The Best Independent Coffee Shops in the Country


Like most people who spend their days behind a desk, we love our coffee. Last year, we were even inspired enough to make a mixtape about it. And if there’s one thing we know about people who feel strongly about coffee, it’s that they can also be really selective about it. While the world has been overrun with ubiquitous coffee-shop chains, it hasn’t shut out the best local businesses — the special breed of independent coffee house that draws loyal crowds with its style, charm, quirky staff, and often something more.

This month, we got our first taste of new Coffee-mate Natural Bliss — the all-natural way to add a splash of flavor to your brew — and it reminded us how much we appreciate the simplicity of coffee done right, the old-fashioned way. That’s the inspiration behind our roundup of some of the best coffee shops in the nation. We’ve got you covered from coast to coast with our list, but if you’re like us, you probably have even more favorites that we missed. Tell us what they are in the comments!

Check out our full roundup by clicking through the links below.

Black Gold Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Black Gold is hands-down the coolest coffee shop/record store/antiques shop/taxidermy specialist in the world. Their cold-brewed iced coffee and iced tea with mint are delicious and refreshing, and they stock SCRATCHbread baked goodies. Deeee-lish. Plus, the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable, and will happily nerd out with you over the qualities of fresh brews, rare records, or estate jewelry, all of which they stock. – Leah Taylor

Caffe Trieste North Beach, San Francisco

The Giotta Family is basically the benevolent espresso mafia of San Francisco. The Giottas’ Caffe Trieste, opened in North Beach in 1956, was the first espresso coffee house on the West Coast. It was a Beat poet hangout (it’s right near Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore), and since then has had a decades-long history of Giotta Family Saturday afternoon concerts, visiting celebrities, and elderly cappuccino-sipping Italian men. – Bonnie Chan

Garden View Coffee Mill Oscada, Michigan

The best gourmet coffees (a different one everyday), tasty homemade soups and sandwiches, and fresh baked pies like Mom used to make are part of the TLC that’s turned Garden View Coffee Mill in Oscoda, Michigan into one of most charming destinations in the Midwest. Breezes off of Lake Huron and abundant blossoms both indoors and out, add to the cafe’s country flair. – Paul Laster

Intelligentsia Coffee Silver Lake, Los Angeles

We wake up dreaming about Intelligentsia’s iced Americano. The Silverlake location is mostly outside under big arches with a blue and white tile floor. At times, the place feels like a public square, with lots of regulars. Yes, there’s a long, snaking line almost all of the time, but the coffee is seriously worth it. – Jane McCarthy

Cafe Brazil Dallas, Texas

Cafe Brazil in Dallas is open 24 hours and offers bottomless-cup coffee with about ten different options. Not only can they serve up coffee in about 40 different ways, but they have really really great food and free wi-fi. They even decorate their walls with artwork from local artists, which is also for sale. – Ashley Waghorne

Espresso Vivace Seattle, Washington

Seattle is riddled with coffee shops, obviously, but Vivace stands out. The people are nice and the atmosphere is casual — but there’s an exceptional fussiness to their shot pulling and rosetta pouring, and it all pays off. If Seattle is uptight about coffee, Vivace is delightfully so. – Eric Grandy

The French Press Santa Barbara, California

This local, independent coffee shop is the only place in Santa Barbara to get a decent cold-brewed iced coffee. Their beans are from Santa-Cruz based Verve Coffee and ground to order, and the French press coffee is, as one would hope given the shop’s name, amazing. Mouth-watering coffee and mouth-watering baristas. – Zanab Hussain

The Beat Las Vegas, Nevada

The Beat is within steps of the flashing lights, slot machines, and yard-long margarita-toting tourists that make Las Vegas the spectacle that it is, but it’s one of the most authentic experiences in town: a locally owned and totally independent cafe with great coffee, real people, and no attitude. Since it’s located on the main floor of the artist hub that is the Emergency Arts building, it’s also surrounded by studios and galleries. Inside, the coffee is good, the wi-fi is free, and the seating is both comfortable and plentiful. Patrons set the soundtrack via the communal record player (the shop also sells vinyl!), and a rotating calendar of events helps change things up, with open mic nights, fashion shows, and art exhibits. – Melissa Arseniuk

Republic Coffee Memphis, Tennessee

This place snuck into the Memphis scene and created its own little world in an almost abandoned section of a major commuter street in the middle of the city. It’s bohemian, yet sophisticated, connected to a lot of environmental causes, and located at the end of the now famous Shelby Farms Greenline. Great baristas, very original menu, and completely different scenes depending on the time of day. Plus, it’s extremely affordable. – Michael Guthrie

Aurora Coffee Atlanta, Georgia

Aurora Coffee in Atlanta is a facet of Criminal Records, a founding member and driving force behind Record Store Day. Their coffee is the absolute best; if hipsters can be said to reside in Atlanta, then this is ATL hipster fuel. Plus, on any given day, the Aurora staff is composed of a who’s-who of members of jaw-dropping local bands. – Russ Marshalek

Pie in the Sky Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Pie in the Sky is located in the heart of Woods Hole, just around the corner from the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. It’s a tiny little spot, quite busy in the peak of the summer season, with vacationers rushing to catch the ferry and regulars leisurely sipping organic coffee and nibbling pastries while reading the paper at the picnic tables under the trees outside. Unlike many places in the area, Pie in the Sky is open all year long. The owner, Eric, roasts his beans and makes his own pastries, and has been known to pitch in and take orders himself when the line is long. He even says, “If you see a light on, knock on the door!” Pretty accommodating. – Melissa and Cathleen Mangan

Local 123 Berkeley, California

Some of the key ingredients of this place: really deep knowledge about artisan coffee, baked goods made with elven magic from fresh local ingredients, pop-up dinners and movie nights, classes about stuff like knife sharpening and home roasting. Badass lighting and handcrafted tabletops. And it’s sustainable. – Bonnie Chan

Wyckoff Starr Bushwick, Brooklyn

This tiny little place can make the intimidating industrial parks of Bushwick seem just like home. Their coffee is some of the best in the city. They have a rotating display of local artists (one we’ve seen go viral with their Etsy work months later), killer music that ranges from indie folk to hip-hop (the owners may be rock stars on the side, actually), and one of those cool maps that customers can place a pin in to boast where they hail from. – Deanna Paquette