By Alison Fox
October 25, 2019
Courtesy of Sey Coffee

Nothing says good morning like a great cup of coffee.

And while there are coffee shops that can do the job on seemingly every corner, some are simply cooler to hang out in than others — and don’t forget, a study suggests that drinking coffee (and alcohol) may help you live longer.

Ezra Baker, a certified Q Grader by the Coffee Quality Institute (basically a coffee sommelier), said he looks for a sense of “genuineness” and a cool aesthetic when choosing a coffee shop.

“Coffee shops are a place where you can be alone and not feel weird,” said Baker, who is also the general manager of Stumptown Coffee Roasters in New York’s Ace Hotel. Adding that he looks for “friendly, but not overly friendly baristas.”

From the unique pairing of coffee and tacos at Muchacho in Atlanta to decadent flavor combinations like peanut butter mousse and dark chocolate in latte form at The Wormhole Coffee in Chicago — coffee shops throughout the U.S. are delivering a high standard and welcoming guests to not only get their caffeine fix, but to luxuriate in the experience.

Baker is a professional coffee taster, so his opinion is grounded in a lot of research. Below are his picks for the best coffee shops around the country.

Black Fox Coffee Co - New York City, NY

Quentin Bacon

Try the Colombia Pastor with hints of red apple and caramel or the Seven Seeds-Guatemala Rosma espresso with notes of brown sugar and peach at this airy Financial District coffee shop. Start your day off right with scrambled eggs and guacamole or a slice of Tortilla Española with lemon aioli and frisee salad.

Little Pearl - Washington D.C.

Coffee shop during the day and tasting menu at night, Little Pearl offers Washington D.C. residents a bright place to spend some time. Try their inventive coffees (we’re looking at you iced banana latte) and grab a potato donut or elote tostadas (with garlic mayo, long hot peppers, and avocado crema) from the cafe.

Coffee Manufactory - Los Angeles, CA

Coffee Manufactory started in 2016 when they roasted two blends for Tartine Bakery, but has since expanded, opening up shops in LA, San Francisco, and Seoul, South Korea. Sample their Latin America coffee with 100 percent Peru Tupac Amaru (with notes of agave, black tea, and brown sugar) or their dark roast with beans from Rwanda and Ethiopia (with notes of coconut, vanilla, cherry-cola, and dark chocolate) at the flagship roastery in LA.

Gimme Coffee - Ithaca, NY

Courtesy of Gimme! Coffee

The original location of this roaster was opened in 2000 in Ithaca. They’ve since opened several more shops and tend to look for “worn spaces that call for a little revitalization.” Try one of their single-origin roasts like Honduras Las Peñitas or Guatemala Guaya'b.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters - Portland, OR

Carly Diaz

Walk in a Stumptown cafe and you’ll feel like you’ve fallen into a pool of freshly roasted beans (that’s how good it smells). What started as a single coffee shop in Portland in 1999 has since grown into a mini coffee empire, but that doesn’t make their well-rounded — almost creamy — Hair Bender blend or bottled cold brew any less delicious.

Sey Coffee - Brooklyn, NY

Courtesy of Sey Coffee

Relax beneath cascading plants and sip a meticulously thought-out latte in this East Williamsburg cafe. Sey Coffee takes their brews so seriously that they offer customers the chance to “sniff, slurp and discuss” the coffee inside the roastery once a month.

The Wormhole Coffee - Chicago, IL

Set in the heart of Chicago’s funky Wicker Park neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee offers everything from classic lattes to a brew called the Koopa-Troopa, a peanut butter mousse and dark chocolate latte, which sounds like heaven in a cup. With syrups and sauces all made in-house or sourced locally, Chicagoans are getting their caffeine fix and then some.

Madcap Coffee - Grand Rapids, MI

Courtesy of Madcap Coffee

This Michigan-based coffee shop takes coffee seriously — really seriously. They taste about 3,000 coffees every year to find the best varieties to bring to their customers — as they have been since 2008.

That painstaking decision-making results in one amazing cup of coffee that’s guaranteed to make the start to your morning great. Pair it with a gougère (bacon, extra-sharp cheddar, black pepper, and thyme in a choux pastry) or yogurt with options like caraway granola and poached rhubarb.

Everyman Espresso - New York City, NY

With its relaxed neighborhood coffee shop vibes, Everyman Espresso feels like it was made for … well … every man (and woman). With three locations in New York City, grab a pastry and a cappuccino and sit by the window to watch the city pass by.

Barista - Portland, OR

Getty Images

The cozy cafes of Barista perfectly channel the warmth of Portland, making it the perfect place to relax with a steaming-hot cup of single-origin coffee and a good book. Try it with Oregon hazelnut syrup or house vanilla for an extra sweet kick.

G&B Coffee - Los Angeles, CA

Courtesy of G & B Coffee

Set inside the historic Grand Central Market in downtown LA, G&B Coffee offers classics like filtered coffee and espresso, but allows their creativity to show with options like “business and pleasure” — or half of a double espresso and half of an almond macadamia cappuccino with espresso dusted on top. Try it with a yeasted waffle and housemade jam or overnight oats for a morning pick-me-up.

Spiller Park Coffee - Atlanta, GA

With a touch of nostalgia and whimsy (like their sign that almost ironically laments of a time when coffee was only 5 cents), Spiller Park Coffee is the kind of cafe you want to while away the day in.

Try a “Shake, Shake,” their version of an iced latte, or a “‘Nilla Nutter,” with espresso, bourbon vanilla, and pecan milk, and pair it with heirloom tomato shakshuka or their cinnamon-sugar toast and you really won’t ever have to leave.

Cherry Street Coffee House - Seattle, WA

Seattle is known for its rainy weather, and this Seattle-based mini coffee chain is the perfect place to spend a cozy afternoon when the weather isn’t exactly cooperating. Settle in at a table and sip a dirty chai latte (chai tea with a double shot of espresso) or a Milkyway (mocha with homemade caramel sauce).

Their menu also has breakfast sandwiches (hello, egg and cheese with roasted garlic butter) and a dizzying selection of sandwiches and salads.

Ritual - San Francisco, CA

Courtesy of Ritual Coffee Roasters

The folks at Ritual Coffee Roasters put scrupulous thought into their coffee because, as they put it, “pretty much everybody who works here has had a moment where a really, really good cup of coffee changed their lives.” Grab a black coffee or indulge in “The Nibbler,” a cacao and cold brew slushy.

Their airy cafes channel the easygoing nature of San Francisco.

Muchacho - Atlanta, GA

You may not think of tacos and coffee as going together, but that’s exactly what this Atlanta coffee shop is offering and patrons can’t seem to get enough.

Try the Muchacho Style taco (eggs, chorizo, pico, roasted poblano, and cheese) or the Al Pastor taco for a lunchtime kick. Pair it with an Americano or iced coffee for a funky combination that matches the almost-’70s style decor.

Andytown Coffee Roasters - San Francisco, CA

Scott Lingner

When you walk into the original location of this San Francisco coffee shop, you’re greeted by tons of natural light, clean lines, and a super fancy, retro-designed Kees van der Westen espresso machine.

Try the Short Strand espresso made to be sweet with notes of toffee and milk chocolate, or the Wind & Sea blend, which was inspired by a long Ocean Beach surf session and, according to Andytown, is best enjoyed on a foggy day (San Francisco has no shortage of those).

Red Bay Coffee - Oakland, CA

Courtesy of Red Bay Coffee

Red Bay Coffee’s motto is simple: Beautiful coffee to the people. It’s in that vein that they not only offer high-quality coffee, but also seek to be inclusive of those who they serve and hire, including “those who have traditionally been left out of the specialty coffee industry, especially people of color, the formerly incarcerated, women and people with disabilities.”

At their public roastery location in Oakland, they invite you to ask all your questions about brewing and see how the coffee is roasted.

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