Travel the caffeine nation
EC: 51 of the Best Coffee Shops in America
Credit: Illustration by Lauren Kolm

Close your eyes and picture the best coffee shop you can imagine. What comes to mind? Is it a throwback counter with a rotating pie case and a gum-smacking waitress named Marge? Maybe for you, the best coffee shop is a sprawling, lived-in space with a mismatched collection of couches and a folk duo tuning guitars in the corner. It could even be a sun-dappled patio with the resident cat curling up at your feet while you spend hours catching up with a friend over cappuccinos. "Coffee shop" can mean many different things depending on where it is, and the best coffee shops don't necessarily have to boast the flashiest baristas, cutting-edge coffee gear, or even the best brews—though many of them certainly do.

A coffee shop is the ideal hub for a particular community, and we made it our mission to find some of the best coffee shops in the country by using a very scientific method: We asked people what their local favorites are and listened closely to what they had to say.


Urban Standard, Birmingham

EC: message-editor%2F1495113340742-urban_catering0111
Credit: photo by caleb chancey

When this coffee spot opened on Second Avenue a decade ago, it wasn't just the new kid on the very quiet Downtown Birmingham block—it was pretty much the only one. Now an anchor of the revitalized neighborhood, it's constantly bustling with neighbors, students, creatives, and local workers grateful to have such a warm, welcoming place to set up camp for a while.


For plenty of people, a great cup of joe is akin to a religious experience. Since 1993, this lovely, airy church-turned-coffee shop and gallery has sealed that deal. Resurrect features works for sale by local artists and allows locals to relax and contemplate the ever-changing selection, one sip at a time.


Bergies, Gilbert

EC: message-editor%2F1495113371962-16716261_10155029094059244_78056442141289632_o
Credit: photo courtesy of bergies coffee roast house

Bergies was born of Brian and Bruce Bergeson's shared love of coffee and over time, their obsession with the beans only grew. Since the shop opened in 2009, the brothers have prided themselves on their ritualistic roasting techniques, and locals flock to enjoy cup after cup in the sunshine on the serene and stunning patio and garden.


If you like your coffee served with an extra shot of sonic joy, you've come to the right place. Pour Jon's prides itself on hyper-customized coffee service from baristas, served to a lively soundtrack of local bands and a rotating selection of vinyl records. A recent move halted actual record sales, but the spirit still spins within.


EC: message-editor%2F1495113397897-niall_clutton1278-23_original
Credit: photo by niall clutton

The city is chockablock with cutting-edge coffee joints, but this glam little spot at the Beverly Hills Hotel is a welcome respite from the hustle of modernity. The 19-seat counter has been in business since 1949 and serves a throwback soda fountain-inspired menu to patrons lounging within the banana leaf wallpapered walls. Pricey? A tad, but you're paying for the experience.


EC: message-editor%2F1495135227456-pd-32-of-87
Credit: photo courtesy of purple door coffee

Come for the excellent coffee and stick around for the stellar mission. The proprietors of put their "dignity for everyone" policy front and center by hiring and training teens and young adults who have been homeless and seek to leave that behind. "Purple Door" isn't just a note on the decor, either; it's a reflection of the shop's guiding principle that everyone who walks—no matter who they are or where they're from—in should be treated like royalty.


Harborview Market, Bridgeport

A Bridgeport resident who recently moved out of state and away from her beloved Harborview Market says, "I tear up just thinking about it." Twenty-four years' worth of patrons echo that sentiment. The family-owned Black Rock institution features a robust breakfast and lunch menu along with baked goods, really solid coffee, and a devoted community that comes together to chat and chill and enjoy the neighborhood vibe, especially during the wildly popular Sunday brunch.


Parents and kids alike find plenty to love at The Young Bean—particularly on Friday nights when local bands take center stage in this lovingly restored Main Street building. In the quieter hours, it's everything the original owners (who live upstairs and still provide the coffee) set out to be: the heart of the town.


In the words of legendary Florida chef Norman Van Aken, "Old school. Outside eating right near the water. You order through a window. You stand (or sit on a bench) in the sunlight of the Island. And if you are hungry they have a very good egg sandwich to wave off the rocket power of too many 'coladas.'"


Foxy Loxy Cafe, Savannah

"That place is a national treasure," says one Foxy Loxy devotee. It bills itself as "equal parts coffee shop, bakery, and Tex-Mex cantina," but that's giving short shrift to its jam-packed lineup of live and vinyl music, comedy, and receptions for the visual artists whose work adds tremendous character to this beloved Savannah spot. A gorgeous outdoor courtyard with fire pits only sweetens the deal.


Farm to table is great, but how about crop oh-so-very-close to cup? This shop and restaurant has been in business since 1994, highlighting the Kauai, Kona, and Hawaiian coffees from throughout the state, and especially those grown right there on the 4000 acres of lush mountain terrain of upcountry Kalaheo. Come for a cup and a hearty breakfast and leave with a few pounds of the freshest beans you'll ever taste.


The coffee is totally on point—cortados, flat whites, and all the bells and whistles—but what makes Twin Beans a standout spot is its commitment to communities and fandoms of all kinds. The shop hosts a regular calendar of live music and artist showcases, as well as "Comics and Coffee" (recent themes: The Legend of Wonder Woman, Watson & Holmes, and Groot) and board game nights that encourage vibrant discussion and easy icebreakers.


Chicago has no shortage of coffee wizardry, but no other place also embraces the wonderfully weird quite like Wormhole. Lest anyone doubt their commitment to retro pop and geek culture, a DeLorean body makes up a chunk of the decor, Star Wars, Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future figurines and posters abound, and drinks like a Koopa Troopa latte tend to crop up on the menu.


The Runcible Spoon, Bloomington

A longtime patron writes, "College coffee shop. Hippies. Granola. Cloves. But a great vibe." His heyday there in the late '80s may have passed (along with legal indoor smoking), but it remains a cozy, bustling, happy haunt for locals and students, and especially for dog lovers who are free to sip away the hours with their best pal on the outdoor patio.


When "good coffee. good people." people is a shop's motto, you certainly hope you'll deliver on both fronts. Smokey Row has outposts in a few locations, including Des Moines, Pella, Oskaloosa, and Pleasantville, where they're headquartered, and the perpetually jam-packed shops indicate that it's mission accomplished. The coffee and specialty drinks are excellent as advertised, but the wide array of sundaes, ice cream drinks, and throwback flavored sodas keeps loyal patrons coming back.


Bourgeois Pig, Lawrence

Coffee good. Coffee plus carefully crafted cocktails, and well-chosen beer and wine, even better. This full-service shop has been a gathering spot for Lawrence locals for two decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Come during the day for a catch-up over cappuccinos on the patio with friends and come back after dark for a martini with your mate—or possibly meet a new one.


There may be no two cozier bedfellows than coffee and a good book, so it's awfully convenient when the two come together under the same roof. Lovers of well-selected literature and crafty lattes alike find their happy place on the couches of this cozy spot near the foot of the Roebling bridge, and joyfully sprawl with their dogs on the patio outside. It's pure bookworm bliss.


Pagoda Cafe, New Orleans

About three seconds after we put out the query about standout local coffee shops, a NOLA native shouted out Pagoda (where she was sitting at the time) and a prominent local writer enthusiastically seconded the nomination. While New Orleans is a town completely obsessed with coffee shops, Pagoda—housed in a former dry cleaners—stands out for its all-outdoor seating and breakfast tacos that have quickly become a local obsession.


"Gotta agree—Tandem Coffee and Bakery is something special," said one Maine native after seeing another enthusiastic endorsement. Fittingly enough, there are two locations—one in a 1930s brick building (that's where the beans are roasted) and another in a gas station-turned-laundromat-turned bakery ideal for whiling away the hours over coffee and fresh cookies with friends. Tandem also offers a monthly coffee and vinyl subscription that offers a 12" record and a 12-ounce bag of coffee.


Dovecote, Baltimore

In the words of one Baltimore local and Dovecote devotee: "Dovecote is magic in every conceivable way. It's a spiritual vortex that attracts all sorts of positive energy from across Baltimore in the form of artists, activists, entrepreneurs, visionaries. It's unapologetically Black, a celebration of African-American history and culture, a place that builds bridges and fosters understanding. Everyone there is your friend—you just don't know it yet."


Woodstar Cafe, Northampton

A staple in coffee-obsessed Northampton, Smith students and townsfolk alike flock to Woodstar for their daily caffeine and a snack. Sandwiches are served on the cafe’s freshly baked bread; a basket of samples is always perched next to the register in case of indecision. The cafe is practically always playing a dreamy Amy Winehouse album, and one can’t help but order a slice of the pear almond tart or a chewy molasses cookie with a large ginger chai latte and post up for a while.


Crepes may not have been the obvious choice for a start-up business in economically hard-hit Flint, but since 2011, the Flint Crepe Co. has had to find new digs multiple times in order to accommodate its growing popularity. The beans are roasted down the street, the milk is local, and the food menu is a love letter to Michigan producers. Need more? Their weekly Tuesday Tips for Charity program allows the clientele to have a say in where the cafe focuses their philanthropic efforts.


A St. Paul local shares: "Strong neighborhood place. From politicians, to writers, to local weirdos, everybody hangs at Nina's. Coffee great but owner June makes it special. I think it used to be the entrance to an infamous brothel, run by Madame Nina."


"We don’t bite. Unless you take away our coffee. Then all bets are off." Aunt and niece Tracy Portner and Daye Radford believe deeply in the power of caffeination to fuel a community, and their service station-turned-coffee shop fits the mission perfectly. Situated snugly between Downtown Cleveland and Delta State University, it's a perfect place for students, nearby business people, and local creatives to get their daily coffee and signature sandwich fix and spend a while catching up.


Lakota, Columbia

Since 1992, Lakota has held a treasured place in the hearts and routines of Columbia residents and fittingly enough for a college town, it's on a mission to educate its clientele. The staff hand-roasts a staggering array of single-origin coffees from around the globe and are more than happy to guide novices and experts toward their new obsession.


Sykes, Kalispell

EC: message-editor%2F1495461865074-sykes-photo-by-mike-thompson
Credit: Courtesy of Sykes

Got $.10 and a yen to wake up early? If you can get yourself to Sykes between 7 and 10 a.m. and spend an additional $3.50 on a hearty breakfast, that's all your coffee will cost you. A longtime devotee fondly referred to the century-old institution as "crusty" but notes that it's gone through a spruce-up over the past few years. And if you can't get enough of the budget-friendly caffeine, consider leasing one of the apartments right upstairs.


Cultiva, Lincoln

"Coffee Is Important" is a slogan you'll find all over Cultivar's menu, website, and swag, and it's surely something they take to heart, complete with a roasting lab. But the multi-branch Lincoln shop is perhaps just as beloved for its made-to-order sweet, savory, and scrambled egg crepes and johnny cake sandwiches. Grab a salad or a build-your-own meal with Dorothy Lynch dressing and there's no doubt what state you're in.


Bad Owl Coffee, Henderson

The Las Vegas Strip abounds with old-school coffee shops, and they're possessed of their own particular magic, but Bad Owl has a different trick up its sleeve. The Harry Potter-themed spot is unapologetic in its fandom and while sure, a Muggle could be perfectly happy with a mug of an excellent single-origin pourover, a more adventurous soul could enjoy a butter brew or Biscoff cookie latte along with a "Siriusly Proscuitto" sandwich. Accio an enchanted afternoon.


This White Mountain spot has been a community hub since 1998 and offers a lovely, light-filled, chilled-out atmosphere for long catch-ups, and quiet contemplation of the Moat Mountains before a hike. In the warmer months, coffee and a doughnut on the sunny patio is something close to heaven.


bwè kafe, Hoboken

This is coffee with a mission. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hoboken resident Maryanne Fike banded with friends and family to spring into action and bring medical care and supplies directly to the people who needed it most. To sustain the project longterm, she opened bwè kafe, which to this day makes its coffee exclusively from blends with Haitian beans, and a portion of the profits goes directly toward educational resources for Haitian youth, as well as access to safe drinking water via Coffee for Water.


Zendo, Albuquerque

Stop in for a cup and you'll find yourself staying around for the excellent vibe. Zendo prides itself on coffee, community, and unique art-forward aesthetics. The warm, welcoming space have helped turn the Downtown spot into an anchor for the neighborhood.


Stagecoach Coffee, Cooperstown

EC: message-editor%2F1495461950023-stagecoach
Credit: Photo by Stagecoach Coffee

The population of Main Street Cooperstown ebbs and flows depending on where it is in the baseball season, but Stagecoach remains. Since 1992, the local roaster has been a happy haven for people to take a break over a cup of obsessively crafted coffee, and dishes made from as many Upstate New York farmers and purveyors as possible.


If you've remained in business for almost a hundred years, you're doing something right. Though North Carolina residents spoke up with uncommon passion for spots around the state, none drew more enthusiastic endorsements than the UNC-adjacent Carolina Coffee Shop. It's the oldest restaurant in the state, and current owners have taken great pains to make sure that as many historical details as possible—like the brick walls, wooden booths, and counter—remain intact so future generations can partake in the cozy charm their (great) grandparents did.


The Vault, Valley City

EC: message-editor%2F1495125252225-the-vault-coffee-shop-valley-city-nd-bar
Credit: Photo By the vault valley city

Ever dreamed of being your own barista? Here's your chance. The Vault is a self-serve coffee shop and art space where everything is priced by hand, and payment is on the honor system. Husband and wife David and Kimberly Brekke partnered with the owner of a former bank building to create a community-oriented space that can stay open even during hours when it would be economically unfeasible to have a cashier and server on hand. They came up with the self-service model and several years in, it seems to still be working. According to The Vault's website, "We do see theft from teenagers who occasionally need talking to but among adults the rate of theft is nearly zero."


Since 1978, this place has been a staple for evening and late-night coffee hounds, with a solid turnout by local University of Cincinnati students cramming for tests and unwinding after a long day of classes. There's booze, board games, and occasional live music on the menu as well and suddenly that 2:30 a.m. closing hour makes a lot more sense for a place with "coffee" in its name.


Okay Yeah Co., Oklahoma City

Coffee plus yoga? OK, why not? The brew itself is stellar enough to warrant a visit to OK Yeah in the Plant Shoppe design and gathering space, but the opportunity to enjoy a corpse pose and a cortado at a "Sip and Flow" class is a weird and wonderful bonus.


EC: message-editor%2F1495055957150-fullers
Credit: Photo by Vincent L. Via Yelp 

Portland is ground zero for third-wave wizardry, but Fuller's has remained impervious to the passage of time since it first opened in 1947. "Fuller's is the real deal," insists one life-long fan. It's consistently packed with multigenerational groups who settle in for the solid coffee and breakfast specials and toddle out contented, not much poorer, and definitely full.


Wunderbar, Harmony

You had no idea that you were craving coffee, local milk, and a crepe served in an 1800s opera house, but suddenly, it all makes sense, doesn't it? There's a great grab-and-go section, but it's worth it to take the time to settle in and make an afternoon of it in this friendly, quirky, and yes, wonderful restaurant and coffee shop in marvelously quaint Harmony.


The Shop, Providence

Like the state itself, The Shop's menu is small, but packed with Rhode Island pride. The Fox Point shop makes a point of partnering with nearby bakers and purveyors, and places a premium on whole and organic ingredients wherever possible. Every sip and bite is geared to supporting local businesses and several years in, the community just keeps coming back for more.


Black Tap Coffee, Charleston

When you step into this serene space, everything melts away. It's light, white, and stripped down to the almost-bare bones (in a cozy way) so patrons can be alone with their thoughts and conversations—and also focus on the exceptional coffee. Sip an espresso at the stand-up bar and recharge yourself for whatever comes next. Even if that's another cup.


Bookstore? Check. Live music? Check. Karaoke, dance parties, gift shop, and knitting club meetings? Of course. For over 20 years, this inclusive spot has united Aberdeen in fun, community, creativity, and some philanthropy as well—all served with a side of great coffee and satisfying sandwiches.


Barista Parlor, Nashville

Founded in 2011, Barista Parlor's meld of music, craftsmanship, and damn great coffee has spawned a rabid fandom, as well as the need for several outposts throughout the explosively-growing city. From gear to decor to the coffee itself, it's a living homage to Nashville's vibrant creative class past, present, and future.


Kick back and set a spell if you have the time. Though you can certainly opt for drip coffee or traditionally pulled espresso, Common Ground makes a point of celebrating the role time can play in crafting the perfect cup. Their "slow bar" serves coffees that are specifically suited to time-consuming methods and gear like the Able Kone and Hario V60. It's worth the wait.


Caffe Ibis, Logan

Randy Wirth and Sally Sears have been in the coffee-roasting business since 1976 and while you can sample their wares around the country, a trip to their gallery deli is definitely in order. Ibis specialized in "Triple Certified" coffee—which means it's officially organic, fair trade, and shade grown, and it's best enjoyed alongside the cafe's organic and locally sourced breakfast and lunch dishes, ideally to the tune of a local band getting down in the corner.


Mocha Joe's, Brattleboro

In 1991, Pierre Capy set up shop in an old shoe repair store, hoping he could translate his passion for coffee into a community obsession and a venue for philanthropy. It worked. In addition to fair and direct trade coffee, Mocha Joe's offers growers in Camaroon no-interest loans on up to 50 percent their harvests from September through February. They get paid fairly, and Joe's customers get exclusive access to an incredibly high-end cup. It's a win-win.


EC: message-editor%2F1495462150894-inline
Credit: Photo by Emilio Martinez / EyeEm via Getty Images

Elliot's Fair Grounds is the oldest independent coffee shop in the area, and that's in no small part due to the care they take to be part of the community. The shop serves as a hub for musicians, artists, and charitable events, and it's all backed by fair trade, organic coffee from around the globe, paired with hearty, happy-making bagel sandwiches.


EC: message-editor%2F1495053881515-northtowncoffee
Credit: Photo by North Town Coffee

As one local describes Northtown, "It's this beautiful space that serves great coffee, pastries, and is a hub for locals to gather, work, and study." The coffee menu is strictly Stumptown-based and the shop itself—built in the waiting room of a 1909 Northern Pacific Train Depot—is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Cozy couches and free wifi encourage almost excessive lounging.


"No Corporate Coffee, No Matching Silverware" is the motto of this longstanding independent coffee shop, and in a town like D.C., it's easy to see why that claim might have some appeal. It's neighborhood spot by design—run by the same couple since 1998 and never franchised—and morphs into a quite excellent cocktail spot at night when Adams Morgan becomes night-out central.


Joe N’ Throw, Fairmont

On paper the notion might sound a little wacky: serious coffee meets pottery classes. But in real life, it's actually a delight. No joke: The two founders, a potter and a coffee roaster met at a beard-growing competition, and decided to go in on a venture. The result is a warm, wonderful spot where locals can learn to throw clay and also toss back a latte or two. An ever changing lineup of live music and tap takeovers keeps business spinning right along.


Since 1999, Anodyne has been roasting micro-batches of obsessively sources coffee beans from around the world and while it's always a treat to see them cited on a menu in a region, why not double down on the full experience? Anodyne runs three distinctly different shops including at the roastery itself, at the Milwaukee Public Market, and perhaps most delightfully—paired brilliantly with woodfired pizza at their original roasting location in Bay View.


Wyoming expat and baker Becky Masson spoke with great love of Coal Creek saying, "It's in my hometown. And also, where I learned to bake. Not only do they do their own roasting and baking, they have a tap house attached, where the owner, John Guerin, brews beer as well. It feels like home when you walk into the shop."