ThirdPlace WorkSpace Thursdays - Cafe L'Aube, Rittenhouse Square

Café L’Aube on the 1900 block of Locust Street at Rittenhouse Square gets an awful lot right.

First, and possibly foremost, is the location.  It’s on the ground floor of a blonde brick pre-war apartment tower, just around the corner from my apartment and stone’s throw from the Square, itself.

But with a good location, comes high pressure to deliver a good experience inside, and boy do they deliver.  The small café is decidedly French, with jazz, folk, and accordion music playing over the speakers, fresh crepes, sandwiches, and baked goods served from behind the counter.  They roast their own coffee, which is nicely priced at $2 hot and $2.5 iced.  The Internet service is good (though you have to ask for the network and long password rather than having it written on the chalkboard) and tables are sturdy rounds for two that give you enough room for your laptop and/or notebook but don’t make feel bad about occupying all of with your laptop or sharing with an unwilling stranger.  My favorite quirk of this lovely spot might be the fact that, among their coffee fixings, they provide plastic cups with a water faucet (in the event that you are reaching your caffeine limit). Oh, and I'm told they're working on getting permitted for outdoor seating, which would be a big hit so close to the Square.

The clientele are a mixed bag of people coming in and out for a cup and those staying for a while; some working, others conversing.  I was joined by a handful of ThirdSpace workers, a small group of high school girls clearly looking for something a little more sophisticated than what might usually expected of them, and an elderly couple kindling that romance that must have started sixty years ago in the shadow of the Louvre. 

Apparently, they have two more locations; with expectations set high… I’ll have to check out the others later.

Table Space – comfortable and not intrusive to others
Wi-Fi – strong and readily accessible
Natural Light – abundant, some of it through stained glass
Atmosphere – intentionally and effectively Parisian
Dirty Looks? – nope (you won't be the only person working, but most aren't)
Bicycle Parking – street signs out front
Coffee – $2.00

Third places in a city or town are those that are neither home, work, nor shopping… they are the informal places in between, the public living rooms where we gather or go to be alone in a crowd… and there’s good argument that a culture of solid third places (Parisian café culture is so good as to become cliché) is a driver and indicator of community vitality. They can also be great workspaces for those of us not wanting to work from home, not yet being ready to pay for “real” commercial space, looking to get out of the office, or have a more informal meeting.  There’s etiquette (called buying things and not being a slob with your belongings) to working in a café, but doing so can be good for you and the proprietor alike.  In this blog, I’ll take you on a reviewed tour of some of Philadelphia’s ThirdPlace WorkSpace (trademark pending) opportunities.  I hope you join me.