Cozy Café Hangouts Perfect for Winter Days
New Hampshire café owners combine food with Wi-Fi, retail and ambience to create unique and unforgettable “feel-good places”
Downtime deserves an address — a hangout, a place to chill. In a thoroughly busy and modern world, finding a place to relax, meet friends and accomplish some unfinished work may seem like a tall order. Today’s “hangout” establishments fill that niche.
Mix a bit of commerce with refreshment and some entertainment, then add a comfy vibe and a strong Wi-Fi signal — all in one space — and you’ve got a recipe for a “feel-good place.” Here are a few such places in New Hampshire where entrepreneurs have merged the café concept with traditional retail, and invite you to enjoy a leisurely afternoon with food and drink on hand and a chance to engage friends, both digitally and in person.
Overstuffed chairs, generous tables and the freedom to “just hang” make these welcoming locales the perfect place to drop anchor. Good coffee (and food) and a family-friendly atmosphere allows for life to keep flowing while you grab a respite from a sink filled with dirty dishes and a dog barking at the arrival of your latest Amazon delivery. The cherry on top? Added culture in the form of art, literature, music and community, plus the chance to buy a favorite book, play a game of chess or grab a bouquet of flowers. Now, doesn’t that all add up to feeling good?
It’s a concept ideal for our time. After all, being digitally connected (or distracted) in a common space means that traditional socializing is at least happening on some level. As face-to-face interaction is on the decline, these places provide human contact — with the bonus of a bit of retail therapy. And, FaceTime notwithstanding, nothing can beat the glow of an authentic smile on a real human face.
Set in an old train station, this Goffstown getaway is always busy. It’s a true emporium of worldly goods mixed with natural elements, flowers and food. The setting is about community, sharing, and providing patrons not only a place to hang, but a place to be inspired. Locals bring their own instruments or make use of the upright piano in the café for background melodies. Folks and families congregate in charming nooks made of mismatched tables and chairs, which are accented with artisan pillows and living plants. Bring your computer or bring your friends.
- Wi-Fi: Yes
- Seating: A mix of mismatched chairs and tables, vintage couches and nook seating hidden throughout the shop and café
- Vibe: Flower child meets green and sustainable, with natural and sculptural installations, vintage building elements and curiosities
- Food and drink: Coffee, sweet breads, sandwiches and tea. Try the pink beet latte during the month of February.
- What’s popular: Coffee in all its forms and fresh flowers
- Specialties for sale: Flowers, plants, cards and stationery, home décor items and gifts, plus coffee drinks, pastries and sandwiches
24 Main St., Goffstown
Mon-Fri, 7 a.m.-7p.m.
Sat, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
This modern-day chocolate factory pairs the process of chocolate-making with a quiet and comfortable café. A walk through the door immerses you in all things chocolate, as well as the aroma of cocoa beans being roasted and ground to make award-winning chocolate bars. Take a tour to see the process and peruse the how-to charts and images that show the beans from harvest to handcrafted confections. Meet friends to savor Vicuña drinking chocolate, which is an experience between hot cocoa and eating a chocolate truffle. Or share Vicuña chocolate chunk cookies washed down with the best coffees in espresso and latte presentations.
If you are looking for a more singular and quiet experience, then bring your laptop and relax at a table while savoring one of their many artisanal chocolate bars that can be shipped anywhere. If you are a chocolate aficionado, you can’t help but feel good after a visit to Vicuña.
- Wi-Fi: Yes
- Seating: Chairs and tables, high-tops, cozy couch seating area
- Vibe: Earthy and organic with a strong nod to the process of chocolate-making from cocoa pods to hand molded bars. Black-and-white imagery of cocoa plantations and the harvest of beans adds authenticity. Enjoy the fragrance of processed chocolate, which hangs in the air like freshly baked brownies.
- Food and drink: Specialty coffee and chocolate drinks, cookies, brownies, and chocolates made in house from beans roasted on premises
- What’s popular: Drinking chocolate and cocoa nib brownies fresh from the oven
- Specialties for sale: A mix of handcrafted chocolate bars shipped anywhere
15 Main St., Peterborough
Thurs-Sun, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
From “teas to taps,” this corner bookstore merges the best in literature with the best in bar fare. Known affectionately as Portsmouth’s communal living room, the space has the air of a library mixed with the hipness of a college coffee house. Patrons are immersed in their own digital worlds at tables, couches and bar stools while book lovers disappear among the stacks of books with lattes in hand. Live entertainment happens almost every evening with a full spectrum that stretches from hip hop night to poetry readings. A daytime visit finds accomplished baristas drawing your portrait on the top of a foamy latte with a toothpick. Popular eats include The November sandwich, which is a top pick any month. It includes turkey and cheese on whole grain bread spread with cranberry sauce that pairs well with Silence of the Lambs, a Belgian beer from Rockingham Brewing Company in Derry. On cold days you might opt for the Nog It Off vodka and Bailey’s drink topped with whipped cream and served with a slab of fudge. No matter when you visit, or what draws you in, there is a lot to feel good about at Portsmouth Book & Bar.
- Wi-Fi: Yes
- Seating: Chairs and tables, bar stools, comfy club chairs and sunny window seats
- Vibe: Über-hip modern bookstore and bar setting with interesting drinks, freshly made food and evening entertainment
- Food and drink: Breakfast, lunch, small plates, sandwiches, salads, plus wine, beer, cocktails, coffee drinks and tea
- What’s popular: Portrait lattes and Nog INHt Off coffee drinks
- Books for sale: Academic titles, philosophy and the social sciences, poetry, the arts, cookbooks, gardening and children’s books
- Entertainment: Poetry readings, book clubs, open mic night, and rock and jazz bands
40 Pleasant St., Portsmouth
Sun-Tues, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Wed-Sat, 10 a.m.-12 a.m.
If North Conway were Paris, then Toulouse-Lautrec would certainly frequent The Met. Situated in the center of town in the picturesque New Hampshire North Country, this busy hub of activity is a sophisticated mix of coffee drinks and fine local art. From the dark, detailed woodwork to the soaring ceilings with glass ball chandeliers, this café has the real feeling of metropolitan life. The vintage building, with its tall windows and double doors, opens to a beautiful room filled with light and detailed with a mosaic tile café floor. A pastry case is filled with fresh treats, while the staff bustles behind the counter preparing specialty coffees. Around the perimeter you will find comfy library chairs to relax in and tables for dining on the establishment’s popular salad and sandwich menu. A back room has more quiet spaces for the “digitally preoccupied” and a hall of art by local artists that is all up for sale. Upstairs has larger visiting tables and chair groupings for playing games or assembling puzzles. Lots of returning locals and their families inhabit this space, and friendly conversations can be heard throughout. Check the website for changing gallery shows and visit often to get a great re-charge of caffeine, culture and community.
- Wi-FI: Yes
- Seating: Chairs and tables, high-tops, overstuffed chairs and couches with coffee tables, plus other large tables for playing games and making puzzles
- Vibe: Old-fashioned and French-inspired with a real air of culture and sophistication. Second-floor seating lends to the ability to spread out and relax while visiting or playing a game. Interesting local art means an ever-changing and interesting gallery of work.
- Food and drink: Specialty coffee drinks, smoothies, pastry, salads and sandwiches, plus gelato (seasonal)
- What’s popular: Cappuccino, espresso and apple turnovers
- Specialties for sale: Coffee mugs and T-shirts, flavored coffees by the pound, fine art from local artists
2680 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway
Daily 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m.