Philly's Ultimo Coffee, which started at 15th and Mifflin Streets in 2009 and opened a second shop last year at 22d and Catharine Streets, just snagged the #1 spot on TheDailyMeal.com's list of America's Best Coffee Shops.
"What makes Ultimo tick — and brings in Philadelphians in flocks? Simplicity, and a little bit of love," the blurb reads, in part. "And many will argue that Philadelphia, often seen as the underdog to the big cities of the Northeast, is hands-down the winner for the best cup of coffee because the coffee scene there is hardly home to the snobbery that can come with 'Third Wave' coffee." No atty-tude!
Town Hall in Merion Station - open about two years on Montgomery Avenue - came in at #33 nationally. The blurb reads, in part: "If we could transport the vibe from Cheers — where everyone knows your name — it could only be found at Town Hall Coffee Co." (Owner Tim Noble is about to open a second shop, downtown, in the Ben Franklin House at Ninth and Chestnut Streets.)
TheDailyMeal says its drink editor, Marcy Franklin, went through hundreds of listings of coffee shops. A panel of coffee aficionados and surveyors - coffee bloggers, coffee roasters, shop owners and baristas - then weighed in.
Editors also calculated the national "craft" coffee chains to be ranked among the list of independently owned coffee shops (in order to be considered "national," the chain must have shops in more than one state).
After Ultimo, the top five was rounded out by Gimme Coffee of Ithaca, N.Y.; Barista of Portland, Ore.; Courier Coffee of Portland, Ore.; and Cafe Grumpy of New York City.
Philly newcomer Joe was ranked #9 on the list.
Ultimo not only is a great name. It's the owners' name. Aaron and Elizabeth Ultimo set up their flagship location behind St. Agnes Hospital in a corner store shared with Brew, the craft-beer bottle shop owned by South Philadelphia Tap Room's John Longacre. Their Southwest Center City location is also shared; it's downstairs from Counter Culture's training center. Coincidence, perhaps, but both Ultimo and Town Hall sell Counter Culture Coffee.