A café (also known as a coffee house) is defined as a place that sells coffee, drinks, and/or light meals. But if eating and drinking coffee were the only things people did in these boutiques, then Starbucks wouldn't be a multibillion-dollar franchise.
Cafés have evolved beyond being a place to eat and drink coffee. It's become the people's hangout—where colleagues meet, couples date, and friends talk. And with that in mind, we went and found the world's most innovative cafés who took that idea of a hangout and completely reinvented it into a new level of chic.
20 Hammock Cafés
Hammocks have become quite the theme for many cafés. Pictured above is the Hammock Cafe Penang from Malaysia. The café has a great variety of crêpes and provides full course meals and plenty of desserts.
The restaurant is also one of the friendlier spots on social media and is frequently showing off their newest treats while being quick to respond to questions and comments.
The interior is filled not only with hammocks, but low-seating chairs and tables. It’s a perfect chill spot for students and anyone else just looking to unwind. The soft lights and earth colors further give the café a very down-to-earth feel and it makes Starbucks look too uptight and formal in comparison. Just don't drink your lattes on the hammocks.
19 Cat Cafés
The Café Chat L'Heureux of Montreal, Canada is just one of many examples of cat cafés. Don't get us started on the amount of productivity lost when dealing with these fur balls, though.With the cats’ well-being in mind, the café has openly displayed rules and regulations while also respecting each individual’s health and hygiene.
The café is divided into two areas: a bistro section where one can dine or sip coffee or tea in peace. The second area is where the fun begins. It’s an open playground for everyone. Customers can lay down with the cats, play, or learn about them with provided learning materials. Educational events and conferences are also hosted here with a full schedule for any cat lover (or anyone curious about cats) to get their paws on.
18 Board Games Cafés
Tough to beat a good ol' boardgame while enjoying your favorite snacks and lattes. The Snakes and Lattes in Toronto, Canada does it big and occasionally holds events perfect for aficionados as the staff constantly work with the community to develop the city’s fondness for board games.
The café offers full menus of food and drinks. A $5 admission gives customers access to a public library of games from all kinds from classics like Snakes & Ladders, Hive, UNO to Risk.
Snakes & Lattes opened in the city in the fall of 2010 as the first board game café in North America. Renovating from a café house, the franchise has now expanded to a much bigger place fit for a tabletop culture and birthing their alcoholic counterparts, Snakes & Lagers.
17 Alternative Alice in Wonderland
We could've easily made this list based entirely on Tokyo, but Alice in a Labyrinth here takes fantasy to a whole new level even by crazy Japanese standards. In fact, there’s quite a bit of Alice in Wonderland- themed café restaurants in Tokyo, but this one wins for its originality. “A big picture-book meets an entrance,” according to their website description.
The interior will ensure countless selfies will be taken. Some of the tables have a face card design and the black and white interior color like the flooring further makes it appear like a chessboard straight out of the film or book.
The place is also pretty big and those stuck in their own little wonderlands may just end up feeling like they’re lost in a labyrinth.
16 Photography Cafés
Caffera, based in Manila, Philippines screams 'millennials' as the theme encourages taking hundreds of photos of your espresso.
The café focuses on vintage cameras and photography. The tumblers are made of camera lenses (real actual lenses) and so are the lighting fixtures. Most of the place is adorned with photography-inspired memorabilia. The place is small however and chairs are limited, but the ambience just captures enough of the shutterbug vibe.
The menu includes plenty of sweet treats from banana matcha frappe, red velvet cupcakes, and cookies, and creme frappe for very affordable prices. The sizes even go by pixel and megapixel. Students will enjoy this café like they enjoy their selfies and Instagram.
15 Robots in a Café
The future is here! Well, at least it is in Japan (where else, right?). Robo Café aims to have our electronic friends provide service and thus minimizes the need for human labor. Word broke out that they’re part of the first phase of the machine takeover and every employee here has been indoctrinated to serve their synthetic masters.
Jokes aside, the Robo café in the Shinjuku district is supposedly going to be designed with small horizontal pathways leading from the kitchen to all the tables where a small team of waiter robots go around when summoned by customers.
Customers can order verbally or flick through extra options on a touch screen on the robot’s belly. An aging population like Japan needs all the hands they can get even if said hands are robotic.
14 Dinner in the Sky
More of a restaurant than a cafe, Dinner in the Sky, pictured here is located in Las Vegas, USA has become one of the trendiest places to visit for food fanatics and thrill seekers alike.
A team of up to three chefs stand in the middle of the table and there are no fixed menus. Clients have reportedly been served a variety of food from lobsters to sushi, to tapas and gastronomic dinners.
The concept started in Belgium when Hakuna Matata, communications agency specializing in gourmet, teamed up with the Fun Group, a company specializing in amusement park installations deploying cranes. The result is part thrill-ride part-restaurant. The venue has since expanded to over 45 countries, including the aforementioned USA, Japan, Australia, and even the United Arab Emirates (Dubai), and South Africa.
13 Underwater Café
The world's first underwater restaurant, the Red Sea Star, is located in Eliat, Israel and is the perfect spot for those of us looking for a secluded romantic getaway that isn’t in a token postcard resort somewhere in the Caribbean. Or for those who are simply tired of land restaurants.
The Red Sea Star is comprised of two areas: a surface area and an underwater area. The surface area has a Metro Bar, which offers fantastic views of the Gulf of Aqaba and below the surface is a star-shaped area with a bar. Even the chairs are shaped like jellyfish. The place may be a bit too special for most, but it remains one of the most unique restaurants in the world.
12 Topless Waitstaff
How about a side of hot flashes with your coffee? The Grand View Café from Vassalboro, Maine featured a topless wait staff (both men and women). The café itself was more of a pub with your traditional pub grub like chicken wings, fries, and beer. The café specialized in finger food like nachos, spinach, artichoke dip, and even Asian dumplings.
Unfortunately, the place permanently closed down. A huge wave of protest was started after the restaurant put up a "boobies wanted" sign. Yikes. But at its peak, it was the talk of the town and of social media. Some reviews on yelp are already more entertaining than most films. Enjoy.
And Tokyo makes its third entry into the list with the irresistible allure of this chocolate-inspired cafe, 100% Chocolate. Affiliated with Meiji, Japan’s largest chocolate manufacturer, the café lives up to its name. This is a chocoholic’s dream.
The extensive menu features a plethora of desserts, chocolate drinks based on monolithic cocoa themes, and various other chocolatey products. The interior is softly lit and the white and bronze color scheme give the café a modern museum-like feel.
10 Sewing Café
Sweatshops are generally frowned upon, but the Sweatshop Café located in Paris, France combined the sewing experience with the café setting. It has regrettably shut down, however, but at its peak, the café opened in the trendy district of Canal Saint Martin.
The café was opened so aspiring seamstresses and hobbyists could practice their art while enjoying all the good treats and espressos the café had to offer. The café inspired to reconnect people with the joys of sewing (among other things). Sewing classes were offered and machines could be rented by the hour.
9 Daycare Cafés
Combine a kids' daycare with a café and this is what you get: the Kid Café Piccolo (pictured above), located in Seoul, South Korea.
The café is a collaboration between Korean designers, Podium and London branding and design agency, VONSUNG, who handled the café’s branding and packing. It has a simplistic aesthetic that focuses on its cleanliness and tranquility, which either assumes Korean kids are the most disciplined bunch or it wants to create a juxtaposition with how noisy and potentially reckless these little people can get.
This place looks more like an IKEA catalogue than an actual café however. And the café is tailored for western audiences even with English menus as opposed to Korean. It’s classier than a Chuck-E Cheese at least.
8 Inception-Style Café
The D’espresso Café above from New York City, unfortunately closed down, but its multidimensional library-inspired decor will live on in Google search forever.
The “books” here are actually sepia-toned photos of bookshelves printed on tiles that go around the room, including the floor, walls, and ceiling. It gives a very Alice in Wonderland-like feeling. Giving that disorienting vibe is exactly what the café aimed for. The inspiration came from the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey’s infamous space-station stewardess scene.
This would’ve been the perfect café for anyone who enjoyed feeling queasy on a regular basis or students who wanted a creative spark of sorts. Otherwise, the café was just a block away from the New York Public Library where bookshelves were more upright and ordinary.
7 Maid Cafés
Uncle Tetsu has been owning the cheesecake scene and is now taking charge of the Japanese maid fetish scene in Canada with Uncle Tetsu's Angel Café located in Toronto, Canada in the burgeoning Little Japan district right in the downtown core.
The café is pretty spacious with a two-story building and seating up to 72 customers on the second floor that includes booths, couches, and chairs at tables. The star attraction, the waitresses however are all dressed in Japanese maid costumes. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, they put on an energetic J-pop routine on a small stage.
This sounds like the perfect spot to meet fellow otakus or just a cool spot that serves some badass matcha and cheesecake.
6 Crafts Café
This is Thailand's version of an arts and crafts cafe called the Big Knit Café. This is also why your "made in Thailand" shirts can be so expensive. Jokes aside, the café has been inspired by the creativity and zeal of their customers. Their yarn collection is carefully selected and ranges from bamboo and cotton to silk and linen, warm alpaca, angora, cashmere, and merino, all of which comes in thousands of colors.
The actual café part is known for producing some hearty selections that give the feeling of “mom’s home cooking." They have a bakery and à la carte food items in the traditional thai mold like Tom yum and pad thai, and plenty of teas to choose from. If you’re homesick, this café sounds just like the perfect remedy.
5 Art Café
Van Gogh is Bipolar of Manila (VGIB), Philippines is like what happens when an internal combustion of zany art ideas happen inside a café. But VGIB isn’t just about the aesthetics; the café strives to help in cultivating the mind, body, and soul with a focus on a health-conscious menu from herbal teas, organic meats to strange brews.
The café is dedicated to their healthy and spiritual themes, along with adding artistic touches that makes even the menu look like a published novel. The website also offers hand-written notes on self-healing techniques that may prove beneficial. All in all, we have a café that isn’t just artistic on the exterior, but is wholly dedicated in its cause to double as an institution for individuals struggling with mild personal issues. Just like all good artists.
4 Vampire Café
With their fourth entry, the Vampire Café in Tokyo is where Halloween happens all the time. Run by Diamond Dining, the café is located in an otherwise ordinary-looking building but the décor has captured the spooky theme so well that if Dracula were to wake up here, he’d feel right at home.
The place is dimly lit, making it a bit difficult to see your food, but we’d guess that half the menu consists of vampire-themed treats and are blood red-colored. Even the toilets couldn’t avoid the Halloween makeover. This is a perfect spot to take vampire fans (Twilight-exempted) everywhere. Just come in with a cross, garlic, and some holy water in case there actually was a real vampire undercover.
3 Alternative Architecture
The Café la Miell in Niihama, Japan looks more like a museum or secret James Bond hideout than an actual cafe. Located in Niihama in Ehime, Japan, the café lacked the space to fit the daily customers they were getting. To make up for this, the café wished to expand to an extension across the street to hold an additional 80 customers.
Instead, Suppose Design Office utilized the one meter drop of the site to make a split level space with one floor at the building’s base level and the other at street level. The slanting roof has shingle lining it on the exterior and semi-glassy ceilings, added with the dazzling lights, give this café a more elegant look than most artsy places you can think of.
2 Treehouse (Naha Harbor Diner)
The Naha Harbor Diner in Okinawa, Japan is the closest thing to a treehouse café. The "tree" in question isn't actually real, but it's still worth a few selfies.
This “fake” tree is six meters (20 feet) high made of concrete. The vines around it are real however. The café serves a scenic view over the harbor from one side of the restaurant and the beautiful Onoyama Park from the other.
And while the tree isn’t organic, most of the menu here is. The restaurant serves organic Indian, Italian, and Japanese dishes with locally-produced ingredients. For its location, the diner is also reasonably priced.
Now all they need are some swings hanging off the branches and an Abercrombie model to pose as Tarzan.
1 Laundry Café
Doing laundry has to be one of the most unglamorous things about being in a civilized society. But thanks to Denmark’s Laundromat Café located in Copenhagen, you can now relax, sip on some lattes, and even sleep while doing your laundry. A simple, but genius concept.
The café, which opened in 2004, has fully embraced its laundromat identity, even having a cool-themed website after it. They serve almost everything you’d expect from a café: cakes, coffee, milkshakes, and more (more being wine and 40 kinds of beer). With franchises that have extended to Reykjavik, Iceland, the place also offers a mini-daycare with play areas for children as well as a good selection of magazines, newspapers, and board games! There's a reason Denmark is consistently a top-ranked country.