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Like so many great places in New York, Joe is small, easy to miss, a mostly unremarkable hideaway with a dozen or so tables and lots of steel library chairs that you can rearrange as conversations shift and people come and go. There's a wall-size photo collage of a café in Paris (Café La Palette, circa 1984), but the best part of the decor is the people. If you nurse your coffee long enough, it seems as if the whole neighborhood walks by. Recognizable folks stop in—Amy Sedaris bakes cupcakes for Joe on an irregular basis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman drops by with his baby. But they tend to blend into the gang of the locally famous: the photographer with the big blue macaw on his shoulder, the home-furnishings-store owner with her huge white bulldog, the hair saloniste who invented an organic blood-orange-and-vanilla body wash. Rubinstein circulates. "Rachel!" he'll say. "I almost didn't see you. Life is good? You in a show now?" Or to a dog waiting on the step outside: "Hi, cutie."

Coffee is addictive enough. But when your coffee shop starts providing the sort of regular and sometimes aimless conversations that help you feel at home in the world, it's hard not to stop in daily. Freelancers especially depend on Joe. "Working at home, I really missed somebody saying, 'How was your weekend? How's your life? Nice haircut!'" says June Cohen, author of The Unusually Useful Web Book. "Wherever I go, I'm always looking for a place like this. Even if nobody knows me, I still feel like I belong, because they're my people."

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