Merchant (Photo: Joshua Brasted)

New Orleans

Tres Buzzworthy: Best European Coffee Shops in the French Quarter

While chicory coffee made into a scalded café au lait may pair quite well with beignets from the famous Café Du Monde, the unique New Orleans drink might not be everyone’s particular cup of, well, coffee. Sometimes it’s impossible to deny the craving for a perfectly pulled shot of espresso or a heady mug of European dark roast. Luckily, these types of caffeine fixes are available throughout the city if you know where to look.

If you’re in the mood to sip in the style of the Old World, here are the top three spots to visit.

  1. Merchant is one of the only, if not the only, place in the city serving up Illy, a popular brand of Italian espresso. This sleek, modern café was opened in 2012 by Illy importer Rosario Tortorice, who is dedicated to an exceptionally high quality product and the art of the Italian espresso experience. The coffee here speaks for itself, with a streamlined drink menu that doesn’t need to stray beyond the basics: espresso, latte, cappuccino and not much more — though if you are craving a bit of chocolate, the baristas can whip up a mocha that is simply heavenly.
  2. Spitfire. Thanks to excellent beans and skilled baristas, the coffee at Spitfire is widely hailed by those in the know as some of the best in the city. It’s tough to go wrong with your drink selection here, but the vanilla latte, warm and rich without being overly sweet, comes strongly recommended. If you take your coffee black, ask the barista about the daily flavored brews. Spitfire’s “cozy” interior encourages patrons to take their coffee to go and explore the surrounding French Quarter.
  3. La Divina Gelateria. After touring Europe and living in Florence, Katrina and Carmelo Turillo returned to New Orleans with a desire to start a business based on the Italian passion for life’s simple pleasures. With La Divina, they translated this into gelato made from scratch and authentic specialty coffee. Their Italian-style espresso is custom roasted and lovingly prepared, resulting in drinks that even coffee connoisseurs adore. The Turillos are also committed to operating sustainably and sourcing local ingredients, so you can indulge yourself a little while benefiting the community. For a special treat, order a gelato “affrogato” — with a shot of espresso poured over the top. It’s the perfect pick-me-up to beat the midday heat during a French Quarter stroll.