TheDailyMeal, a blog that highlights notable food and beverage trends from around the world, has named South Philadelphia’s own Ultimo Coffee best in America. The blog asked coffee experts to nominate their favorite shops, then a panel voted and the site published the top 33.
Criteria used to determine the top spots were coffee quality, atmosphere, customer service and uniqueness. TheDailyMeal cited Ultimo Coffee’s amazing roasts from Counter Culture Coffee, impeccable staff and complete lack of pretension as reasons for awarding the title.
Ultimo Coffee opened four years ago in Philadelphia’s Newbold neighborhood and since has become a second home for many people there. Residents and friends Diana Barnard and Rene Micheli met at Ultimo and agree that it’s the perfect hangout. Barnard’s been in the neighborhood a year longer than Ultimo, but when Micheli was looking to buy a house last year, the coffee shop was a deciding factor in moving to Newbold. “I’m ruined,” she says, “I can’t drink coffee from anywhere else. It’s art; it’s alchemy.”
Barnard emphasizes the customer service, noting that the entire staff is sweet and knowledgable.
Barista Brian Gelletly has worked at Ultimo for three years. He said that he hopes that no one is intimidated by the shop’s coffee bar, where each cup is made “pour-over” style by hand. Gelletly says the hardest part about his job is creating consistency from cup to cup. His says his job is a “step beyond,” that it’s the pride of creating something by hand that makes the job worth while.
Gelletly’s customer service philosophy is to gauge where his customers’ minds are and try to engage them from there. If they want to talk about the coffee, so does he. If they want just want to grab a cup and run out the door, he’ll provide them with a smile. It’s always obvious that Gelletly is excited about the coffee. “It’s delicious!”
New York City and Portland, Ore., were the only other two cities in the TheDailyMeal’s top five. They refer to Philly as an “underdog city,” but said that it’s “hands-down the winner” because it lacks the snobbery of other noted coffee shops and that it’s the people behind the counter who really determine the best place to enjoy a cup of coffee.