I’ll admit it: this post is a little niche. Cafes that serve nothing but oats sound almost like an impossible business idea, and this is definitely what I thought the first time I heard about Grød, Copenhagen’s porridge bar. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I liked porridge – how could a cafe that serves nothing else survive in a city so full of exciting brunch options?
However, upon my first visit I was completely sold: not only was an oatmeal-only café an unusual idea, it was a great one, and a spot I would end up returning to time and time again during my time living in the Danish capital. It’s one of my favourite cafes in the world.
Since leaving Copenhagen, I’ve found myself pining for a bowl of porridge from Grød, and have missed being able to swing by whenever I fancied. When I visited New York earlier this year and started to research some foodie options for my trip, I found out about another oatmeal-only café with a similar concept, and I was excited to see how the New York café measured up. Having assumed Grød was the only oatmeal-only cafe in the world, I expanded my research, and I found out about a third oatmeal-only café, this time in my new home of London. What else could I do than head on a pilgrimage to these two cafes, and check out which served up the best gourmet porridge?
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on three oatmeal-only cafes around the world.
The first porridge café I ever visited, and my aforementioned favourite breakfast spot in the world, Grød is the original oatmeal-only café, having been founded in 2011 and quickly expanding to a mini empire of 5 porridge bars throughout Denmark. My favourite outpost has to be the first I ever visited and the flagship location: located on foodie street Jægersborggade in the heart of Nørrebro, the cafe exudes Scandi minimalism, and rain or shine it’s a great spot to settle in and people watch for a while.
As mentioned in my foodie guide to 24 hours in Nørrebro, a visit to Grød is perhaps the most important recommendation I give to friends, family and random acquaintances upon learning that they are visiting the Danish capital. Grød offers up Scandinavian twists on the humble bowl of porridge, with everything from sweet dishes such as my all-time-favourite apple, toasted almond and caramel sauce, to savoury dishes such as porridge-based takes on risotto and daal. The prices are also really reasonable: a hearty bowl of porridge will set you back between around 45 and 70 DKK (5-8 GBP or 6-10 USD). In a city that’s known for being an expensive travel destination, this is probably one of the best options for a budget breakfast that will keep you full all morning without having to compromise on quality!
The second stop on my porridge pilgrimage was Oatmeals, NYC’s porridge-only café in Greenwich Village. This cafe describes itself as ‘the world’s first all-oatmeal cafe’, although it did open up in June 2012, the year after Grød launched.
Oatmeals serves up a number of Signature Bowls: takes on oatmeal dishes ranging from the sweet to the savoury, the classic to the innovative. As well as the menu of pre-designed bowls, there is the option to build your own, choosing between a wide variety of toppings and sauces to make your own little bowl of oatmeal heaven. The oats at the cafe come in three portion sizes, the adorably named Baby Bear at 8oz, Mama Bear at 12oz and Papa Bear at 16oz. With prices under $8 for the largest sizes, this is a really great value option for a filling and warm breakfast in Greenwich Village, especially on a cold day! When I visited I had a bowl called ‘The Hot Date’: my oats were topped with dates, pecans and granola, plus a sizeable dollop of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. The Mama Bear portion size was just right, and the oatmeal was delicious – I keep meaning to make my own version of this at home!
The decor in the cafe is really well put together, with lots of oatmeal-related decorations, and a proud display of press pieces about the cafe in the window. The staff are friendly, and as well as the oatmeal bowls the cafe also offers a range of oat-based pastries, as well as coffee and tea from Porto Rico Importing Co. based on nearby Bleecker Street. It’s not a huge spot, so it may be difficult to grab a table at times, but with Washington Square Park just a short stroll away, there’s always the option to eat your porridge bowl al fresco.
Next on my list of porridge bars to try was the London cafe, 26 Grains, located in colourful Neal’s Yard just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden. 26 Grains makes no secret of its Scandi inspiration: their websites states that they serve ‘bowls of hygge’, the Danish concept of coziness and togetherness that has become incredibly popular in the UK in recent years. Like me, British owner Alex Hely-Hutchinson actually spent a year living in Copenhagen, and while she was there was inspired by the Scandinavian emphasis on fresh, simple produce. I’d wage a bet that she visited Grød a couple of times while she was out there, too!
I wasn’t sure how 26 Grains would measure up to Grød and Oatmeals, but honestly, I was really impressed. When I arrived on a rainy bank holiday Monday, the cafe was busy, so we grabbed a little table outside under the awning. The menu looked great, and when our coffee arrived in gorgeous Scandi style cups I was instantly sold. The porridge more than measured up, too: I ordered a sweet bowl with Greek yogurt, rhubarb and granola, while my sister and girlfriend both chose the savoury daal porridge. Both were delicious, and at £6 and £8 respectively, pretty reasonable for a meal in a central London cafe!
The big question: who comes out on top?
I actually love all three of these cafes, but for me, my original porridge heaven will always be my favourite. Grød has it all: wonderful food, great coffee, gorgeous Scandi vibes and the added bonus that a meal at Grød means a meal in one of my favourite cities in the world. However, I would definitely revisit all three – this is one porridge lover who will most definitely be back for more.
What do you think of this concept? Have you been to an oatmeal-only cafe, or would you visit one? I’d love to know your thoughts! If you know of any other oatmeal-only cafes, please let me know in the comments below, as I’d love to continue trying these out! I realised after my trip to Boston and NYC that there’s actually one open in Boston, too: I’m so sad that I didn’t get to try Oat Shop! Has anybody been?
As always, I’ve linked the Instagram accounts of these spots below: all of these accounts serve up some serious food porn, so make sure you’ve got snacks on hand while you scroll! Enjoy!