Coffee shops are great for a quick caffeine boost or an extended remote work session, but the food is rarely memorable. But at Flow State Coffeebar in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, the WiFi is fast, the cold brew is flowing, and the pastries and gelato on par with what you’d find in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Melanie Diamond-Manlusoc, with her wife, Liz Diamond-Manlusoc, and business partner, Maggie Lee, opened Flow State in 2017 as a hybrid coffee shop and coworking space, citing the café culture in Europe as an inspiration. “We like the idea of having a place that’s vibrant—where people come to work, but we also want to encourage a livelier environment that allows an exchange of ideas,” says Lee, who was born in Guangzhou, China, and grew up in Philly.
The chef takes the exact same care she used at her former fine-dining posts (at Morimoto and Spiaggia) with every item on the menu at Flow State. Each batch of gelato—in flavors like avocado and buko pandan (based on a popular Filipino dessert she ate growing up)—can take up to three days to make. All the paninis are made on bread baked by Diamond-Manlusoc; varieties include roquefort, challah, milk focaccia, and cinnamon raisin brioche. The signature panini is served on her funky, tangy roquefort bread with housemade fig jam, cashew butter, havarti, and fontina cheeses, buttered on both sides and pressed, which she likens to “an adult peanut butter and jelly or a fancy cheese board in sandwich form.”
Diamond-Manlusoc also makes all of the caramels and syrups that go into coffee drinks. “The vanilla bean caramel made with madagascar bourbon vanilla beans is the same exact caramel that I’ve put on fancy-ass plated desserts in the past,” she says. “But now we put it in a latte or a cortado.” Rosemary caramels are made with sprigs of the fresh herb, spices for the chai are mixed and ground in-house, and pastries like her concha—a cross between the Mexican sweet roll and a Filipino pandesal and a perfect vehicle for scoops of gelato—take days to make.