The List: 20 Awesome Coffee Shops in the West

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When I moved to the West from the Midwest in 2002, I remember thinking, Wow, coffee sure seems a lot more important here. Since then, I’ve spent time in plenty of western places trying to hone my radar for cool coffee spots, especially in the past nine months, when I’ve been functionally homeless and bouncing around campgrounds and friends’ couches. Here are my favorites so far.

1. St. Mark’s Coffeehouse, Denver, Colorado
St. Mark’s is my home, my favorite coffee shop in the world. I’ve spent more time writing at the broken-granite tables there than any other place. While the drip coffee is not incredible, everything else is – cookies that are just piles of chocolate chips barely stuck together with dough, scones with Scarface-cocaine-size-piles of powdered sugar on top, the best people-watching in Denver, weather that allows for the big garage door up front to be open for two-thirds of the year, snarky notes from Eric, the owner, taped up all over the walls, and Gio, the barista who also created the G.I. Joe Stop Motion Film Festival. stmarkscoffeehouse.com

2. Denver Bicycle Café, Denver, Colorado
Brand-new as of last November, I just started frequenting this place over the winter when I was back in town. Because: $2 bottomless French press coffee, served at the bar by watchful and friendly baristas who always know when you’re running low, good music and giant front windows looking out onto 17th Avenue. The DBC also does bike tune-ups and minor repairs. denverbicyclecafe.com

3. The Bean Cycle, Fort Collins, Colorado
Bikes on the walls, the Matter Bookstore tucked in the back, and the single greatest coffee beverage I have ever drunk: The Kerouac, a pint of iced-coffee-and-venetian-cream amazingness served out of a beer tap behind the bar. There is nothing wrong with you if you order two Kerouacs consecutively. Except you might shake a little bit.
thebeancycle.com

4. Kind Coffee, Estes Park, Colorado
Kind Coffee has thrived in a tiny town that’s dead in the winter, with a Starbucks not even a block away. They’ve even expanded in the last couple years, adding seating next door. After long days of climbing at Lumpy Ridge or ski touring in Rocky Mountain National Park, the organic coffee here is only $1 if you bring your own mug, and if you’re like me, you’ll pay $5 for the Kind Shake, a chocolate-and-espresso milkshake. Have a seat at one of the tables in front and ogle the topo maps of the Diamond on Longs Peak or the trail maps of RMNP, both laminated into the tabletops. kindcoffee.com

5. Nobrow, Salt Lake City, Utah
You wouldn’t mistake Salt Lake City for Seattle, unless your first experience was in Nobrow Coffee, in downtown SLC. The first time I stopped here, a three-piece string band was practicing in the front of the shop and two dachsunds patrolled the seating area, greeting everyone who came in. nobrowcoffee.com

6. The Mean Bean, Springdale, Utah
Zion National Park deserves to be more famous than it is, with its thousand-foot-high red sandstone canyon walls closing in above the Virgin River. So does the Mean Bean, the tiny coffeehouse in next-door Springdale where you can get a cup of real coffee and a wireless signal. Yes, they’re the only game in town, but they have good game. LINK

7. Pearl Street Bagel Shop, Jackson, Wyoming
There are not too many coffee spots to feel comfortable holing up for a few hours in Jackson – thankfully, there’s Pearl Street Bagel Shop, if your climbing trip to the Tetons gets derailed for a rain day and you need a place to get breakfast and hang. Build your own sandwich out of their fantastic bagels, grab a cup of coffee and take a seat in the front window. pearlstreetbagels.com

8. Break Espresso, Missoula, Montana
Indie-haven Missoula got its first Starbucks in 2004, then it got its first downtown Starbucks in 2006, neighboring Break Espresso. The Break crushed Starbucks, and Starbucks shut its doors in 2009, as the Break expanded into an absolutely huge and wonderful space that is so big there are two wifi hotspots inside. LINK

9. Big City Coffee, Boise, Idaho
The baked goods at Big City Coffee are borderline ridiculous: scones the size of a pie plate, 4-inch by 4-inch brownies that are two inches tall. Order a $2 bottomless cup of coffee and you’ll be handed a 20-ounce latte mug – I like your style, Big City. Breakfast is served all day until close at 6 p.m., and the word is out about this place – every time I’ve been there, it’s been packed. bigcitycoffeeld.com

10. The Station, Seattle
Ah, Seattle. Epicenter of American coffee culture. Visit this city and folks will tell you to head to Victrola and Caffe Vivace for the best espresso. That’s great. The best coffee shop experience is at The Station, which is basically an extension of owner Luis Rodruiguez’s personality – all fun, all the time. Luis connects with every single person who walks in the door of his Beacon Hill storefront, alternately affably giving people shit and charming them. Oh, and the coffee is good, too. LINK

11. Bauhaus Books and Coffee, Seattle, Washington
Bauhaus is a classic Seattle spot on Capitol Hill, recommended to me by several folks, both for the coffee and the laid-back atmosphere. First time I came in here, I asked the barista: “What’s up with the Ding Dongs?” Which were individually wrapped in foil, stacked on a serving plate in the baked goods case. “They’re a dollar,” he said. “I know. Do you guys make them or something?” “No. They’re just Ding Dongs.” bauhauscoffee.net

12. Random Order, Portland, Oregon
I am aware that there are a million good coffee shops in Portland and probably half a dozen just on NE Alberta Street, but this is my favorite. Let me watch the rain fall outside from a window seat in Random Order, where they make badass espresso and write your name on the saucer under your cup, and I’m happy. And the pie is off the hook. randomordercoffee.com

13. The Governor’s Cup Coffee Roasters, Salem, Oregon
No one talks much about Salem. Portlandia, yes, Bend, yes, Eugene, et cetera. But if you happen to be in Salem, and you’re an itinerant laptop traveler like myself, you’ll be excited to find The Governor’s Cup – in Salem since 1991, but reopened under new ownership in 2010. I think a good afternoon is when you can pound Americanos at one of the tables here while they roast coffee in the front of the shop, effectively letting you both drink and smoke coffee. thegovcup.com

14. Acre Coffee, Petaluma, California
If you find yourself in Petaluma, Acre is the place. An open front window, wonderful northern California weather, a typewriter always at one of the tables, and the coffee is all French press, and strong. Brand new as of 2011, bringing a hip environment to this sleepy NorCal town. acrecoffee.com

15. Coffee Bar, Los Angeles, California
If you find yourself in downtown L.A. looking for a place to work, this is it. Coffee Bar is huge inside, has outdoor seating, and outlets everywhere, including one at each seat at the bar, and solid espresso (best in L.A., maybe?) New as of 2011. coffeebarla.com

16. Caffe Dulce, Los Angeles, California
Three words: Green Tea Donuts. This new spot in Little Tokyo has them, among other awesome baked goods that will give your pancreas a workout, and pourovers. cafedulce.co

17. Sambalatte, Las Vegas, Nevada
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is one of the best all-around rock climbing destinations in America, if not the world. The nearest town, Las Vegas, is pretty much bankrupt of independent coffee shops. Sambalatte Torrefazione Caffè Lounge & Espresso Bar in Summerlin, however, has what you need. Standard single cup of coffee is a pourover for $2. Last time I was there, the lady sitting next to me told me about the book she was writing – about both her careers, as an exotic dancer and as a timeshare salesperson. sambalatte.com

18. Rendezvous Coffee House and Martini Bar, Flagstaff, Arizona
If you’re in Flagstaff looking for coffee, everyone will tell you to go to Late For The Train for the spicy Fireman’s Mocha, but I like the big people-watching front windows at Rendezvous, nestled in the lobby of the Hotel Monte Vista. And the $1 Americanos and $2 French presses from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day. hotelmontevista.com/rendezvous

19. Lola Coffee, Phoenix, Arizona
The Phoenix metropolitan area is a tough place to find good independent anything – the city sometimes seems like an endless grid of strip malls and pastel-walled red-roofed houses. But there are a few great places springing up. Lola Coffee is one of them, determined to make a home in the once-desolate downtown area. Good space, good coffee, good playlists at the 3rd Avenue location. lolacoffeebar.com

20. Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe, Arizona
Cartel Coffee Lab on University feels like a secret when you open the door its nondescript strip mall near the Arizona State University campus – no tables outside, no real signage. Then when you walk in, you might think that you’re in for a snob-tastic coffee experience because the place is so hip, and there’s no drip coffee, only espresso, pourovers and the like – but the baristas are friendly, conversational, and oh, good at making good coffee. It’s roasted in the back of the shop, next to the hanging sculpture curtain of old bike wheels.
cartelcoffeelab.com

PLUS
21. The coffee shop in your town that’s not on this list because I haven’t been there yet. Please add it in the comments. I like solid coffee, baked goods, wifi, cool people, outlets, and reasonably clean restrooms.
 
Photo by Steve Casimiro

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{ 75 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Jamey Voss

    Well, you missed a bunch, but there’s hundreds, so…

    These suggestions are based on atmosphere AND coffee quality…

    -LA: Handsome Roasters
    -Venice Beach: Intelligentsia
    -Echo Park: Fix

    Portland:
    -Coava (best coffee shop in Portland)
    -Gold Rush Coffee Bar

    Seattle:
    -Caffe Vita on Lower Queen Anne
    -Milstead and Co in Fremont

  • Aron

    Can’t forget my fav Vegas shop — Sunrise Coffee! Best coffee and veggie/vegan/hungry people food on the East side of the Strip.

    Also, if you want good coffee in L.A., check out any of the beach cities. A few of my highlights:

    The Library coffee shop in Long Beach
    Java City in Long Beach
    Bogart’s Coffee in Seal Beach

  • Wayne Turner

    I work out of Lola Coffee in Phoenix nearly every day (I’ll admit I live about 100 feet away). Great coffee, excellent staff (shout out to Susie, Casey, Spring and the owner Daniel who has made it such a great little place) and an excellent atmosphere. It was such a nice surprise to see this as I was sitting at Lola :)

  • SMan

    Best mountain town baked goods and coffee:

    Wake ‘n Bakery in Glacier, Wash., just below Mt. Baker Ski Area. Killer scones. Solid coffee. Great owners.

  • tambre

    You missed some other good ones in Arizona, but major points for listing out Lola, whom I feel is often overlooked.

    In Arizona also consider trying:
    Black Cat Coffee House
    Press Coffee Roasters
    Echo Coffee
    Solo Coffee

  • Teresa

    Hailey Coffee Company, Hailey, ID.

    Great coffee, tasty breakfast sandwiches, and friendly baristas who will happily point you towards the nearest outlet. If you need a little inspiration for your work, murals with entertainingly snarky words cover melon-colored walls and big windows look out to the mountains.

  • Malcolm Daly

    The Laughing Goat on East Pearl in Boulder rocks it. Great Kaladi Coffee, baked goods, a mellow vibe and live music at night. The stay open 24 hours during finals week!

  • Kristen

    Although I live in Telluride, CO and there are several fantastic coffee shops here; High Alpine Coffee Bar (located in the back of the bookstore) , The Steaming Bean- which now serves waffles! You missed my all- time favorite coffee shop in Flagstaff, AZ- Macy’s. It has the most delicious coffee- you can only get Americanos or French Press (for your regular cups). Delicious roated coffee beans, great soups/sandwiches. And above all- great ambiance.

  • Stacy Bare

    Just learned from this article that Malcolm Daly stays up all night looking at college students during finals thanks to this forum. Good article, but Mal, that’s weird Bro. You’re not in college anymore.

    How about some love for Ozo in the West End?

  • Tony

    Old Town Coffee – Lander, Wyoming
    One World – Moscow, Idaho
    Love Muffin Cafe – Moab, UT
    Montana Coffee Traders – Whitefish, MT

  • Gavin

    Macy’s in Flagstaff, especially if you are vegan and need a bite to eat as well. Flag Coffee Company has joined the ranks recently as a decent spot for coffee too.

  • Matt

    spend much time in the mountain west? i’d offer Pablo’s and Hooked on Colfax as other Denver coffee spots.

    You should take your coffee habits to San Francisco and visit Four Barrel, Ritual, and Sight Glass. I’d guess that these would make it to the top of your list. Or head to Eugene and visit The Wandering Goat and Cafe Vero.

  • Sandor Lengyel

    Bovine Bakery, Pt. Reyes California.

    Located in the sleep cowtown of Pt. Reyes (about 30 miles north of San Francisco), the Bovine has legendary baked goods that change depending on what is in season. Don’t come looking for some silly frou frou espresso drink, though; they serve strong coffee and tea only. Do come expecting to see locals, bicyclists, and hikers lined up on the sidewalk out front since seating is limited to a few bar stools. Lots of the baked goods go on sale for half price 1/2 hour before closing, too.

    (I have no affiliation to Bovine. They are awesome, and use organic, local ingredients on just about everything, and have been doing so long before it was popular).

  • William Harryman

    The Beanery, Ashland, OR – small, great coffee, nice atmosphere (might still have stores in Eugene and Corvallis, too)
    Raging Sage, Tucson, AZ – small, patio seating, and good pastries

  • Brianna

    Its definitely more North West the others listed, but its got the bonus of being a bike shop as well as a coffee shop.

    The Broken Spoke – Courtenay, British Columbia
    http://www.thebrokenspoke.com

    Their beans are roasted at Discovery Coffee (another wonderful coffee shop!) in Victoria, BC. The treats are scrumptious and you can feast on both all while browsing the bike selection.

  • Tait

    Comments on other posts: ~4 (avg)
    Comments on favorite coffee shops: 36 (and counting)
    At least we have our priorities straight!

    Here, here, Gov. Cup! Worked there for a few minutes once.

  • nan

    Wow, you haven’t even made it to New Mexico! What a shame! There is not a bad coffee shop in Taos – Wired?, The Coffee Spot, Elevation, Purple Sage and Mondo Kultur to name a few.

  • steve

    Camp 4 Coffee in CB
    Steaming Bean in Telluride (aforementioned by Kristen)
    The Bean Cafe in Friday Harbor, WA
    1012 in Port Townsend, WA

  • Blair

    North Vancouver

    The best – Moja Coffee. 1492 Rupert St

    Close seconds. JJ Bean. Park and Tillford mall
    Bean Around The World. Park gate Mall, bottom of Mt. Seymour.

  • Josh

    Barista – Portland
    Ya gotta give props to the many Stumptowns, really.
    Lift Coffee Company – Whistler. Best coffee next to a gondola in the world, most likely.

  • Paul

    I’ve got to second Krill. French Press, Santa Barbara. Verve Coffee, black, s’all you need. But the other stuff’s great too.

  • Jill

    Love Muffin in Moab…you’d think there would be lots of coffee competition there but everywhere else is weird (not in a good way). I usually have to get 2 muffins because I can’t decide between all the deliciousness.
    For the Canadian west, for all your roadtripping needs:
    Oso Negro in Nelson, BC. Delicious everything, amazing space, plenty of hippies and mountain folk alike!
    Communitea Cafe in Canmore, Alberta.
    The Modern, REvelstoke, BC. baked good heaven, cool old building, super cosy for snowy mornings.
    Those are the standouts I always make sure to hit!

    A million more, but those are my two votes for sta

  • Jill

    One more- Green River Coffee company in Green River, Utah. Probably the only game in town, but cool and quirky. Good coffee too.

  • Steph

    Cafe 13

    1301 Araphao St.
    Golden, CO

    solid coffee, baked goods, wifi, cool people, outlets, and reasonably clean restrooms…

    oh wait, i just straight copy&pasted your list… but it fits our place. check it out.

  • JGeier

    I looked through the comments and was surprised no one mentioned:

    The Kiva Koffeehouse
    Hwy 12, Milemarker 73.86
    Escalante, UT 84726

    It is an amazing oasis of good coffee and delicious homemade goods and lunch/breakfast. You’d see the sign and NEVER think to stop. But you 100% should. It’s AMAZING.

  • Jess D

    Somehow just seeing this post…
    Just visited 10 Speed Coffee in Hood River, OR. We were in HR for 2 1/2 days and went there at least 5 times…At least we split it among 3 locations… But the newest one is attached to Dirty Fingers Bike shop.
    And of course, my home shop, Montana Coffee Traders. :)
    About to do a big road trip from MT to CO, so writing a bunch of these down!

  • Max

    The Leaf and Bean in Bozeman Montana. Two locations to serve you best. Hint the one located on Main st., is close to plenty of places to get a burger, pizza, vegi dishes and of course local brews. As well as a brand new pair of running shoes if so desired!

  • Rachel Phipps

    The coffee at Cuppa Joe in Breckenridge, CO is to die for! The atmosphere is pretty sweet, too. Also the ice cream in the summer :)

  • Bruce

    In Eastern Montana, Cafe Utza in Miles City is excellent in any locale. Strictly Organic in Bend is well worth a visit. Dog River in Hood River is a great stop.

  • Natalie Kelsey

    I know of a place called The Abbey Espresso Bar and Cafe in Belleville, IL that has excellent coffee, great cozy, inspirational, inviting atmosphere and is just getting ready to open the doors to their newly custom built, location in Dec 2012.
    And the new place is amazing!
    I have never been around such a great family owned business, where I literally feel like one of the family. Great coffee house, great people…Love it!
    Maybe one might consider it for a future 20 greatest list :)
    Here’s their website :) http://thebellevilleabbey.com/
    Natalie

  • Matt CR

    st marks has the best cookies on earth. straight up. but if you want coffee (in denver), go to pablos or denver bicycle co. but if you realllllly want good coffee, come to san francisco.

  • Louise

    Oso Negro Coffee in Nelson BC is like nowhere else. Hub of the town, featured artists, very cool garden, and passionate, exceptional, fresh coffee! Come and visit!

  • Ryan

    Cinnamon spoon in Bragg Creek Alberta.
    Great coffee, Awesome staff and a great place to people watch. Cowboys/Cowgirls, Harley riders to spandex dressed riders you name it you will see them walk in the door. It even has the local old guys that sit and chat about the news every morning.

  • Jaralei

    Bully Blends Coffee and Tea Shop, Rapid City, SD, in the Black Hills (surrounded by endless miles of amazing mountain bike trails). We roast our own coffee, have over 100 kinds of tea, not only fresh home baked goods but a full grill with burgers and fries, and sell beer as well. Best of all worlds.

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