How to Order Coffee Like a New Yorker

Female employee at service window, Nike and Coffee shop, New York, USA
Ian Spanier / Getty Images

So you're visiting New York City and you just want a coffee. Not a cappuccino, not espresso, not a latte or a macchiato. No fancy stuff, just plain, American coffee. But as with many things in NYC, you gotta know the local lingo or be laughed out of the building.

Learning how to order coffee like a New Yorker will not cosmically improve your life. It will not make your morning coffee taste better. You will still be stuck in an endless line at the coffee shop, bodega, corner store, cafe, or deli. It won't help you join the hip crowd, pay your bills, or watch your kids. Your Facebook friends won't like you more and will probably ignore your self-congratulatory post. No one outside the tri-state area will even know what you are talking about. Your mother, your girlfriend, your husband, your Twitter twits, your hockey team, your doctor, your boss, your tween daughter...

they all couldn't care less. But here's the thing: When in Rome... and you know the rest. That's true for New York, too. Plus you'll avoid all kinds of rolled eyes when you order this simple, gotta-have-it-every-day drink the right way, the New York way. 

Hint: This works in Dunkin Donuts in New York and Long Island, but not Starbucks. Don't even try it at Starbucks. That would be stupid. The opposite is even more stupid. A sign in a New York deli reads:

"If you insist on ordering a tall coffee, we insist on charging you like you're at Starbucks."

Ordering Coffee

Learn these simple phrases and you'll always get just the coffee you want and zero eye rolls/laughs/sarcastic comments from the locals. 

  • Regular coffee or just "coffee" -- That's a cup of joe plus plenty of milk or cream and sugar. Got it? You don't have to say milk and sugar. You'll get that thrown in like a bonus. It's your lucky day, champ.
  • Milk (or cream) and sugar -- Why would you order coffee like that? Why do you have so much time? You can't just say "regular?" Isn't that wasting less of everyone else's time? Yes, sometimes the person behind the counter doesn't know what "regular" means. Stop going to that place unless the next one is more than one block away. New York mantra: Do not waste time, yours or other people's. 
  • Dark -- Self-explanatory meaning just a little milk.
  • Lite or light -- A lot of milk, as in, yes, really light-colored coffee. More milk than a regular.
  • Extra-lite or extra-light -- More milk than a lite. You've got to be lactose tolerant to order this way.
  • Sweet and lite -- Lots of sugar, lots of milk.
  • No sugar -- Say it twice. Say it loud. Say it clear. The default is "with sugar." You got this, diabetics and people watching carbs, watching calories? 
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