Jeff Excell and Lauren Culley designed their Italian Village coffee and pastry shop around conversations. The Brooklyn-transplant owners of Fox in the Snow Cafe must be onto something, because this shop has been hopping since they opened in the fall.

Jeff Excell and Lauren Culley designed their Italian Village coffee and pastry shop around conversations. That's why there are plenty of blond wood seats but no Wi-Fi. The Brooklyn-transplant owners of Fox in the Snow Cafe must be onto something, because this shop has been hopping since they opened in the fall. Haven't been yet? Here are some insider tips that will make you sound like a regular, even if you aren't (though you probably should be). facebook.com/foxinthesnowcafe

Ask this question: "What are you pouring today?" That will signal to Excell you want more than just a cup of pour-over coffee. "I want people to know the coffee bar is an area where people can talk to the barista," Excell says. Your options right now: a citrusy and tropical Kenyan or the dark Guatemalan.

Order off-menu: Inquire about the not-listed New Orleans ($4). It's a cold coffee with milk that's sweetened with sugar and just enough chicory to be flavorful, not bitter. "It's supposed to taste like malted chocolate," Excell says.

Pair coffee with a scone: "There are a lot of important elements to a scone," Excell explains of Culley's fruit-filled pastries with a sugary caramelized top. These hit every high point: visible layers of fruit and a triangular shape perfect for coffee-dunking.

Eat cake for breakfast: Every day, Culley crafts a huge carrot cake with pineapple, coconut and two layers of caramel, available by the slice ($6). "It's not a traditional carrot cake, except there is carrot in it," she says with a laugh.