After more than two years of on-the-ground research, we’ve rounded up nearly 100 of the most essential cafes, coffee shops, and espresso bars in the United States.

By David Landsel
November 01, 2019

Before there was a United States of America, there were coffee houses, because how are you supposed to build a whole empire without coffee? Seriously: the very first on these shores cropped up in Boston, back in 1676. A little more than a century later, a group of stockbrokers would begin meeting in a coffee house on Wall Street in Manhattan, effectively founding what we now know today as the New York Stock Exchange, and things just pretty much went from there.

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Each step of the way, throughout modern American history, coffee houses and cafes have been there, fostering entrepreneurship and creativity, encouraging community, and promoting debate. Every so often, we’ve chosen to reinvent the experience, sometimes radically, but at the core, little has changed. People, it turns out, like to gather, and they really like to do so around coffee. Thus it has been, and if we’re lucky, it’ll stay that way for a long time to come.

Related: 18 Great Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Sey Coffee

For well over two years now, I’ve been traveling the United States, learning as much as I possibly can about American coffee culture, a growing beast of a thing that shows no sign of calming down. Our previously released 2019 survey of the best coffee in every state, backed up by serious research and legwork, was, to put it mildly, an ambitious undertaking.

Because there are now so many talented people roasting coffee in this country, and because I could only write so many words at a time, the list does not quite yield ample room in which to celebrate one of the best outcomes of the years of significant growth—our coffee shops are better, more precise, more exciting than ever, and the diversity among our very best is just so terribly exciting. Which is why we’re here now—to talk not only about good coffee, but to turn our attention to the finest places for gathering around coffee.

Dayglow

This list was compiled with the same parameters as the 2019 survey—primarily through anonymous shop visits, with no solicitation of free samples, and no acceptance of undue influence over the process. While I did, as in the past, seek the counsel of some of the industry’s best and brightest, I am proud to say that I was able to travel more than ever, sampling more coffee than you can imagine, visiting roughly forty states in the twelve months—even Alaska.

Take this, if you will, as a wild, highly-caffeinated road trip across the country, where you set out to learn as much as you can about the United States, by hanging around its coffee shops—some of them very old, some of them very new. Each one, I feel, brings you closer to a fuller understanding of American coffee culture in the 21st century. I think you’re going to like what you find. I certainly did.

The Top 10

1. Sey Coffee, Brooklyn, NY  

The best thing about the best coffee shop in New York City is that nobody asked for this to happen. New Yorkers drink a lot of coffee, but even now, after so much has changed, this is a still a city that likes it hot, fast, and in vast supply. There are certainly plenty of people who value good coffee, better coffee, but for most people, the basics are good enough, and there are so many points in their story where Sey founders Tobin Polk and Lance Schnorenberg might have stopped, and said enough, and everyone would have been completely fine with it, but that’s not who they are, and thank goodness for that.

Moving from Seattle nearly a decade ago with plans to open their own coffee shop, they first made a name for themselves as coffee roasters, but roasting good coffee wasn’t enough—they looked to Scandinavia, where the lighter, more delicate roasting style had taken hold, looked around the United States, where there was far more interest than expertise, and they took the leap, with often astonishing results. In 2017, the pair opened the cafe of their dreams, or at least as close as they could afford at the time, a Bushwick industrial take on the classic orangery, all-natural wood and greenery bathed in generous amounts of light coming in from overhead, a slice of California nice on Grattan Street, just around the corner from Roberta’s.

Everything is tightly focused, orderly—there are never too many carefully sourced coffees to choose from, the menu is simple, service is quietly kind, efficient, workers make a living wage, tipping is frowned upon. How exhilarating to sit here in anonymity, on the last seat in a packed house, watching the whole thing go, wondering how many people know they’re in the presence of true greatness. [Sey Coffee]

2. Dayglow, Los Angeles, CA 

Nowhere in the country has coffee shop minimalism taken root quite so deeply as in Southern California, but at Tohm Ifergan’s twin cafes, one in Silver Lake and the other in West Hollywood, it is what you don’t see when you walk past the neon sign and through the door, rather than what you do, that makes this grassroots operation one of the most exciting in the country right now.

A mild-mannered coffee nerd who grew up in Chicago (his family moved there from Mexico City, back when he was a kid), Ifergan is perhaps the last person you’d expect to be operating a pair of influencer traps in Los Angeles, but like so much else in this city, there’s a lot more to the story. At the heart of the operation is one of the most obsessively curated list of coffees in the country right now. Drop in for a chat and see what’s brewing; some days it’s La Cabra from Denmark, other days it’s up-and-comer Luminous from Las Vegas, but there’s always a precision. There’s always this low-key confident level of service that you just weren’t expecting, when you walked through the door. Ifergan offers his fans a monthly Dayglow Box subscription service, bringing some the best (and most interesting) roasters in the world to your door. [Dayglow]

3. Cat & Cloud, Santa Cruz, CA  

There was this moment, not very long ago, when the conversation about modern American coffee culture so often steered towards the work being done in the Bay Area, and it was during that big, fantastic moment, before the capital firms and multinationals came knocking, that Chris Baca and Jared Truby jumped into the fray, rising through the ranks at then small, and now quite large companies, eventually realizing that the only way forward was to get out on their own. And so they set their sights on Santa Cruz, a special place full stop, but also an exceptional destination for coffee, long before most American cities caught the modern fever, and they did things exactly their way. Eschewing the chilly austerity that has nearly become the norm in the Bay Area coffee scene, Baca, Truby and partner Charles Jack sprinted in the opposite direction, fostering a culture of equity and transparency, a culture of welcome, warmth, and good humor. To boot, the coffee’s some of the most exciting on the West Coast, right now. Come see another great in the making. [Cat & Cloud]

4. Orchard Coffee, Waynesville, NC

Having made quite the splash in the industry rather early on in his career, for his next act, Cabell Tice chose to make one hell of a bold move, bringing his family across the country to a town they knew very little about, where he had purchased a building they had never seen. They’d live upstairs, they’d renovate the downstairs, his mother would come, all the way from Hawaii, where he was born, to help out with the kids, and somehow, someway, it’d all get done. Last spring, it did, and now this relatively quiet community in the Smokies, a half hour west of Asheville, has one of the finest small town coffee shops in America. Coffee comes from down the hill, so to speak, at Methodical Coffee in Greenville, SC, with featured roasters rotating in and out. [Orchard Coffee]

5. Mom ’n ‘Em Coffee, Cincinnati, OH

Like so many other former San Franciscans, Tony and Austin Ferrari had only one problem with their adopted city, in which they had invested so much of themselves—would they ever be able to seriously put down roots? The two brothers kept thinking about home, Cincinnati, and their family back there, and all the things they could possibly accomplish, if they would only take the leap and go back. Today, they run three businesses in the city, including the cafe, which occupies the sensitively-renovated ground floor of a historic brownstone, deep into working class Camp Washington. More than just a place for the most expertly-prepared coffees in the city, Mom ’n ‘Em is placemaking at its finest, an all-day affair, a place for the neighborhood as much as for coffee perfectionists, a place that transitions rather seamlessly, as the day wears on, into a civilized place for a drink—that expertly-curated wall of wine bottles isn’t there for decoration. [Mom ’n ‘Em]

6. Arcade Coffee, Riverside, CA

We live in a golden age of coffee shop design, which is precisely what makes this lightly-converted video store, located on a blank block in an oft-overlooked city, so special—Arcade is the kind of cafe that reminds us, over and over again, that creating the perfect gathering place has very little to do with how much money you have, or what kind of space you are working with. Be passionate, be authentic, be hospitable, be really good at what you do, then sit back (so to speak) and watch the line of happy and curious customers snake out the door and into the Inland Empire sunshine. From seasonal espresso blends to carefully sourced single origins, the coffee, roasted right in the middle of the shop, is some of the finest in Southern California, and the good vibes here—where employees participate in a profit-sharing agreement, rather than accept tips—never seem to take a day off. If every neighborhood in America had a coffee shop this joyfully dedicated to its mission, we’d be a sight better off. [Arcade Coffee]

7. Leslie Coffee Co., Wichita, KS

There are still plenty of smaller cities around the country where you can open a pretty good coffee shop, and reel in the accolades, but Wichita is not necessarily one of them; Kansas is no stranger to local coffee, or places to drink the stuff, and when Sarah Leslie decided to move home from New York, she was definitely going to have to raise the bar. Having years of industry experience definitely helped—Leslie recently served as chair of the Barista Guild of America; in her 2,000-square-foot shop, inhabiting the bright and beautiful ground floor of an old brick structure in the city’s happening Delano neighborhood, the visitor can immediately sense that someone who knows a thing or two about coffee shops is in charge here—everything just goes, everything flows beautifully. The shop isn’t just woman-owned, it’s largely woman-powered, too; Leslie operates on a sustainable model that ensures a living wage without asking for tips, providing the proper training to ensure that the rotating selection of coffees results in some of the most exacting espresso drinks for miles around. Any city in the country would be fortunate to have a place run with this much care; Wichita got lucky. [Leslie Coffee Co.]

8. King State Coffee, Tampa, FL

The thing about talented (and successful) musicians Nate Young and Tim McTague is that they could have done so many things with their lives, with their talents, but the brothers-in-law chose to stick with Tampa, and chose to start roasting coffee a few years back, with the dream of building the best all-day hangout their favorite city had ever seen. This year, that finally happened, in an abandoned gas station next to the freeway, in a historic neighborhood that could always use more love and attention, and it happened big—Tampa is not exactly short on coffee, as you might expect when you’ve had the descendants of Spanish and Cuban immigrants hanging around your city for generations, but now Florida’s most exciting coffee roaster has the state’s most talked-about shop, too, where they also brew, because Tampa, their own beer. Get comfortable—you could be here all day. Which would be exactly the point. [King State]

9. Daydream Surf Shop, Newport Beach, CA

Tucked into the entrance hall of a stylish outfitters that draws surfers-in-the-know to a quiet back street just a couple of miles from the beach, this might have stopped at being just another perfectly fine, visually appealing Orange County coffee shop, of which there are so many, but Jason Ferrall, the guy in charge of the coffee part of the business, is something of a man possessed, specifically fascinated with sourcing quality coffees from all over the world.

Barely a year ago, the shop was serving one uninspired San Francisco roaster—these days, you might wander in on a Saturday morning to find Ferrall conducting a public cupping with coffees from Copenhagen, from Berlin, you name it; a rotating list of experimental drinks is always well worth a try (Ferrall’s coffee cocktails are particularly beautiful), or you can just kick back with a nice cappuccino with the house espresso—currently Cat & Cloud. [Daydream]

10. Purple Llama, Chicago, IL

Sweeping generalizations are always risky business, but it’s not exactly stretching the truth to say that Chicago likes its coffee Chicagoan, and why shouldn’t they—this is a city fortunate enough to lay claim to a scene with serious layers, this is where Intelligentsia got their start, back in the mid-1990’s, when everyone was falling over themselves to get to Seattle. So when Joel Petrick decided, in 2017, to open a coffee shop that would promote coffees from other cities and even other countries, more than a couple of eyebrows were probably raised. Two years on, the Division Street shop is still here, and thank goodness—Petrick’s shop is worth a detour from anywhere in the city, not only for sipping coffees from Scandinavia, and places in America you might not have gone looking for coffee before, but also to browse through the shop’s tightly curated record collection, and maybe you’ll take something home with you. [Purple Llama]

THE BEST OF THE REST

In alphabetical order

All Day, Miami, FL

Come for a big, beautiful dose of modern South Florida culture at one of the region’s finest cafes, an ambitious effort spearheaded by Panther Coffee alum Camila Ramos.

Aloha Roastery, Kauai, HI

The serious (and seriously modern) roaster-cafe Hawaii has been waiting for, on (arguably) the state’s loveliest isle. Locations in Lihue and Koloa.

Archetype Coffee, Omaha, NE

Nebraska’s best coffee roaster chose Omaha’s quiet Little Bohemia neighborhood for their second (and most ambitious) cafe—it’s an absolute winner. 

Bandit Coffee, St. Petersburg, FL

A place for serious coffee—carefully sourced, house roasted, expertly prepared—just minutes from the beach, in St. Pete’s most fashionable neighborhood.

Blacksmith, Houston, TX

Part of local pioneer David Buehrer’s now-sprawling local empire, this snug Montrose hang remains the standard bearer in the country’s fourth largest city.

Blip Coffee, Kansas City, MO

This biker supply shop fronted by a smart espresso bar—deep into the post-industrial West Bottoms—serves up one of the most memorable coffee experiences in a town full of great cafes.

Bloom & Plume Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

Celebrated floral artist Maurice Harris brings a welcome dose of tasteful maximalism to a part of town now somewhat stuck on minimal interior design. Don’t miss the gold-plated La Marzocco machine.

Blue Sparrow Coffee, Denver, CO

Denver is saturated with good coffee shops, but this smart little RiNo spot (soon to spawn a second location) stands out for its sense of adventure—each month, they feature a new roaster, sometimes from down the road, other times from halfway around the world. 

Box Kite Coffee, New York, NY

The last thing you’re expecting to find on West 72nd Street (mid block, yet) is one of Manhattan’s most studiously committed multi-roaster cafes, but that’s half the fun. One of the best places in the city to sample Sey Coffee, without the trip to Bushwick.

Cafe du Monde, New Orleans, LA

Sitting atop the old French Market since the 1860s, you don’t have to love the overheated cafe au lait to fully appreciate this living museum. Sit indoors (in air-conditioned comfort) and let them wait on you—it’s all part of the experience.

Caffe Reggio, New York, NY

Domenico Parisi sank his life savings into America’s first espresso machine, a shiny, expensive beast of a thing imported from Italy, back in the 1920s, and you can see it, any time you like, sitting in the back of this moody, art-filled Greenwich Village cafe, where the country was first introduced to the cappuccino.

Caffe Trieste, San Francisco, CA

This fabled 1950s hang at the heart of historic North Beach, welcoming Beatnik and businessman alike from day one, was at the forefront of the American coffee house trend that took hold in the latter half of the 20th century.

Camber, Bellingham, WA

A beautiful all-day hang backed by one of the Northwest’s finest roasters, at the heart of one of the West Coast’s best little cities.

Civil Goat Coffee, Austin, TX

Roaster Chris O’Brien’s welcoming (and very smart) cafe serves the eclectic, semi-rural Cuernavaca section of Austin; if you’re lucky, Butters the pygmy goat will be on hand to greet you.

Clarity Coffee, Oklahoma City, OK

Backed by KLLR, one of the best coffee roasters in this part of the country, this modern downtown cafe makes a strong introduction to Oklahoma’s small but exciting scene.

The Coffee Movement, San Francisco, CA

These days, the real magic in this coffee-mad city is happening in the places you haven’t heard of, rather than the places you have—of a crop of excellent, pint-sized neighborhood cafes, this recent addition on the Nob Hill/Chinatown divide stands out for its attention to detail.

Color Coffee, Eagle, CO

Way high up in the Rocky Mountains, one of the state’s best roasters runs a welcome oasis for seasonal skiers and I-70 road-trippers.

Comeback Coffee, Memphis, TN

Earlier this year, Hayes and Amy McPherson opened this spectacular cafe (and welcoming hangout spot) on a quiet block just a few steps north of the convention center, representing a giant leap forward for the local scene. 

Commonplace Coffee, Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is a coffee town, to say the least, and this is one of the city’s best roasters, but even if that weren’t the case, their relentlessly charming Buena Vista Street cafe, deep into the North Side’s magnificently-named Mexican War Streets neighborhood, is one of the city’s finest cafes.

Composition Coffee, West Palm Beach, FL

It’s not really a contest, but the folks at this terrific cafe, part of the growing scene along relatively out-of-the-way Elizabeth Avenue, are probably more obsessed with coffee than you are—a fascinating find just minutes from the Royal Park Bridge.

Crema, Nashville, TN

There are other coffee shops in Nashville, and a lot of them are newer and shinier and better put together, but this lived-in, loved-on, zero-waste cafe (and very talented roaster) surrounded by nothing but change, it sometimes feels like, manages to feel more vital than ever.

Cryptozoology, Denton, TX

The name says fun, the coffee proves they mean business—Nitro Cold Brew from Sweet Bloom one day, espresso from Little Wolf the next. Sharing space with a brewery means you’ve got 5,000 square feet to hang around in; for serious coffee people, easily worth the trip from Dallas or Fort Worth.

Deeply Coffee, Orlando, FL

Some of Scandinavia’s finest coffees, served by knowledgeable people, in a beautiful space just far enough out of the way to feel like a secret? Orlando is great at surprises—add this one to the list.

Dovecote Cafe, Baltimore, MD

Truly great neighborhood cafes will rarely be able to contain the entirety of their energy—on pleasant weekends especially, the good vibes tend to spill right out on to the pavement (and then some) at this charming Reservoir Hill hangout.

East Pole Coffee, Atlanta, GA

Everything comes together at this slightly out-of-the-way (but worth-finding) cafe, the home base of one of the Southeast’s best coffee roasters.

Elementary Coffee Co., Harrisburg, PA

One of the most underrated historic market halls in the spoiled for choice Mid-Atlantic region is where you’ll find one of the region’s best coffee roasters—check out the brand-new downtown flagship shop, steps from the state capitol.

Endorffeine, Los Angeles, CA

Is this relentlessly spare Chinatown shoebox a science lab, run by a mad scientist, or it is a coffee shop? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. A serious and seriously unforgettable experience. 

Espresso a Mano, Pittsburgh, PA

Opened in 2009 in now very happening Lawrenceville, this shop feels like Seattle, but with that classic Pittsburgh warmth that just comes built-in, they don’t even have to try. The coffees are very up to date, but the prices are positively retro. After a decade, as important as ever.

Espresso Vivace, Seattle, WA

More than thirty years after latte art pioneer David Schomer came onto the scene, his trio of no-bull, highly efficient shops (one of them a must-visit, year-round kiosk on Broadway) are still not only some of the most essential in Seattle, but also the country. Get the cappuccino.

Flat Track Coffee, Austin, TX

For a city absolutely crawling with coffee, finding people that take it very seriously can be a challenge—you’ll never have that problem at this dedicated roaster, operating out of a bike shop (make that “anything with wheels” shop) on East Cesar Chavez, one of the most exciting streets in town.

Foster Coffee, Owosso, MI

As passionate about community building as they are roasting and serving great coffee, this admirable little shop has not only become a fixture in its hometown, but in underserved downtown Flint, as well. A third shop has just opened in East Lansing.

Four Letter Word, Chicago, IL

An intriguing taste of modern Turkish coffee culture (complete with modern Turkish coffees) in Logan Square—there’s a sister shop in Istanbul.

Fox in the Snow, Columbus, OH

A pair of Blue Bottle grads took a chance on an abandoned garage in the relatively unloved Italian Village section of this Midwest boomtown; five or so years later, there are three sought-after cafes, each indispensable to their respective communities. Pastries are exceptional.

Futuro, Phoenix, AZ

Is it a cafe, or is it art? Step beyond the blank white wall and into this achingly modern, very proficient little shop, which shares real estate with an equally fashionable hair salon in the most interesting part of Phoenix.

George Howell, Boston, MA

Years before making a whole thing out of where your coffee came from was cool, George Howell was traveling to the source, buying up smaller lots, and building relationships with farmers. Stop by one of five Boston area cafes to pay tribute—service is luck of the draw, but the coffees are often quite beautiful.

Good Coffee, Portland, OR

In no time at all, or at least it feels that way, this underdog roaster has become one of Portland’s finest—there are four cafes now, not a bad one in the bunch, but there’s something terribly appealing about the bar at downtown’s Woodlark hotel, not so much just another coffee kiosk, but rather a complete integration between lobby and cafe.

Gracenote Coffee, Boston, MA

This pretty little roaster-backed espresso bar, steps from the Chinatown Gate and the trains at South Station, is easily Boston’s best—and most serious—little cafe.

Heart Coffee, Portland, OR

One of the first to make the move toward lighter, Nordic-style roasts in the United States, Heart Coffee now skews to a more Portland-friendly medium, but the coffees remain some of the finest on the West Coast, and it’s always a pleasure to drop by the relatively modest, decade-old shop on Burnside, where it all began.

Herman’s Coffee, Philadelphia, PA

Practically bursting out of both sides of its modest brick home, this two-year-old cafe (and promising roaster) with a tacky lawn chair for a mascot has become something of an informal social club for residents of its South Philadelphia neighborhood—if you don’t live in Pennsport yet, bet you’re going to leave wishing you did.

Hex Coffee, Charlotte, NC

One of North Carolina’s most exciting roasters prefers to keep a relatively small, sustainable footprint, as they continue to grow—drop by the espresso bar inside a local bottle shop, or the roasting plant, where you can always grab a cup of the day’s brew from the honor bar.

Hopper & Burr, Santa Ana, CA

Orange County has steadily been growing one of the country’s most impressive coffee cultures for some years now—this multi-roaster at the heart of a changing downtown Santa Ana, doing great work with an impressive mix of good coffees from around the country, is an absolute standout.

Horseshoe Cafe, Newmarket, NH

What happens when two talented and focused makers leave the Bay Area and head to a small town on the other side of the country? Good things, that’s what. Come for the house roasts, the freshly baked milk bread, and the cozy communal vibes, just a short detour off I-95 on your way to (and from) Maine.

Intelligentsia, Chicago, IL

Back in the mid-1990s, what is now known as a trendsetting national brand was just another very good neighborhood coffee shop, in a city that already had plenty of them. So much has changed now, but the original Broadway location, up in Lakeview, has not—at least not very much.

Ironsmith Coffee, Encinitas, CA

San Diego is full of appealing coffee shops, and these days there are so many roasters around, but this modest operation (they roast in the back), just a couple of blocks from the beach, is easily the one you want to visit first.

Kumquat Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

Scott Sohn and AJ Kim offer a sampling of Seoul’s sophisticated coffee scene in Highland Park, a neighborhood that seems to have an unlimited appetite for new places to drink coffee. Your crawl definitely begins here.

Little Woodfords, Portland, ME

Portland’s most knowledgeable (and patient) baristas can be found in this sunny shop far up Forest Avenue, away from downtown and the tourists; a thoughtful rotating selection of good coffees makes each visit a potential learning experience.

Little Wolf, Ipswich, MA

A charming little town on Boston’s North Shore is known best as a pilgrimage site for clam lovers; these days, Ipswich is home to one of the industry’s favorite little roasters, operating out of a converted service station.

Narrative Coffee, Everett, WA

This cheerful, typically busy multiroaster brings a civilizing touch to a classic Northwest small city downtown; the clever honor bar setup in the back is perfect for people who just want a quick (and very good) cup of coffee.

Never Coffee, Portland, OR

Here comes the next big thing in Portland coffee? Possibly! Beginning (not long ago) as a modest neighborhood shop on Belmont serving other people’s coffee, they’re now a roaster to watch, with a clever/appealing new downtown shop, in the heart of food tourist land.

Madcap Coffee, Grand Rapids / Detroit, MI

This early adopter—now roughly a decade old—remains a Midwest must; their sparkling bar in GR’s busy downtown market hall is a great way to start any Saturday or Sunday morning; a brand new location in downtown Detroit adds another layer to the city’s already thriving scene. 

Maketto, Washington, D.C.

With a clear national trend towards full-service cafes taking hold, this long-time multitasker (it’s a restaurant, a sophisticated concept shop, a bar, and a cafe) provides a model—if you really want to do everything right, you can. Baristas (who also appear to double as bartenders) handle a rotating selection of regional roasters with care—drinks are typically some of the best in the city.

Mane Coffee, Boca Raton, FL

Just a couple of minutes from both I-95 and the beach, this sharp little operation, sourcing great roasts from all over, is a fine addition to a town that most people do not associate with great coffee—heretofore, for good reason. Bring your bubbe.

Methodical Coffee, Greenville, SC

What began as one astoundingly well-executed shop has grown to become one of the Southeast’s finest coffee roasters, as well; there’s a second shop now, and a third coming soon, but our hearts remain with the downtown original.

Milstead & Co., Seattle, WA

Many have aspired to modernize Seattle’s heritage-minded coffee culture, but few have come so beautifully close to the mark as this multi roaster down under the bridge in Fremont, which debuted in 2011 and has only become more essential with time, ably surviving the loss of their original building, and a move into a temporary space, while their new home was being built.

Monarch Coffee, Kansas City, MO

In a big time coffee town with plenty of high-profile players, this relatively new arrival (roasting Missouri’s most exciting coffee right now) has quickly become indispensable, a calm, civilized, and inclusive presence in the city’s Midtown neighborhood.

Olympia Coffee Roasting, Olympia, WA

Is the downtown flagship of this age-defying, socially responsible roaster the ultimate Northwest coffee shop? No matter the weather, which you’ll see fully on display through an array of giant windows, this place is all sweetness and light, a clean, but also cozy gathering place, serving up some of the best espresso drinks (and happiest vibes) in Washington.

Onyx Tonics, Burlington, VT

Think of this smart little downtown espresso bar as a coffee tasting room—that’s what owners Jason and Tiffany Gonzalez like to call it; on offer are some of their favorite coffees from around the country, some you otherwise might never find in Vermont. 

Passenger Coffee, Lancaster, PA

This magnificent, modern shop from Pennsylvania’s best roaster occupies the ground floor of a beautiful historic building, at the heart of one of the country’s oldest cities; there’s now a second location, attached to the roastery—and it's every bit as attractive.

Peaks Coffee Company, Syracuse, NY

After a small town start, one of the state’s most promising roasters has settled into a gleaming new home in a very new type of environment, just a few blocks from downtown and the university campus.

Please & Thank You, Louisville, KY

All the times are party times, more or less, at this handful of winning cafes promising—and very much delivering—loud music, fresh cookies, and hot coffee; the house blend comes from Good Folks, the state’s finest roaster. 

Pinewood Coffee Bar, Waco, TX

Is Waco secretly one of the coolest places in Texas right now? This out-of-the-way find, where the house coffees are handled with care and there’s always a good record on the turntable, is one of the growing number of excellent small businesses making a very strong case. In decent weather, the action spills into the appealing courtyard; stick around for midday, when the beer hall opens.

Red Bay Coffee, Oakland, CA

At a time of transition for Bay Area coffee (and the Bay Area in general), Keba Konte’s studiously inclusive operation, founded in 2014, is exactly what the East Bay needed; the action centers around a nearly 8,000-square-foot roasting plant and tasting bar (complete with garden), just a few steps from the Fruitvale BART station.

Royal Oak Coffee, Middlebury, VT

Not to play favorites or anything, but Winooski’s Vivid Coffee lately seems to have all but taken over the Vermont coffee conversation—this closely-partnered cafe in a proper New England college town has become one of its finest showcases.

Ruby Coffee Roasters, Stevens Point, WI

This year, Wisconsin’s best roaster has its long-awaited coming out party, opening a proper flagship cafe just a few miles down the road from the pilgrimage-worthy roastery.

Sapor Coffee, Denver, CO

Pointedly minimal but never cold, Caleb and Jeannie Sprenger’s extremely on point Speer Boulevard cafe is one of the finest places to sample Colorado’s best coffee, Sweet Bloom, roasted in nearby Lakewood.

Sophomore Coffee, Baltimore, MD

This tiny basement triumph of good design, a stripped-down-to-the-essentials espresso bar, still manages to offer a big Baltimore welcome (and some exceptional coffees).

Sound & Fog, Seattle, WA

One of the most interesting new cafes (also serving beer and wine) the city has seen in quite some time, hands-on proprietor Justin Krebs ensures what could have ended up just another spare, modern cafe (on the ground floor of just another modern Seattle apartment building) feels like a place of welcome. 

Southdown Coffee, Long Island, NY

Accomplished roaster Mark Boccard’s Huntington and Oyster Bay cafes have turned one of the country’s most stubborn coffee deserts into a whole damn destination; an exciting new roastery/cafe comes very soon to a historic building in Glen Cove.

Spitfire Espresso, New Orleans, LA

Very good mornings in the French Quarter begin with something good from the city’s most precise, charmingly petit coffee bar, a passionate multi-roaster operation that has only become better with time.

Story & Soil, Hartford, CT

Not much more than two years out of the gate, this diminutive gathering spot for a rotating selection of fine coffees (from near and very far) has become an anchor for a city that could always use more of the type of commitment the shop’s trio of owners have shown. Read more about Story & Soil and Hartford.

Theory Collaborative, Redding, CA

There are plenty of reasons why driving I-5 is better than flying from California to the Pacific Northwest—stopping at this excellent roaster with a sunny back patio and plenty of great beers on tap is definitely one of them.

Union by Commune & Co, Tampa, FL

At the center of the exceedingly handsome Heights Public Market sits this proper coffee, beer and wine bar, an all-day oasis where regulars don’t stay strangers for very long. Owner Joel Davis started the business by pedaling a trike around Ybor City, selling his unique pressure brew iced coffee; try it in one of the house specialties, a coffee cola.

Wesley Andrews, Minneapolis, MN

In a city full of well-established operations that too often feel as if they’re going through the motions, this recent entrant stands out for its youthful curiosity and excitement for the craft; their recent Yunnan offering was one of the most interesting coffees I tried all year. 

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