Caribou I Like the coffee, free refills. No verbal exchange between the staff, customers, anything. Right up there with McDonalds or Tim Horton's for community.
Cup O Joe Despite my
Northstar Might be my favorite coffee. But, I get up around 5:30. If a place opens at 8 or later, they may as well open at noon. The waitstaff is genial - if you tip.
Luck Brothers Outstanding Coffee. They open late, so I have little experience with them. It too appears, albeit after only one visit, to be a popular portal for "social" web updates.
Stumptown Just awesome in every way. But, they're in Portland, OR. I have no idea why I mentioned them.
Starbucks? The local ones - not the koban or instore models, those suck, bad. The local ones. My fav is N. Broadway and N. High. Like the others, it is frequented by a heads down culture (phones, ipads, etc.), but more staff know more first names than anywhere I've been in the city. When they take out the trash, they stop by a couple tables to shoot the breeze before returning to their post.
I've always been interested in what makes things popular and/or successful. Starbucks is. I don't sense it's contrived; the staff know their patrons, they have fun, they joke with each other, they know their regulars in a genuine way. I was recently in Boston (Peabody) and could never believe Dunkin' would ever be trumped, but a local Starbucks looked like a 5 year high school reunion.
How do I deal with the horrid drip? The espresso is acceptable. Big cup of water to make my doppio in a demitasse last the duration of my savored social experience.