The Best Coffee Shops in Every State
By the time I got to Vienna, things weren't looking good. Typically, the latter part of February in one of the world's greatest coffee cities isn't known for cheerful weather, or even cheerful anything; this was 2020, and the late-winter skies felt grayer than usual, the winds chillier, less forgiving. A strange new virus was already tearing through neighboring Italy, and making its presence felt in the Austrian Alps. Could the capital be far behind?
But first, coffee, and lots of it—I was here to log time in some of the world's finest (and oldest surviving) coffee houses; worrying would simply have to wait. Neither modernized nor terribly interested in such an undertaking, the best of the grand, Habsburgian relics recall a time and place long ago mostly lost to history, feeling a little bit like retired 19th-century first-class rail carriages, complete with the wood-paneling and carpeting and jacketed waiters and deep banquettes one could get lost in for hours. All are welcome, however, to slide on in, for bracing espresso drinks, the best ones served with an ample supply of whipped cream, and for thick slices of delicately-layered strudel or Sachertorte.
My trip to Vienna wasn't meant to be a joyride, not completely anyway, but rather part of an intensive appreciation course on coffee and cafe culture throughout the ages, something I'd hoped to complete before launching into year three of Food & Wine's Best Coffee in America survey. Designed to spotlight and encourage our own, homegrown scene, by now in the middle of an intense period of growth, the project had become bigger, more daunting than ever, and I found myself in need of inspiration, or at the very least, a history lesson.
And so I began walking backward, to the surviving 1990s haunts of Seattle and Chicago, to Caffe Reggio in New York, home of the first cappuccino in America, to the ever-marvelous Caffe Trieste in San Francisco. I spent the better part of the winter marking time in the bars and cafes of Italy, France, and Spain, and then, not for the first time either, there was Austria. The whole adventure had been invigorating—I was more than ready to write.
February gasped its last, along came March, and we all know what happened next. Months later, I was sitting at home, clinging to my memories of Vienna, and a pile of notes where a story was supposed to have been.
Not that American coffee culture—or the world of coffee in general—stopped evolving, once the world stopped. If anything, the pandemic seemed to accelerate an already furious rate of change. Some survived, others thrived, new shops and roasters started cropping up left and right, old favorites disappeared from the landscape entirely. Eventually, I managed to get back on the road, to see things happening, first-hand—I was able to visit at least half of the states in 2020 alone, and well over half again in 2021, watching the industry struggle through this most challenging time.
What then, in 2022, as things once again resume flow in most of the country, does the Best Coffee in America look like? One thing became clear—with many of our favorite shops beginning to roast during the last two years, and plenty of accomplished roasters downsizing or distracted from their retail-level efforts, it was time for the list to become two lists—one for the best coffee shops, and the other for the best roasters. Also, given the circumstances, the ranking mechanism introduced in 2019 would not be returning, at least not for the time being—for 2022, both lists are divided into the best of every state, resulting in one of the most representative surveys we've published so far.
And so, the perfect coffee shop—what, exactly, does that look like? Let's start with perfect coffee, or something like it; they will be brewing the best (and pulling the best shots) in the near, or not-so-near vicinity, this is exceptionally important. Aesthetics and environment are key, but not nearly as important—from Fargo, North Dakota, to the depths of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, one might safely say that we've now grasped modern coffee shop design. Truly great coffee, however—that's still incredibly hard to find.
While an in-house roasting program isn't essential, one of the most positive trends during the last two years is how many shops have gone this route, very often with exciting results; equally hopeful were the number of new (or improved) multi-roaster cafes, who source, optimally anyway, from a rotating list of top talent, either in their area, or from all over the world, and sometimes even both. A shop that didn't fall into either category would have had a lot harder time breaking through—no knock on any number of wonderful places I visited during my travels, but rather a statement of just how high the bar has lately been raised. I'm happy to tell you that even with the challenges of the past two years, nearly all of the shops you will read about on this list were visited by me; in a few cases, where time was a factor, we felt confident relying on trusted industry experts for their opinions. For a couple more, I knew from experience that nothing had come along since my last visit to unseat a past pick.
The coffee, the look, the vibe—what then, of hospitality, the final and most important piece of the puzzle, at a time when small businesses are often left struggling to find any help at all? Much has been said on the subject of service during the last two years, but as far as a great cafe goes, achieving perfection has never been about the staff working at lightning speed, or being robotically subservient, or even doing perfect work every single time; what has always mattered most is the creation and cultivation of an environment of welcome, energetic, inspiring but never frantic, peaceful, restorative but never listless, knowledgeable but patient, a place where you feel at ease, an antidote to every kind of stress we might be carrying across the threshold. Can such a public space exist in this day and age? I'm here to tell you that the answer is—inexplicably, happily, thank the stars—yes.
Once you get used to mornings at the Saturn Bar, where Domestique Coffee makes itself quite comfortable off-hours at one of Birmingham's better live music venues, you might find it difficult to switch back to your typical cafe setting. Like some scrubbed up version of a laidback tropical hangout where locals and louche expatriates rub shoulders, everyone is welcome to feel very comfortable here, but the counter is where the lazy vibes end—brothers Nathan and Michael Pocus, who started the company as a way to draw more attention to Haiti's often struggling coffee industry, are serious about their work, and it shows. A second cafe, a charming little nook opened recently down an alley in the Five Points South neighborhood, offers a completely different experience, but is no less notable.
How does Anchorage get through their notoriously dark (and lengthy) winters? Grab a seat at the counter inside Uncle Leroy's Coffee in Midtown, feel the good feeling all around you, and it'll all become clear; in a city that already had more than its share of coffee shops, some of them open for decades now, psychologist Austin Schwartz managed to create something—in a relatively short period of time—that feels a lot like the epicenter of local cafe culture, a gathering place around not only coffee, but good music, good art, and most of all, good people. Not bad for a business that started roasting coffee in a frying pan out the back of a vintage school bus less than a decade ago.
Step past the stark white exterior walls that keep Futuro, the best coffee shop in Phoenix, hidden from view, and your first impression might be that you've never seen any place quite like this. Tucked into an impressively stark, modernist compound, Jose Ignacio Torres, who moved here from Los Angeles some years ago, has built something that feels like a genuine escape from the world outside, filled with thought provoking art, literature, and—most important of all—great coffee, featuring some of the country's best roasters. Time after time, Futuro is a joy to experience; one of their espresso tonics and a half-hour seated along the back wall, watching the Roosevelt Arts District crowd move through the shop is the perfect way to recharge on one of the city's famously triple-digit temperature days.
Some of us are old enough to remember when a visit to Onyx Coffee Co. probably meant a visit to a certain strip mall on the fringe of Fayetteville, where some of the best baristas in the business were doing expert-level work that could leave visitors from far-away cities, cities that were supposedly pretty good at coffee at the time, very nearly speechless. Onyx has come a long way since Jon and Andrea Allen started the business back in 2012; these days, you're more likely to stop by their Rogers headquarters and roasting plant, a sprawling, elegant temple to coffee and its enjoyment, or their newest shop at the Momentary modern art space in Bentonville, where almost everything is pink, starting with the custom-made Italian terra cotta tiles. Wherever you go—including the strip mall location in Fayetteville, which is still open—you're getting some of the most sustainably-sourced coffee in the business.
Supposing the old truth still holds, that what happens to California now is about to happen to the rest of us, then the country is about to find itself inundated with really good multi-roaster cafes. While some of the country's most celebrated roasters can be found here, some of the most exciting movement in recent years has been in shops that rely not on their own coffee, or one outside source, but many sources, the only limit being the imagination (and ambition) of the proprietor. Or is curator a better word? That certainly seems like the best way to define A.J. Kim and Scott Sohn, the owners of Kumquat Coffee in Los Angeles, a charming, breezy shop that many of its Highland Park neighbors treat like the place for their morning (or midday, or afternoon) latte, except that this also just so happens to be the perfect place to sample some of the best coffees being roasted here at home and around the world, with special attention paid toward Korea, home to one of the most advanced scenes in the world right now. Kumquat joined a scene already held in high regard thanks to pioneers like Tohm Ifergan at Dayglow, a very similar operation, this one focused heavily on the lighter, Nordic roasts, with terrific shops in Silver Lake and West Hollywood. This isn't just a Los Angeles thing; down in Santa Ana, hit up Hopper & Burr, where you'll find an engaged team tinkering around with all sorts of different roasts in a spartan (but inspired) environment, while up in Sacramento, hidden gem Scorpio Coffee is introducing exciting new coffees to a town that wasn't exactly short on the stuff.
There's really only one way to describe the massive Westminster home of Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, newly launched inside one of those modern town center developments cropping up all over the country—grand is the word you'll be looking for, all high ceilings and so many windows and the finishes du jour, with so many places to sit and muse and drink coffee and socialize, or get work done, if we still do that in coffee shops, post-pandemic. Honestly, it's a tiny bit difficult to imagine this as the same socially-conscious, forward-looking operation that only a few short years ago was limited to a small tasting room in front of their roasting plant in Lakewood, just around the corner from Casa Bonita. Not that Denver-area coffee fanatics (a spoiled-for-choice bunch) have ever struggled to locate one of the finest roasters in the time zone; these days however, with three shops in total, word is spreading.
Everybody in the business talks about sustainability, about paying fair prices for coffee, and the benefits of strengthened ties between grower and roaster; some genuinely walk the walk, like Giv Coffee in Canton, which isn't just the coziest little coffee joint tucked into a converted single family home by the side of the highway, within spitting distance of any number of Dunkin' outlets; this is also one of the country's most thoughtful roasters, which has a lot to do with owners Jeff and Emily Brooks and the way they see the world—coffee isn't just making a living, it's a way to give back, to have a positive impact.
Pretty much everyone in Northern Delaware knows about Brew HaHa!, the successful coffee shop mini-chain founded by Alisa Morkides over a quarter century ago; for the longest time it was a cheerful, more engaged alternative to the nationals, and then at some point, Morkides decided to bring the roasting business in-house, a decision many successful cafe owners tend to make at one point or another, except in this case, Morkides founded Brandywine Coffee Roasters, which ended up achieving quite the national reputation for quality and sourcing, featuring a distinctive packaging design by artist Todd Purse. Today, the best of the cafes can be found in Wilmington's Trolley Square neighborhood, an alluring hive of energy sharing the same space as the roasting plant.
Daniel Karram's best month since opening Mane Coffee in Boca Raton? February of 2020. The best multi-roaster shop in the state, which opened up in a slightly unusual business complex in the sort of town where you might not immediately have expected to find someone slinging Nordic-style coffees from around the world (some of the best espresso in the state, truly) was really starting to find an appreciative audience when the pandemic rolled around. Overnight, that was mostly gone. For the time being, anyway—these days, the shop is once again a serious destination for coffee geeks. What is it about Palm Beach County and really good coffee? Up in West Palm Beach, Composition Coffee brings a similar amount of passion to the game, also choosing to showcase a range of top roasters from across the United States.
Nearly two hundred years after being built by slave labor for the mayor of Stone Mountain, the white house right at the center of town is home to Gilly Brew Bar, one of the country's most exciting new shops, which is something you will feel when you stop by on a weekend morning, to observe the energy of the place practically spilling out onto porch and patio. Daniel Brown had this feeling, like it was the perfect place for a forward-looking, inclusive, Black-owned coffee bar, and he was absolutely right. Not only has the cafe become an immensely popular hangout, it is also one of the most serious around, sourcing from exciting roasters like Luna in Vancouver, or Luminous in Las Vegas.
For years, we've been driving up and down the Mamalahoa Highway on the Big Island, which runs right though the Kona district, wondering when somebody was going to open the proper cafe the nation's premier coffee growing region deserved. Back in 2019, Brian Chih-Chiang Lo did just that with Koana, in the tiny farming town of Mountain View, firing up the kettles and offering pourovers of the best coffees Hawaii had to offer. Happily, the shop survived everything the pandemic managed to throw at it; today Koana has become something of a community hub, featuring lots of live music and good vibes. You could visit a dozen farms in the area, or you could just kick off your shoes, hang out on the patio here and drink their coffee—we know which one we'd choose.
Don't try to stump head barista Ryan Cheatham, coffee evangelist at Slow by Slow Coffee in Boise, one of the best multi-roaster cafes on Mountain Time—he's probably tried every roaster you can think of, and probably a few more you haven't. Some coffee shops you visit to wake up in the mornings, others you come to learn things—this is one of those places that will tour you through American coffee at its finest right now, with guest appearances from Scandinavia, and elsewhere. Still better, they've been nicely supportive of Boise's own growing scene, showcasing roasters like Flashlight, and Food & Wine favorite Neckar.
Pour one out for the days of coffeehouse Chicago, the gritty, conversely cozy 1990s, when Seattle got most of the attention but things were nearly as good right here, back when the great Intelligentsia was just another neighborhood favorite, albeit one with serious ambition, when you could grab a good coffee with friends at all hours of the day, and later into the night than some cities keep their bars open. Things are very different now, but just as in Seattle, the scene remains wonderfully layered, like rings on a tree reminding us of how far coffee has come, even if everything begins to feel like different versions of one another, with so much of the passion now gone out of the project. There are more people selling you coffee than ever, here in Chicago, but one has to ask, again and again, do they even care? Do we? Every now and then, in a sea of sameness, master strokes of brilliance are impossible to ignore; Tohm Ifergan's family moved from Mexico City to Chicago when he was a kid, and while he's best known these days for the two coffee shops he operates in Los Angeles, his homecoming during the pandemic, when he opened Dayglow next door to his brother's brewery in Humboldt Park, is not only the most notable shop in the city right now, but also perhaps the middle of the country. Too keenly focused, too minimal for some, so very far away from the couch filled cafes of yesteryear, this is a place not to loll around, but to explore some of the top roasting talent on the planet. As in California, Ifergan sources from his favorites in Scandinavia and elsewhere, heavily favoring the lighter, Nordic-style roasts. If you want somewhere to hang out, you might be in the wrong spot; if your goal is locating the best coffee in Chicago, sending you elsewhere first would be a mistake.
Choosing a life of adventure has considerable advantages, but as Hugh Cano learned not long ago, sometimes the music stops, and there you are in Indianapolis, scratching your head and wondering what to do next. For Cano, a veteran of the Southern California coffee scene, the answer was pretty clear. Indiana's big city already had its share of coffee shops, but none like Amberson Coffee & Grocers, which Cano managed to get up and running in the depths of 2020, breathing so much new life into an abandoned gas station not far from downtown. Everything feels up to the minute, from smartly sourced coffees to reusable glass jars, plus a living wage/no tipping policy.
One of the most noticeable trends uncovered during two-plus years of research for this list—Southern California's highly advanced coffee culture has become far too big to contain. Back in 2016, before the spreading of the gospel became nearly commonplace, Cal Poly grads Brad Penna and Nam Ho looked around the crowded landscape and decided to open the shop of their dreams not in the Los Angeles area, but rather halfway across the country in Des Moines. Back then, you might have wondered how Horizon Line Coffee, the most charming little SoCal-style cafe, all light and bright and home to one of the warmest welcomes in town, might play in a relatively no-nonsense Midwestern city. The answer? Exceptionally well. There are plenty of California-powered cafes in cities scattered across the country nowadays, but this one—where they've been doing their own roasting for quite some time now—remains a fine model to follow.
Before leaving New York became a thing everyone was either doing or talking about doing, coffee industry pro Sarah Leslie felt the pull of home, which just so happened to be Wichita; it was here, just a few years ago, that she opened Leslie Coffee Co., which from day one was the best cafe in the state, not because Kansas is any stranger to good coffee or great cafes, but this one you walked into and felt like you'd leapt forward about a decade or more. Everything is just perfect in the generously sized space, all plants and light and chic accents, located on the ground floor of a handsome old brick structure in the Delano neighborhood, but this is more than just a beautiful space—this feels like the future of coffee shops, living proof that you can have great hospitality, empowered, well-trained employees working for a living wage, top-notch coffee, a spirit of inclusiveness and a great sense of community, all in one memorable package. Even in the middle of Kansas.
Name a more iconic Louisville pairing than a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie and a cup of the most delicious coffee in town at Please & Thank You—go ahead, we'll wait patiently. For more than a decade now, owner Brooke Vaughn's cookies and the locally roasted (Good Folks) coffee have been a break-time essential around town, served up at three distinctive, welcoming cafes; when Covid came to town, Vaughn and her team pivoted to serving more coffee and more cookies out of pick-up windows and delivery vans, keeping her team not only employed, but often terribly busy, as well. These days, the shops are back open, each one with its own great vibe—the original Market Street location, with its excellent jukebox, always feels like a party waiting to happen; drop by and join in the fun. (Remember fun?)
After the initial scramble for short-term survival, the pandemic gave a lot of talented people in the coffee industry an opportunity to ponder their futures in the business; in some cases, that has meant moving on, perhaps the end of a partnership, or the downsizing a growing operation. For Jonathan and Darlene Reithmaier at the four year-old Mammoth Espresso in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, the answer, upon reflection, was to grow—what began as a pint-sized, perfectly formed coffee bar, the sharpest little operation in a caffeine-mad city cluttered with cafes, most of them hopelessly average, evolved in 2021 to become the most compelling roaster in town as well; in the coming months, look for a combined roasting operation and expanded cafe, making Mammoth even more of a destination.
Rammed through the heart of town in order to connect the Interstate to Portland's charming waterfront, Franklin Avenue isn't there to charm you, but rather to get you where you need to go; and then, there at the Congress Street traffic lights, sits this little brick shop, all painted in white with pink pastel borders—that's different, you think to yourself. Opened elsewhere in 2017 but now very much at home on this busy corner, the pint-sized, fiercely queer Little Woodfords has had an outsized impact in coffee-mad Portland; owned by city council member Andrew Zarro and husband TJ, the shop features coffees from some of the best roasters in New England, keeps a rotating menu of astrology sign-themed drinks, and isn't afraid to stick its neck out for their workers, for their beliefs, and for Portland. There are a lot of coffee shops in town, this feels like the one where you're most likely to find someone organizing a revolution.
Sometimes, the greatness sneaks up on you, other times, you walk in the door and you just know—you've come to the right place, and not only that, you're about to have an experience you will remember for a long time to come. That's how most people feel ducking down into the chic little basement space housing Sophomore Coffee in Baltimore, a pint-sized beauty opened back in 2019 by Kris Fulton, who partnered with one of the city's most coolest restaurant and nightlife crews to create the nicest little coffee bar in town. Of course, it helped that Fulton already had considerable experience in the business, doing great work in the Los Angeles scene before coming home to make his local debut. Initially sourcing from elsewhere, Fulton began roasting his own coffees last year.
In a state where coffee is expected to come out lightning fast and in impossibly large cups, it's no surprise that finding people willing to go against the grain, on both sides of the coffee bar counter, can be something of a task. Home to two of the most game-changing coffee operations in the country, Dunkin' (which needs no introduction) and George Howell (one of the East Coast's most advanced operations before being swallowed whole by Starbucks in the 1990s, and only recently back on the scene), Massachusetts has done little innovating on the coffee shop front lately. There's coffee all over, sure, but what one might consider the best here is often just good enough elsewhere. There are sparks of energy, however—begin at the pint-sized Gracenote tucked between the Chinatown gate and South Station in Boston; the city's most essential espresso bar is backed by its own roasting operation. So is the exciting Tiny Arms Coffee and Ceramics, where industry vet Jon Santos has struck out on his own, making one of Lowell's famous historic mill complexes his home, alongside partner Kate Cutlip's successful ceramics business (yes, the coffee cups are terrific). In Beverly, Kalvin and Abi Reynolds have brought years of experience at some very good shops and roasters to bear with the 2021 opening of Kid Dream Coffee, a sharp, Scandi-vibes operation sourcing from some of New England's top roasting talent.
There was a time in Detroit, quite long ago now, when serious coffee drinkers after a glimpse of the future would drive, early and often, to a specific cafe way up Woodward Avenue, far beyond city limits. Amid the fashionable boutiques and wine bars of downtown Birmingham, there was Josh Longsdorf, who had recently returned to Michigan after a stint in the Bay Area coffee scene, working hard to introduce one of the country's largest population centers to a better cup of coffee, at a time when such a thing was pretty damn hard to find. Of course, Detroit and good coffee would soon become quite fashionable, but Longsdorf and Anthology Coffee stayed in the picture, quietly doing excellent work, even as flashier operations started to attract much of the attention. These days you'll find one of the city's most knowledgeable practitioners at home in an expansive shop and roastery tucked into Detroit's delightful Eastern Market neighborhood. The shop stands out not only for its longstanding commitment to the city, but also for their continued support of the local scene; one of Metro Detroit's most interesting new roasters, Espy, has lately been working out of Anthology's space.
Around the Twin Cities, where coffee shops seem just about as essential to survival as gas stations, the former sometimes feels about as special as the latter, too often with service that calls to mind your last visit to the local public utilities office. You come in, you get what you need, you get out—charm costs extra, and supplies are running low. Not that you won't taste some terrific coffees while you're here; from little startups to national players, Minnesota's coffee roasters do some extremely good work, but the balance between the two essential aspects of creating the perfect shop—deep coffee knowledge, and a flair for hospitality—has been a rare bird indeed. You'll always find the elusive pairing, however, at Wesley Andrews. In Minneapolis, a city of big and bold names, this youthful roaster emerged onto the scene just a few years back, before its co-owners were old enough to drink; here you'll find not only a range of exciting coffees from around the globe, but also a warm, welcoming space in which to try them. Coffee is taken seriously here, and so are you.
When Matt Flinn opened Native Coffee in Jackson back in March 2020, he had to close almost immediately. Not because of Covid, but because so many people showed up, they ran out of coffee beans. After a stint at Black & White Roasters in North Carolina, currently one of the South's top roasters, Flinn and wife Anna moved to Mississippi and opened the most forward-looking shop the city had ever seen, sourcing beans from his old employer. (Thank goodness, then, for overnight delivery.) In recent years, Jackson had been making it quite clear that it was ready for a jolt of modern coffee culture—this latest, and best attempt at delivering just that has been a roaring success.
Your first time swapping Kansas City's busy Broadway Boulevard for the measured calm of Monarch Coffee, you'll know you're in capable hands; it really does help, that when Tyler and Jaime Rovenstine decided to open up shop back in 2017, they opted to create one of classiest environments this longtime coffee-loving city had ever seen, a clean, modern, but also rather elegant space for contemplation. Grab a black bistro chair and make yourself at home, in front of one of the big windows. Best of all? Monarch is so much more than just an exceptionally pretty face—this is also the city's most compelling roaster right now.
There are more than a few charming mountain towns in Montana you'd immediately associate with great coffee, and then there's Billings, which is basically the opposite of that, the biggest city in the state, sprawled out across the Great Plains like every other city sprawled out across the Great Plains; one thing you will learn, fairly quickly, is that some of the best coffee in the state can be found here—Ebon Coffee Collective is a treasure of a thing, currently tucked into the corner of a local children's museum; it also happens to be one of the more serious multi-roaster cafes in the region, sourcing from Billings standout Revel Coffee, as well as favorite finds from elsewhere. Take your coffee and wander around the back, where local street artists have turned the alley into an ever-changing outdoor exhibition.
When Isaiah Sheese relocated to Omaha for his wife's career roughly a decade ago, chances are he didn't have near-total domination of the local coffee scene on his life checklist, but right out of the gate in 2014, when Sheese opened Archetype Coffee in the city's Blackstone District, one thing was abundantly clear—things were about to get stepped up around here. And they were, in partnership with Jason Burkum, who, when he wasn't out winning Grammy Awards as a record producer, was back home quietly being the city's best roaster, displaying a welcome curiosity for the lighter, Nordic style. One cafe became two cafes, and over the pandemic, a third—each has been more impressive than the last.
After years of making do with very little, Las Vegas coffee culture has experienced explosive growth during the past decade—the city can now claim some absolutely spectacular shops, and at least a couple roasters of note. Dark Moon Coffee Roasters, tucked away in a sleepy strip mall in suburban Henderson, is far from the flashiest operation, unless you count a powder pink-coated Modbar setup (and the also-very-pink Loring roaster, shared with Luminous Coffee); for serious coffee lovers, this is the place you have been looking for. Drop in for an espresso, stay for the valley's best pourover program, and a chat with the friendly, knowledgeable staff.
When Karen Bassett moved to the Lakes Region from the Pacific Northwest, she had the worst time finding the kind of coffee she was used to, so she decided to start roasting her own. That was almost a decade and a half ago; today, Wayfarer Coffee Roasters feels like part of the fabric of the area, featuring not one, but two locations, one in Laconia and other just next door in Lakeport. Both are modern without sacrificing the cozy kind of energy you want in a coffee shop in a place where winter tends to be the longest season—Bassett and the now larger crew of people behind the operation roast some of the best coffee in the state, as well. Same could be said for for Nori Kozumi at Horseshoe Cafe down in tiny Newmarket, not far from Portsmouth and the coast; Kozumi and wife Sarah moved from the Bay Area a few years back, opening up one of the best small cafe/bakery operations in the state; Kozumi's precise micro roasts are well worth seeking out.
From the haughty Bergen County suburbs to the side streets of Atlantic City, there are few corners of the Garden State left without a decent coffee shop that looks and very often acts like it knows what its doing; pull up to One Up One Down Coffee in Trenton and you might think the map gods have sent you to the wrong place. Hidden behind glass brick and a door without a window, on one of those impossible Trenton corners where everything has to be built at weird angles, this may not look like a coffee shop at all. Experienced roaster Vince Camiolo and wife Natalie Rockwell took the old punk rock Trenton Coffee House & Records (a former Food & Wine favorite) and poured their hearts into reviving the quirky space, where the theme is basically wood paneling, and then more wood paneling, but in the most charming way. A uniquely different shop than most you'll find on this list, almost like the blue collar espresso bars you find in Europe, except this one sells vegan snacks, and your cappuccino automatically comes with oat milk, and nobody's blowing smoke in your face.
Just across I-40 from the heart of Albuquerque's Old Town, you'll find Cutbow Coffee, at least on weekends, by looking for the parking lot along Rio Grande Boulevard filled with vintage cars, starting with the teal and white 1970 Bump Side Ford truck belonging to owner Paul Gallegos, who opened up shop here in 2018 after a career as a commercial roaster in California. Some people like to take a little time off after thirty years of hard work; others move home and open up the perfect coffee shop—with the typically busy roasting operation and the espresso bar right next to each other, and a full house of happy customers, it's hardly ever a dull moment. Albuquerque's scene continues to evolve, and rather rapidly at that, but there are are mornings here that get so busy, you'd swear this was the only coffee shop in town.
In a city of nearly nine million people, and countless places to get a cup of coffee (seriously, you try counting, be sure to get back to us) how does anybody, with any kind of certainty, do something quite so laughable as select the best shop in New York—not only the city, but the entire state as well? With great ease, actually, seeing as we're the home of Sey Coffee, the country's most accomplished Nordic-style roaster, which triumphed over the challenges of the past two years to release an astonishing 128 different coffees in 2021, each one a different microlot purchased as sustainably as possible from smallholders around the world. One of Bushwick's favorite third places before the pandemic, the simple but inspiring shop—staffed by an efficient, hospitable team—has lately at times been nearly silent; a perfect setting for contemplative enjoyment of some of the most exciting coffees in America right now.
Industry young gun Cabell Tice—World Latte Art Champion not once, but three times—made the decision to settle down a few years back, selecting a small town—Waynesville—in the Smoky Mountains, all the way across the country from his hometown in Hawaii. Along with his family, he opened Orchard Coffee, and with someone of his considerable experience at the helm, the whole operation felt important from day one, and over time, only more so—these days, one of the country's best small-town cafes is now backed, rather strongly, by its own roasting operation, known as Steamline Coffee.
What a pleasure to watch Tim and Elisha Griffin's Young Blood Coffee mature and become an essential part of downtown Fargo over the last few years; the couple arrived from San Francisco in early 2018, with their considerable industry experience shining through from the very start; these days, the shop/roastery is the best place to start your day in North Dakota's most cosmopolitan city—records spinning, fashionable locals hanging, espresso machine spitting nonstop fire; bet you'll wish you lived around the corner.
Two restaurant industry vets that could have gone anywhere—and did, making a herculean effort in San Francisco—moved home to Cincinnati, once again hoping to make their mark, this time on a town that could always use more believers. At Austin and Tony Ferrari's Mom 'n 'Em Coffee & Wine, you'll feel the warm hug of Italian-American hospitality (yes, Mom is real, and she's often behind the counter) in a hugely appealing, West Coast-chic environment on the ground level of a converted home, the energy from the shop spilling out onto the expansive side patio, all day long. A second location opens all the way across town, later this spring.
Home to one of the more underrated scenes in the country, you're never far from a pretty good coffee shop in Oklahoma City. For years now, Steve Willingham has been a part of the fabric here, and these days, you'll find him more focused than ever on his downtown shop, Clarity Coffee Co., which has long been the most thoughtful and exacting operation in town, even if it appears, at first glance, to be just another office building lobby espresso kiosk. It's really not—the baristas are some of the best-trained around, and Willingham, who already has years of roasting experience, brought things in-house last year, sourcing some surprising (and very good) coffees.
Guests arriving at the Woodlark, easily one of Portland's best hotels, might be surprised to find themselves checking in at the same counter as the house cafe, but it's fine—rather than occupying its own corner, our favorite branch of Good Coffee has been fully integrated into the hotel lobby, a bright, comfortable respite in the middle of downtown Portland, one of those spaces in which there are no bad days, even when the weather and the world outside might insist otherwise. Good emerged onto the scene back in 2014, at a time when the city was already world-famous for its coffee, stepping up the hospitality component, while also proving itself highly competitive in the regional roasting game, has made them pretty much unstoppable.
There are states where the top pick will be a welcome find if you ever find yourself there, and then there is Pennsylvania, where Passenger Coffee is not only one of the best roasters in the entire country, but also one of the friendliest and most accessible—first there was the one, exceptional cafe, occupying the ground floor of a decommissioned Masonic Hall, just across the alleyway from one of the country's oldest (and still, finest) public markets; then, shortly before the pandemic, came a second, warm and welcoming neighborhood shop attached to the roastery, a short walk away. At either location, you will find yourself in wonderfully capable, well-trained hands, and in the perfect environment to sample their precise, exciting coffees, which are now served in better shops all over the country, and sometimes even beyond. Worth a visit from anywhere.
After a decade or so in hospitality, Jordan Durand was ready to do his own thing—he'd spend a summer in Newport, he figured, selling coffee from a pedal-powered cart, and see how things went. That was the spring of 2020, but things did go very well, well enough that these days, Simple Merchant Coffee has a permanent home inside a converted elementary school on the north end of town, drawing everybody who likes a really good cup to their beautiful new space, and the picnic tables out front on nice summer days. The coffee is all serious, sourced from some of the best roasters in the region and around the country, the atmosphere all fun—ask about the jelly doughnut lattes, made with top-quality vanilla brioche donuts, broken down and soaked in whole milk for two days. The milk is then strained, and raspberry jam is added to the mix for one very memorable espresso drink.
Pop quiz—which is the best coffee town in South Carolina? In the recent past, the answer has definitely not been Charleston. Cafes, places to hang out all day, surely, but Greenville and even Columbia have long been more serious about the craft, something that was distinctly missing from too many of Charleston's best spaces. Joel Sadler and Allyson Sutton have been plugging away at building their perfect shop for a few years now, moving from an occasional pop-up to their diminutive, extremely charming home back in 2019; today, Sightsee, far off the tourist trail, draws in-the-know locals to a small, but fully-realized operation. Claim a chair, a bit of pavement, and eavesdrop on the gossip, while enjoying some of the most careful drinks in town—made, if you're lucky, with South Carolina's best coffee (Methodical, in Greenville).
The block of 12th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Sioux Falls, just far enough from the center of downtown to feel like you're on the fringes, even if you aren't very far away at all, may not immediately appear to be the coolest block in town, but when things are in full swing at the Total Drag record store, which sells vinyl and cassettes and hosts live shows, and the garage door is up at The Breaks Coffee Roasting Co., the vibe is inescapable. Skater and musician Corey Gerlach opened the welcoming, energetic shop with wife Mary Campbell after a good number of years behind the roaster, and they opened up smack in the middle of the pandemic, in a city that drinks a great deal of coffee, and has a great deal many places to do so. Did Sioux Falls need one more? As in any other town already brimming with options, the answer, for anyone willing to bring something new to the table, the answer was yes.
Everyone loves a great hotel lobby—a great hotel lobby with a serious coffee shop, that's where we climb aboard (and flatly refuse to get off). When the Arrive Hotel, well, arrived in the South Main section of Memphis back in late 2019, they had the good sense to bring the city's most exciting roaster, Vice & Virtue into the fold; their bourbon-barrel aged beans are a Tennessee essential, if you can ever get your hands on them, but at other times, you'll just be happy hanging around the fledgling operation's first coffee bar, the focal point of this not-so-accidentally Wes Anderson-vibes space, the whole package a bracing gulp of modern fresh air in a decidedly classic neighborhood, around the corner from the old Arcade restaurant and the National Civil Rights Museum.
Austin is crawling with so-called coffee places that are also trying to do half a dozen other things, but most can't brag the kind of talent behind Try Hard Coffee Roasters, which wasn't even supposed to be here, but when life hands a group of good coffee people a pandemic, they scrap their plans (at least in this case) and open a shop, with a DJ, and tacos, and CBD rollies to enjoy on the back patio. Beans are roasted in-house, breakfasts are superb, and the the environment infectiously energetic, because what we really could use right now is a whole lot more fun. Not that Austin has a lock on great places to hang out over a good latte—up in Dallas, mover and shaker Mike Mettendorf (the man behind the city's best small shop, State Street Coffee) has been branching out, opening the sort of all-day cafes that a city like this wants and deserves—the stylish, airy Parterre at the Thanksgiving Tower is his latest winner. Snag a latte to go, or have a seat at the bar for an espresso martini.
Today's Salt Lake City is a dynamic and diverse place, the hub of a region that like so many others in the West, has been transformed by migration from the coastal states. The growth of its coffee culture, however, has been much slower—the more you dive in, the more you realize how far things still have to go. Not that there aren't bright spots; the sliver of storefront on Main Street housing Three Pines Coffee for example, is where you'll find the city's most forward-looking, most exacting cafe—after a good run in the music business, Meg Frampton and Nick Price moved back from Los Angeles to open the shop, sourcing coffee from Portland, served up in an environment that on its best days, vibes like one of the more hospitable Southern California cafes.
There isn't a whole lot of room to hang out inside a 64' Shasta, but this is Vermont, and shouldn't you be outdoors anyway? Tucked behind the main drag of too-cute Woodstock, Abracadabra Coffee Co. runs their retail operation out of the travel trailer, parked outside by the Ottauquechee River during the winter, dragged into a cozy barn (fireplace included) during winters. All year long, you'll find coffee loving locals and visitors hanging around the cool flame of one of New England's most ambitious young coffee companies.
David Blanchard started tinkering around in his dad's garage way back in 2005, which in coffee years is a really long time ago, which we only bring up to highlight just how carefully things have been done at Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co., which didn't even attempt to open a shop until 2019, preferring instead to focus on roasting, something they do very well indeed. Turns out, that wasn't Blanchard's only talent—the flagship Broad Street cafe is a spare but gorgeous thing, almost Nordic on the inside, carved out of what had recently been a bus station; two other locations have followed since, complimenting what seems to be a growing number of vending machines for when you need the best beans in the state after hours.
Many have tried to modernize the Seattle scene in recent years, but almost none have managed to make themselves more essential than what's been here all along. And there is so much to choose from, beginning with the pioneering David Schomer's singular Espresso Vivace, home to some of the finest cappuccinos in North America more than thirty years after the whole thing kicked off—the best of three locations, as ever, will be the neon-lit kiosk on Broadway in Capitol Hill; squint, and you're back in the 1990s. Two more roasters, Victrola Coffee and Herkimer Coffee, appeared on the scene a touch later, but also do an excellent job of making the past feel as important to the much-changed present—stop for an espresso (and some beans) at the Pike Street flagship of the former, or settle into the hidden-away Greenwood location of the latter for some of the city's better classic espresso drinks.
Running a coffee bar (and roaster) on a busy university campus was enough to keep Mountaineer Roasting Co. busy for the first few years of existence; after Spring 2020, not so much—a shame, since this particular shop was one of the more promising spots West Virginia has seen to date. Was, and is—last year, owner Rusty Isaacs was able to get the doors back open, this time to at a beautiful new home out in town, where more people than ever are able to get to the state's brightest, most modern coffee bar, backed by one of its most capable roasters.
Being recognized as one of the country's best coffee roasters pretty much out of the gate (in a state that already had plenty of them) is pretty major, as accomplishments go; to then put yourself in the position to be tripped up by an all-day cafe bearing your name? An all-day cafe selling actual meals? There's a reason why you don't see many of those types of places on this list—very few roasters are all that good at making the transition to full-blown hospitality. Not so Jared Linzmeier at Ruby Coffee Roasters, who had always welcomed people into his small-town roasting operation, but had a vision of creating a proper community hub, which he did, over in nearby Stevens Point, in mid-2019. Besides the bright and beautiful, careful coffees Ruby is known for, and in a similarly inspired space filled with natural light, you have breakfast tacos, sourdough bagels, burgers made with beef from the family farm, and loads of creative drinks.
A small kiosk next to a raucous Jackson Hole boozer might not seem like the most obvious choice for a fine cup of coffee, but snowboarder Alex Yoder is doing so much more than slinging great oat milk lattes at Overview Coffee; the kiosk is a calling card for one of the most talented microroasters in the region. Yoder is a man on a mission, working with growers committed to regenerative farming practices; his passion for sustainability and respect for the environment, along with a greater appreciation of modern coffee culture, were just two things he brought back home from Japan after spending a great deal of time there on the snowboarding/snow surfing scene.