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Where can you get the best cup of java in the U.S.? Travel + Leisure’s survey names the best coffee cities.

Whenever Steve Novak is in San
Francisco
, he always makes time to get an espresso at the Steps of Rome
Caffé in North Beach. “I’m a coffee snob,” says the owner of Honolulu-based management
consultancy company PPR Management Services. “And their espresso is the gold
standard.”

Like a lot of people, Novak loves seeking out coffee places
when he’s traveling. A good coffee place can be like a life raft: familiar
offerings, comfortable chairs, and maybe even free Wi-Fi. “I prefer the local,
non-chain shops because of the variety,” Novak says, “but I just want a place
to relax and get a feel for the local atmosphere, away from the tourist zones.”

No doubt, charming places like Steps of Rome helped San
Francisco land in the top 3 of America’s best coffee cities, according to this
year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey from Travel + Leisure.

For the survey’s past five years, readers have weighed in on
the qualities—such as hotels,
nightlife,
friendly
locals
—of cities across the U.S. This year, we’ve upped the number of
cities to 35 and the number of categories to 54. Readers can now evaluate, say,
how eco-friendly a city is and its vintage
and flea market
potential, as well as its local
specialties
such as barbecue,
burgers,
and coffee bars.

Granted, when Starbucks and other chains reign in so many
shopping centers and office-building lobbies, it may be hard to imagine how one
city’s coffee scene is much better or different than any other anymore. But
when we looked at the survey’s top 20 results, we found several towns with
great historic districts that still offer a unique café culture.

Other winners boast plenty of independent coffeehouses—such
as Portland,
OR,
which took the silver medal position. “Portland has more neighborhood
places to get really good coffee than almost anywhere in the country,” says Matt
Lounsbury, the director of operations for Portland-based Stumptown Coffee.

New
York City
and San Francisco were also in the Top 10, though their coffee
cultures can be a little more fast-paced. These days you’re likely to find new
coffee places that are truly bars: stools up against a counter, great for
espresso lovers who just want a quick shot before they move on.

Even for coffee snobs, though, good coffee is an affordable
luxury. “It’s a rare surprise to find a shop that makes a passable espresso,”
says Novak. “But that’s the fun of finding new shops—to occasionally find that
gem that makes me want to return.”

America's Best Coffee Cities 2011

Where can you get the best cup of java in the U.S.? Travel + Leisure’s survey names the best coffee cities.

Whenever Steve Novak is in San
Francisco
, he always makes time to get an espresso at the Steps of Rome
Caffé in North Beach. “I’m a coffee snob,” says the owner of Honolulu-based management
consultancy company PPR Management Services. “And their espresso is the gold
standard.”

Like a lot of people, Novak loves seeking out coffee places
when he’s traveling. A good coffee place can be like a life raft: familiar
offerings, comfortable chairs, and maybe even free Wi-Fi. “I prefer the local,
non-chain shops because of the variety,” Novak says, “but I just want a place
to relax and get a feel for the local atmosphere, away from the tourist zones.”

No doubt, charming places like Steps of Rome helped San
Francisco land in the top 3 of America’s best coffee cities, according to this
year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey from Travel + Leisure.

For the survey’s past five years, readers have weighed in on
the qualities—such as hotels,
nightlife,
friendly
locals
—of cities across the U.S. This year, we’ve upped the number of
cities to 35 and the number of categories to 54. Readers can now evaluate, say,
how eco-friendly a city is and its vintage
and flea market
potential, as well as its local
specialties
such as barbecue,
burgers,
and coffee bars.

Granted, when Starbucks and other chains reign in so many
shopping centers and office-building lobbies, it may be hard to imagine how one
city’s coffee scene is much better or different than any other anymore. But
when we looked at the survey’s top 20 results, we found several towns with
great historic districts that still offer a unique café culture.

Other winners boast plenty of independent coffeehouses—such
as Portland,
OR,
which took the silver medal position. “Portland has more neighborhood
places to get really good coffee than almost anywhere in the country,” says Matt
Lounsbury, the director of operations for Portland-based Stumptown Coffee.

New
York City
and San Francisco were also in the Top 10, though their coffee
cultures can be a little more fast-paced. These days you’re likely to find new
coffee places that are truly bars: stools up against a counter, great for
espresso lovers who just want a quick shot before they move on.

Even for coffee snobs, though, good coffee is an affordable
luxury. “It’s a rare surprise to find a shop that makes a passable espresso,”
says Novak. “But that’s the fun of finding new shops—to occasionally find that
gem that makes me want to return.”

D. Hurst / Alamy

America's Best Coffee Cities 2011

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