • However, it's not just coffee (and tea). Plenty has plenty of wine and beer too!
  • And here's the fully-stocked bar. The photo of the menu, by the way, was from 2016.
  • Talking of which, this is the main menu, including coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • And this is from 2018. Although the style has changed slightly, the substance is the same.
  • Plenty also has a wide selection of cake.
  • Various bespoke blends are roasted for Plenty by Square One from Lancaster.
  • The current choices: Gallivant, Voyager (decaf) and single-origin, from my visit in 2018.
  • When I visited in 2016, Plenty was still doing hand-pour, and had a guest roaster.
  • I had a V60 of this Ethiopian single-origin from Supersonic, all the way from Oakland, CA.
  • I paired it with a slice of the apple cake, which was lovely.
  • I was so impressed that I returned that evening for dinnner and the roasted cauliflower...
  • ... which I followed by a slice of the pistachio torta for dessert.
  • On my return in 2018, it was brunch time, so I indulged in the stuffed French Toast.
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This is the original Plenty Café, with two further branches, the previously-mentioned one in Rittenhouse, and a newly-opened Queen Village branch, which I’ve also visited, but yet to write up. All three are, in look and feel, very different, but all, in their own ways, very elegant. Rittenhouse is compact, with a neat mezzanine, while Queen Village is a large, open square, with windows on two sides. In contrast, the original on East Passyunk Avenue, is long and thin, with a front and rear section, separated by a small step.

From the street, on the northern side of Passyunk Avenue, Plenty Café doesn’t seem very big. The front is essentially all glass, with some tables outside on the broad pavement, plus a colourful awning to catch your eye. Even so, I almost walked past back in 2016 after my 30-minute march in freezing (-4⁰C) temperatures from Ox Coffee.

The door’s on the left, leading into an airlock arrangement, with the second door on your right, depositing you at the front of Plenty. There’s a four-person window-bar and a scattering of small, square two-person tables in the front part. Four of these are along the right-hand wall, two line the centre, while there’s one each on the left-hand wall and against counter, which marks the end of the front section.

A small step on the right leads to the back part, which is dominated by the counter, running full length on the left. Although separated by no more than a step, the two spaces feel quite different: the front more of a traditional café, the back taking on the feel of a bar.

The back has less seating, just two high, four-person tables against the right-hand wall, then, beyond them on the left, the counter effectively turns into a bar, lined by seven high chairs. The front part, meanwhile, houses the coffee with a two-group La Marzocco GB5 and its three grinders facing forward. The till is just around the corner, where you’ll also find the cake, although you only need to come here if you’re ordering takeaway since Plenty, refreshingly, offers full table service.

On my first visit in 2016, Plenty did pour-over, although it’s since stopped. It also had regular guest roasters and I had a lovely well-balanced Ethiopian from Oakland’s Supersonic (now AKA) as a pour-over. I was dithering over something to go with it, so the barista suggested the apple cake, an awesome choice. The cake was rich and moist, but the clincher was the apple, the cake being layered with slices of apple, adding extra sweetness and moisture to an already amazing concoction.

I’ve come to think of this (and Plenty’s Queen Village branch) as more of a restaurant doing great coffee than a coffee shop doing food (although you’re still welcome to come in for coffee if you like), so I popped back that evening for dinner, sampling one of Plenty’s small plates (which might be small by American standards, but which are more than enough for a light dinner for one). I tried the roasted cauliflower, while I had the pistachio torta for dessert, both of which were excellent.

On my return two years later, I was there for Saturday brunch. Having over-caffeinated myself at the nearby Rival Bros, I skipped coffee and went for the stuffed French Toast. I often find French Toast disappointing, promoting sweetness over substance, but this was awesome, with light, fluffy bread, and, although sweet, not sickly sweet. There were plenty of berries too, all topped with a generous helping of mascarpone. Definitely the gold standard of French Toast!

1710 EAST PASSYUNK AVENUE • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19148 • USA +1 267 909-8033
Monday 07:00 – 22:00 Roaster Square One (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 22:00 Seating Tables, Window Bar, Counter, Tables (Outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 22:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 22:00 Service Table
Friday 07:00 – 00:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 00:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 22:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 11th February 2016, 3rd March 2018

Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Philadelphia’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia.

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6 thoughts on “Plenty Café, East Passyunk

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