In his introduction for the Best Screenplay award at Sunday’s Oscars, Robert DeNiro described writers as “crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy.” True enough — and how better to wade through that morass of debilitating doubt and paralyzing solipsism than with a strong cup of coffee and a hefty pastry? Brooklyn may be known as the most writerly borough, but Queens has up-and-coming literary cool — along with coffee shops where you can torment yourself over a laptop for hours.
On that literary growth: The Queens writing scene has its own literary journal Newtown Literary, which launched in 2012, and a couple of new independent bookstores. The Astoria Bookshop, which supports local writers by hosting readings and prominently featuring their books, and Enigma Bookstore, which specializes in sci-fi, both opened last year. But if you want to see your sonnet cycle or metafictional epic on the shelves, you need to put in the time first.
Sweetleaf, 10-93 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, 917-832-6726
In Long Island City, get lattes with elaborate foam designs at this spot, which takes its coffee very seriously. Baristas here measure out Stumptown beans with something called a refractometer, yielding a carefully calibrated brew to go with baked goods, which include vegan and gluten-free options.
Communitea, 47-2 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, 718-729-7708
If rocket fuel isn’t your thing, try this LIC tea shop, which has 50 loose-leaf teas in addition to coffee, as well as free wi-fi and a menu of sandwiches, panini, soups, and salads. It’s a bit more spacious than Sweetleaf, but also, due to its brunchy vibe, less focused on the life of the mind.
Astor Bake Shop, 12-23 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria, 718-606-8439
The walk from the N train to this place may provide inspiration for your writing session, as it takes you through Old Astoria, a micro-neighborhood of grand, aging homes alongside the park. The café offers a range of coffees and teas and a solid sandwich menu; the burger, topped with “Astor sauce” and coleslaw on a challah roll, is particularly good. The airy, spacious setting and quiet corner make it an ideal place to linger.
Espresso 77, 35-57 77th Street, Jackson Heights, 718-424-1077
Moving eastward, this shop in Jackson Heights is dedicated to supporting Queens creatives, and it hosts gallery shows and performances. The menu deals in Gimme Coffee and Harney and Sons tea as well as goodies from nearby Cannelle Patisserie. In a corner of Queens sorely lacking for non-Starbucks options, this is an essential spot — especially when you let an afternoon of writing give way to an evening of sipping sangria and listening to live jazz.
Odradeks, 82-60 Austin Street, Kew Gardens, 718-374-3131
This Kew Gardens spot near the LIRR station is popular with commuters, but it’s also a welcoming shop to settle into, with its own book collection and local art on the walls.
Norma’s, 59-02 Catalpa Avenue, 347-294-0185
This Ridgewood haven entices the Bushwick artist overflow with its locally roasted beans, homemade coffee syrups, and sandwiches. And the homey, attitude-free ambiance may allow you to relax enough to bang out a few paragraphs.