Like many things in Brooklyn, Oslo Coffee Roasters is unassuming. A plain storefront that looks much the same as every other on the block, with a simple blue-and-white sign, sometimes a chalk sandwich board, to announce its location. But that’s okay. Once you’ve been in, you’re not likely to forget they’re there.
Meet Oslo Coffee Roasters
There are a lot of good coffee shops in New York, but they don’t all serve great coffee. That’s not the case at Oslo Coffee Roasters. Here, the coffee is the attraction.
Oslo began as a labor of love for owners JD and Kathy Merget. He worked for Starbucks and had spent his entire career in the coffee industry. She was a school teacher, who suggested they open their own café. In 2018, they celebrated their 15th Anniversary as “the neighborhood’s independent and locally owned coffee company” by opening their fourth location, and second in Manhattan.
The Oslo Experience
We visited the original location in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood on a quiet Sunday afternoon. To our surprise – and a little bit of disappointment – Oslo owes little to Norway except for inspiration from the Norse Pantheon. (Thor isn’t just the best name ever for a house blended coffee, it’s also a damn good brewed cup.)
Inside, décor is minimal, with a large communal table up front and a few smaller tables around the café. An antique manual typewriter is probably the first thing you’ll notice, with very few laptops on that large table. To keep the place social, there are no outlets and no Wi-Fi. Still, we found most patrons were buried in newspapers and notebooks; an older brand of social isolation.
Thanks to that “old school” approach to social interaction, Oslo is a great coffee stop while exploring Brooklyn, and to meet with friends. It’s not so great for getting work done but, again, that’s okay. Instead feeling compelled to check your email, portfolio, or latest viral videos, you’re given permission to focus on important things that you might not elsewhere: Coffee, and friends.
Speaking of coffee…
Deeper in is the shiny La Marzocco Strada espresso machine that pumps out perfectly balanced espresso drinks. They also offer brewed coffees, single-origin cold brews, and a variety of teas, including Chai. Pastries are courtesy of another Brooklyn establishment, Roberta’s Bakery & Pizzeria. In the back lies the secret to Oslo’s success and originality: A Probat small-batch roaster where they roast premium beans from farmers who use ecologically and socially sustainable practices. That tiny machine roasts 20 pounds at a time, for a company that delivers 1200 pounds a week, both in the cafes and packaged.
As for recommendations: Their own Thor House Blend is a great brewed coffee, as is the stronger Freya Dark Roast. Of course, we had to order a pair of latte’s, one with oat milk (at our request). Rich, full-bodied, and creamy. They gave us a moment to relax and enjoy, and then the caffeine boost to power on through Brooklyn.
Oslo Coffee Roasters now has four stores. The two in Manhattan are on 75th Street in Yorkville / Upper East Side, and the new one in the West Village on 10th between Hudson and Bleeker. Both Brooklyn cafes are in the Williamsburg neighborhood, on Bedford Avenue at 2nd and, in our photos, the original at Roebling and 4th Streets.
- Overall: 7.25
- Their coffee game is strong, and carries the cafe overall.
- Coffee: 4
- Smooth and tasty espresso drinks, and rich, balanced brewed coffees.
- Coffee Menu: 4
- Nothing out of the ordinary, but strong on espresso drinks and coffee options. Milk options include oat and almond. Bagged teas, plus brewed Chai tea.
- Eats Menu: 3
- Pastries only, from fellow Brooklyn company Roberta’s.
- Cleanliness: 3
- What sunk this rating was plates and cups left on the counter and tables, at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Understandable if the shop was busy, but it wasn’t.
- Atmosphere: 3
- Not exactly cozy. Décor is minimal, and seating is not plush, but everything comes second to the coffee. Our recommendation is to grab and go.
About the ratings: We use a simple and subjective scale of 1 to 5, based entirely on our experience and judgement as “civilian” coffee drinkers who frequent cafes and coffee shops. The scores for menus, cleanliness, and atmosphere are averaged, then added to the Coffee score. Thus, a shop with fantastic coffee and zero aesthetic appeal could rank higher than a very nice presentation that serves mediocre coffee. This system is under continuous evaluation and refinement, and updates are made as warranted.
Have you been to any of the Oslo Coffee Roaster locations? We’d love to hear about your experience, as well as other coffee shops you’d recommend! Just leave the details in a Comment below.