Top Coffee Stops — AB Road Eats

If this tour had a coffee theme, it was specialty drinks, which is totally not me. I’m an espresso guy … maybe a cortado or gibraltar … the occasional hand pour. But this tour really turned me around. Here then, some of my favorites.


Octane Coffee (Birmingham): Finally! A coffee shop and bar in one space so that at about 3 p.m. I can just walk to the other side of the room. Although Octane is seriously grounded in the pour-over tradition, (see what I did there) they actually produced the finest iced latte I’ve ever tasted.


Cartel Coffee Lab (Tucson and Mesa): I have to admit that I really like the fact they call themselves a “lab.” The coffee is good and the space is great.


Cafe Smitten (Bakersfield): Looks like Bakersfield just got its coffee scene.

Portola Coffee Lab (Costa Mesa): Why have I not combined two of my three favorite beverages, namely horchata and coffee, before? I have no excuse. Now I may introduce my third: bourbon.

Coffee Plus Food (Los Angeles): Order a flat white and several of their sticky buns to-go. Or stay so you can order more.

Coffee Commissary (Los Angeles): Without a doubt this establishment (with several locations) has some of the best coffee in the city. Not to mention out-of-this-world pastries (like a raspberry and kumquat turnover when in-season).

Glanville & Babinski Coffee (Los Angeles): I have a need. A need for…cortados! And the G&B Coffee in downtown LA has answered that need. Now I need another.

Two Guns Espresso (Manhattan Beach): My go-to for Australian-style java in SoCal.

Augie’s Coffee (Riverside): Order the espresso and tonic. Trust me on this.

The WestBean (San Diego): If you’re in the Downtown area of San Diego, you’ll want to try the cortado or latte from WestBean (and a brown butter espresso muffin).

James Coffee Co. (San Diego): I asked the barista to make me the one drink he thought I should have. He made me a honey cinnamon latte. I frowned. Then I drank. Then I had a second one. 

Mazarine Coffee (San Francisco): The best way to knock off the fog in this fine city is with a cup of coffee. I started my day off with a latte from Mazarine.

La Capra Coffee (San Francisco): I learned something new from La Capra. The short glass I’m usually served cortados in, is called a Gibraltar. They’ve named their drink after the glass and that’s what I ordered.

Scout Coffee Co. (San Luis Obispo): Scientifically perfect. What I expect around these neck of the woods.


Lineage (Orlando): A coffee roaster that bottles single-servings of black coffee (or one ready to go with milk and sugar), heck yeah.

Bodacious Brew (Pensacola): Need a proper shot of espresso? These guys can take are of that for you.

Brew D Licious (St Petersburg): I’m not sure what I enjoyed more, the coffee or one the establishment’s owners. The coffee was exactly what I was looking for. But the wonderful and personable owner was truly the icing on the cake for me (as well as the coasters with cats and dogs with wigs). The shop itself has one of my favorite features: a garage door. Pull up a seat at the counter and take in the fresh air.

Subculture Coffee (West Palm Beach): I absolutely got my C8H10N4O2 on at this roaster. It’s one of the best coffee’s I’ve had on the road in Florida and they’ve got cookies to boot. Couple pieces of awesome furniture and I’m sold.


1000 Faces Coffee (Athens): Off the beaten path (a couple of miles from the center of town), but well worth the trip. The shop is no-frills, a big metal table, a few shelves and some garage doors, but they’re carefully curating beans you don’t see every day and roasting to flavor-friendly medium roast. And when they talk coffee, they get crazy eye. I like that.

The Coffee Fox (Savannah): Cold brew, a cortadito and a fantastic logo. I also love getting being able to walk to a local coffee house. Especially a good one with a great vibe. Thanks for keeping me caffeinated multiple times in Savannah, Coffee Fox.


Thirty-Thirty Coffee (Peoria): These talented folks know how to make a pour over and a latte. And come on, there’s a massive bear in their shop (see photo above).

Rockford Roasting Co. (Rockford): These guys know what they’re doing. And I’m not just saying that because they opened the shop just for me on a day they’re normally closed. They’re genuinely educated about their profession and are using parts of the bean (cascara) that I’ve never heard of before for iced teas.


Fortezza Coffee (Fort Wayne): I got a tip from a fan that a newly opened coffee shop, just blocks away from the theater I was performing at, was the place to go. And it was just that.


Reverie Roasters (Wichita): If Espresso To Go Go is a nightclub, Reverie is a laboratory for caffeinated hipsters. The guys making coffee here are serious about their brews and took the time to educate me on just about everything. I enjoyed their coffee and latte, and especially their cold brew which I got to-go for the bus. They also have a pretty cool logo which is critical for a great coffee shop.

Espresso To Go Go (Wichita): I went to both of this coffee establishments locations so that could behold the giant disco mirror ball in one and a life-size winged unicorn in the other. I’d heard that there was a secret menu that you had to request. I did. And on that first visit I ordered a Sid Vicious: Seven shots of espresso mixed with five sugars. And then I danced under that big shiny ball … for 3 hours. On my second visit I truly enjoyed their Vietnamericano featuring sweetened condensed milk and espresso, (I skipped the whipped cream). The only freaky thing was that the exact same girls were working in both locations. Clones? Who cares.


A Cup of Common Wealth (Lexington): Here’s a cool concept: a pay-it-forward coffee shop. A fan of mine tweeted that she left me “any drink I wanted” here. So I left her one too. Anyone can pay-it-forward, and you can also add stipulations like, “sing for your coffee” or “any drink when you dance.”  


Coffee by Design (Portland): I ventured into a different part of town for this roaster. As soon as you enter in, you see the roasters at work — it’s an incredible site.  


Artifact Coffee (Baltimore): Rarely do I find myself torn between ordering a coffee or a tea. But Artifact is doing both well. I especially enjoyed their iced turmeric tea. 


Anthology Coffee (Detroit): A perfect (and I do mean perfect) hand pour. In fact, this is one of the top five pure cups of coffee I’ve ever had. 

Madcap Coffee (Grand Rapids): The espresso roast is dead on and the hand pours are righteous. 

Rowster Coffee (Grand Rapids): A very chill place for a very perfect cortado. Oh! And I could stare at the floor all day. 

Black Owl Coffee (Kalamazoo): The coffee is excellent, but I don’t mind admitting I’d go back just for the vibe. 


Five Watt Coffee (Minneapolis): This place has tremendous attitude and the best coffee mugs in America (photo above). Try to get by for Sunday Service (live organ blues/jazz on Sunday mornings) and have yourself a Hibernator (cold press with toasted almond, honey and milk) or a Big Easy with chicory and walnut bitters.


Sump Coffee (St. Louis): If you need coffee in this fine city, you go here.


Cultiva Coffee (Lincoln): Had my first iced pour over coffee from Cultiva. Won’t be my last. More coffee bars should be doing this.

Legends Comics & Coffee (Omaha): This is one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever been to simply for the combo of comics and coffee. And it was good coffee. I don’t know everything about the comic world, but the guys here showed me the way through new comics I should be reading, including those from Europe.  


Public Espresso (Buffalo): A start up that’s growing in popularity at farmers’ markets and is finally getting its own brick and mortar. I had a lot of great pour-over cups on this trip, but I think my best was in Buffalo. Go figure.

Ninth Street Espresso (New York, NY): I’ve spent enough time in this city to know this is the best coffee in New York City. There I said it. And I stand by it. No matter what you order (latte, cappuccino, etc.), it’s the best. And they have multiple locations, so there’s no excuse not to try it.

The Happy Cappuccino (Schenectady): So if it’s warm enough I will actually order an iced latte. Typically this is a mistake…but not here.  


Coffee Emporium (Cincinnati): I don’t say this often, but the barista made me a perfect honey latte. Granted, I’d never had a honey latte, but I can’t imagine it getting any better than this. If it hadn’t been so late in the day, I would have gone back for another.

Rising Star Coffee (Cleveland): There is a serious coffee scene happening in Cleveland and Rising Star is the epicenter. They’re serious about sourcing, roasting and brewing for full flavor and aroma and about making sure they treat everyone from the growers to the customers right. It’s in a funky space in a funky neighborhood and … well … funky.


Elemental Coffee Roasters (Oklahoma City): I ordered an iced latte and it was fantastic. So good I didn’t even snap a photo (went down that fast).


Extracto Coffee Roasters (Portland): Great space, great logo and a good Mexican pour over to boot.

Spella Caffee (Portland): Not a cappuccino, a perfect cappuccino.


Little Amps Coffee (Harrisburg): I took a quick trip to Harrisburg to visit this roaster and I’ll just say this. It was the best cortado I’ve had on the road so far. And yes they really do have some little amps (guitar amps that is).

Elixr Coffee Roasters (Philadelphia): I finally got around to trying a recommended roaster called Elixr. I was a fan of their logo quickly and their coffee was fantastic.  

La Prima Espresso (Pittsburgh): One of my favorite cappuccinos on the road. 


Bolt Coffee (Providence): If you need a cortado in the city of Providence, plus a great place to sip it, head to Bolt.


Rise Coffee Shop (Charleston): My DODO (director of digital ops), Sarah found this place. She talked me in to coming. Here’s how the conversation went: 

Sarah: You have got to try this rosemary latte. It’s amazing. 
Me: I don’t do flavored coffees. You know this. 
Sarah: Whatever. Drink this. 
(Shoves drink in my face. I take a small sip.)
Me: This sucks. I’ll get rid of it for you. 
(I run out door and down street, hide around corner and finish drink)
Sarah: I am going to kill him.

Coffee & Crema (Greenville): If you’re walking on Main Street, there’s a good chance you might walk past this hole-in-the-wall (literally). But try and seek it out if you have the time — even the milk they’re using is something to brag about.  


Coffea Roasterie (Sioux Falls): A cappuccino from Coffea was the perfect way to start my day in Sioux Falls. If you’re looking for a latte or cappuccino-type drink in Sioux Falls, this would be the place to go.

Black Sheep Coffee (Sioux Falls): This place pretty much had my name on it (Get it? Black sheep …). I ordered a cortado and I would also add this is the place to get a pour over.


K Brew (Knoxville): Awesome logo. Awesome antoccino (a 1:1 espresso/steamed milk combo). You guys really have something going on in K-Town.

Steadfast Coffee (Nashville): My favorite coffee drink of all time. Perfect hot drip coffee served in a tumbler with a floater of chilled crema barely sweetened with Demerara sugar and scented with orange. Per-freakin’-fection.


Blacksmith Coffee (Houston): There’s a reason why there’s a line almost out the door for this coffee. It’s good.

Brown Coffee Co. (San Antonio): Say hello to the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life. And no, I’m not saying that because of the name.


La Barba Coffee Roasting (Salt Lake City): Tucked inside a restaurant, La Barba is one classy coffee bar. I had my morning cortado here, but would like to come back and try their lattes and pour overs. 


Lamplighter Roasting Co. (Richmond): I went to their Addison location and really liked the environment and outside seating.  


Craftworks Coffee (Seattle): Need a cortado? Well you’ll get a perfect one from this coffee establishment.

Coeur Coffee (Spokane): I had a fantastic Americano here … one of the best of the Edible Inevitable Tour in 2015. Really loved the back room art too.

North Town Coffeehouse (Yakima): This establishment kept me caffeinated all day (I went twice). They’re serving up Stumptown Coffee in an old train station.  


Valentine Coffee (Milwaukee): These guys are top notch roasters and I had a killer cortado. This goes on the list of one of the best cups I’ve ever had.


The Ministry of Coffee (Ottawa): Some of Ottawa’s best caffeine can be found here.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar (Toronto): I downed a cortado and a flat white from this coffee bar. Why? Why not.

Revolver Coffee (Vancouver): They know what they’re doing there (they also have great pastries), plus it’s a great shop with all the coffee-making equipment you could ever need.

Forty Ninth Parallel Coffee (Vancouver): The location I visited not only provided coffee, but they’ve partnered up with Lucky’s Doughnuts. Match made in heaven. The coffee was strong and good. Presentation was impressive.

Images © Alton Brown, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017


Add yours
  1. 1

    Stonefruit Coffee in Youngstown, Ohio or Cellar Door Coffee Co. in Garrettsville, Ohio are the best I have ever tried. Support your small town coffee shops, folks !

  2. 2

    Only ONE New England state…Maine… Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont need some love…

  3. 4
    J. Vance

    Why is Jittery Joe’s not on the list. You were the first to introduce me to the gloriousness, and leaving them off the list as even an honorable mention is troublesome.

  4. 9
    Kelley E Arndt

    Peers coffee online…. They do not roast your beans until you order so they are fresh when you receive them! Plus they are very affordable with cheap shipping prices. Also Velton’s online, place your order by Monday 12pm and they will roast that day and ship the next day! If you want it ground they will and it will be very fresh!

  5. 11
    Nancy Winningham

    If you ever are in central California, you must try Maverick’s coffee in Visalia, CA. It is a small, individually owned cowboy-themed coffee shop. They roast the beans right there in house. Although they boast a number of coffee drinks and sell a variety of beans, their in house coffee is my favorite. Definitely a must-try! I no longer live in Visalia, but they have the best restaurants the valley has to offer.

  6. 13

    Nine from NC? Try Villanis in Concord. Or Seventh Street market in Charlotte. Camp Coffee in Blowing Rock is awesome too and above an outdoor supply store!

  7. 14

    Next time you’re in San Antonio, check out Hinee Gourmet Coffee. They are amazing. The owners are awesome people. You can’t go wrong with a cup of Maple Bacon coffee.

  8. 17

    Was in Vancouver recently, to your list I would add East End Roasters. Quite good coffee (pour over, espresso), but also some of the best small batch chocolate I’ve had anywhere.

    On top of that they provide jobs and culinary training to women as a non-profit.

  9. 21

    I recommend the following places in San Francisco:
    Four Barrel Coffee
    Blue Bottle
    Réveille Coffee Co.
    Trouble Coffee Co. – $4 toast progenitor in sleepy Outer Sunset and they just opened new location in Oakland, CA.
    Jane SF

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