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NoHo Know How: Where to go for a cup-o-joe

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In a college town, a savvy student ought to know the best joint in town to grab a cup o’ joe. The following includes a line up of the best study spots, most delicious café fare and grooviest music scenes. So stay in the know and check out future installments of NoHo Know How.

Best Music Scene: The Yellow Sofa

This is a great place to go for music later in the evening, as the Yellow Sofa has a lot of musical artists come by every Wednesday through Saturday, as well as an open mic night every Thursday starting at 7 p.m. There is a minimum $5 charge on anything bought during the open mic however, which is a little steep if you just want a cup of coffee.

The café has a large variety of pastries to choose from, as well as a wall filled with greeting cards. Everything is made locally and they have even started serving wine and beer. The wi-fi is of course free, although you have to ask behind the counter if you want to use it. There are also plenty of comfortable chairs to study in (or browse Facebook in.)

In short, if you love music, check out the Yellow Sofa.

Best Atmosphere: The Mosaic Café

The Mosaic is a charming Moroccan café located on a side street near Smith College. They serve a variety of Mediterranean appetizers and meals, as well as some specialty drinks, including a Nasnas, named after a monster from Arab mythology. The drink contains milk carefully topped with espresso. They also have crepes available as well as a few unique pastries, all of which look delicious.

The atmosphere is very comfortable, with light Moroccan music in the background. The shop is well lit and every table is inviting with a small vase of flowers on each table. It just feels like a place you want to bring people to or go to study, and with free Wi-Fi there is no reason not too.

Once the weather warms up the café will also open up its patio, which is in a quiet and secluded area of town. This is a great place if you want exotic food, a good atmosphere or a place to take your next date.

Best Artsy Coffee Shop: The Haymarket Café

The first thing that strikes you when you look at the Haymarket Café is the apparent small size of the shop from outside. Upon entering, a long room and a staircase leading downstairs greet you. The staircase leads to another sitting area where it is also possible to get a meal. At the end of the elongated room up top there is a place to buy a variety of fairly inexpensive coffee at $1.25.

The Haymarket also has a number of fancy looking pastries, but what is most striking is the exquisite feel of the place. A number of statuettes are scattered throughout the small shop, as well as quite a number of hand painted walls and paintings. The café feels on the fancier side while maintaining a comfortable coffee shop feel. And of course there is free Wi-Fi.

If you want to be surrounded by art this is the place to go. The Haymarket Café is located across from Thornes Marketplace.

Best for a Sweet Tooth: La Fiorentina

For those who have more of a sweet tooth, but are still looking to get their caffeine fix, La Fiorentina is a great place to check out. Located a little ways off Pleasant Street the shop carries a huge selection of pastries, in addition to a small coffee bar. There is a vast selection of flavors for coffee, as well as some sweeter caffeinated drinks.

The shop carries a number of cakes, espresso cups, cannolis and even a pie crust with hazelnut insides. The only drawback is that the shop doesn’t have wi-fi, so this is not the ideal place to go to study … But it is definitely a great spot for after dinner though.

Best Customer Service and Staff: Sam’s Pizzeria & Café

Sam’s was actually a contender for two other slots: best music scene and best overall coffee shop. With locally brewed Rao’s coffee, free wi-fi, fresh baked goods including truffles, and even a wide selection of specialty pizzas, the small pizzeria and café certainly has a lot going for it. They cater to a lot of local tastes and have a hired band play every Thursday and Saturday, as well as jazz on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons. According to the staff, Friday nights have a packed open mic that even out does the Yellow Sofa’s.

The staff was what really made the shop stand out, though. Walking in you’ll be  greeted almost immediately and feel right at home. The staff seems to want to talk and interact, which is a welcome change from many shops where counter personnel just shrug you off as another customer. The overall vibe from the shop is really friendly, in addition to the other great things about the shop. Overall this is definitely one of the best cafés in Northampton.

Best Overall Coffee Shop: Woodstar Café

Woodstar Café is what the ideal coffee shop should be like. The shop has a huge variety of freshly ground coffee, tea and other cold beverages. This is in addition to the freshly baked loaves of bread for purchase as well as a few sandwiches and pastries. Everything is fresh and much of it local.

The shop is very clean and exudes a comfortable yet modern coffee shop feel. The sounds of coffee grinding and brewing behind the counter are the sort of ambient noise one looks for in a coffee shop, besides music for the patrons’ listening pleasure. This is an ideal place for lunch, or to study, or to just sit down with a friend and talk.

Honorable Mentions:

Two other cafés nearly earned a spot on the NoHo Know How line-up, but closed a little too early to make the cut. Nevertheless, they are worth honorable mentions: the Green Street Café and Elbow Room, both located on Green Street. Both joints are certainly worth a shot to get you coffee fix.

Tappan Parker can be reached at rtparker@student.umass.edu.

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