Coffee addicts and alcoholics have one thing in common: "too late in the day" isn't really a thing. Sure, normal coffee drinkers may be cool with picking up a medium roast from the local McDonald's or Starbucks in the morning. But if you’re deep in the java game, it’s imperative you know where the very best spot in your 'hood is AND that it's willing to feed your craving any time of the day. So, to help you out, here's a cheat sheet of some of the best hidden gems throughout the Twin Cities. They may not be the most famous, but that doesn't mean they deserve to be overlooked.
Set back on Johnson St in a tiny Northeast strip mall, The Coffee Shop is an unassuming delight. Walk inside and you'll see it's deceptively big (in both size and offerings), with a chalkboard menu that has everything from your basic cold presses and espressos, to more unique selections like a dirty chai with a flavor shot, or some seriously fabulous scones. If you're looking to save a buck, this place allows you to purchase the beans as well. Bottom line: there are so many eye-catching flavor combos, coffees, and food that it's hard to narrow down the best. Now, having said that, we'd be remiss if we didn't recommend the coconut blend.
The first noticeable thing about this place is the exterior: it's in a renovated Victorian home from the late 1800s. The shop is classy, but casual, with some intimate low lighting and comfortable bench seats inside. But the only thing better than the ambiance is the coffee. From the one-of-a-kind brass espresso machine, to the bottles of exotic and exciting flavors lining the back wall, there's as much character in the cups as there is in the four walls. So whether you’re the dark and strong type, or you're in the mood for something light and flavorful, there's no wrong choice here. And if coffee isn’t your thing, this place has the best chai in Minneapolis (and loads of awards on the wall to prove it).
West St. Paul
At first pass, Fresh Grounds is a solid coffee shop with a deluxe food selection, $2 lattes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and even free fortune cookies on Fridays. But the real magic isn’t just in the coffee pots (though it is there, too); it's also in the people pouring them. As a nonprofit social venture, the shop prides itself on employing individuals leaving temporary transitional housing situations -- halfway houses, sober houses, foster homes, etc. -- and giving them the training and structure needed to transition into the next phase of their lives. All of the profits go directly back into funding the training program, which means you’ll feel an even better buzz buying from here based on the help you’re providing to the community.
Ripped right from a sketch out of Portlandia, Sparrow Cafe is the only coffee shop in the Twin Cities that is certified bird-friendly. Weird, right? Well, don’t worry, you won’t find any birds randomly flying around the shop; there's just some beautiful murals of birds, some kitschy decor, and an array of excellent coffee and pastries. It’s a quiet corner spot tucked away from the more populated nearby areas, making it a great one for that early-morning caffeine fix.
Located in the heart of the University of Minnesota, Bordertown is way more than your standard college java shop. Yes, it does have coffee and espresso to help keep you revved up for a night of studying (or just watching Netflix), but the real reason to visit is the baked goods. Each is seemingly better than the next, though that carrot cake with cream cheese glaze is probably towards the top of the list. When you're here, don't skip the sausage & cheddar scones, or those dark chocolate truffles. And since the menu changes frequently, you've got plenty of reasons to stop in at least once a week... or once a day... or once an hour.
If you ask the crew at Vicinity to describe the shop in five words, it would probably go a little something like this: espresso, coffee, sweets, eats, love (because you'll love everything). Stop in and get yourself something from either the breakfast or lunch menus, as both are surefire wins. The signature $5 morning combo -- a biscuit sandwich and a 12oz coffee -- is the jumpstart you never knew your day needed, and the beer-battered cod sandwich and chicken enchilada soup are never a bad choice.
This place is fun for the whole family. There’s some unique artwork on the walls, a spot for the shop’s weekly open mic, and even a space where the kids can burn off some energy (while you try your best to bring yours back up). The drink menu is fairly deep, ranging from traditional coffees to delicious French sodas; and the food menu is packed with some great breakfast and lunch sandwiches, like the breakfast burrito and grilled cheese.
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1. The Coffee Shop Northeast2852 Johnson St NE, Minneapolis
2. Uncommon Grounds2809 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
3. Fresh Grounds CoffeeWest 7th street, Saint Paul
4. Sparrow Cafe5001 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis
5. Bordertown Coffee315 16th Ave SE, Minneapolis
6. Vicinity Coffee4301 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis
7. Corner Coffee514 N 3rd St #102, Minneapolis
Set back on Johnson St in a tiny Northeast strip mall, The Coffee Shop Northeast is an unassuming delight. It's deceptively big inside, in both size and menu, offering everything from basic drip coffee to cold presses, espressos, and dirty chai. Also offering all-day breakfast, along with lunchtime salads, sandwiches, and dessert, The Coffee Shop is definitely the kind of place you could happily spend several hours in. Lots of comfy couches and chairs fill the space, and there's enough outlets and wifi for everybody. Eat and drink in, or buy some of their locally-roasted beans to take home with you.
Set inside a renovated Victorian home from the late 1800s, Uncommon Grounds is one of Minneapolis's most upscale coffee houses. The interior is classy but casual, with some intimate low lighting and comfortable hotel couch seating that invite patrons to linger. Known for having the best chai in Minneapolis, Uncommon serves a whole menu of hot and cold coffees and teas, along with decadent desserts. Outdoor seating expands the cafe in warmer months, when groups of friends congregate here before (and sometimes after) a night out. For a refined but not stuffy cafe experience, Uncommon Grounds has you covered.
Coffee for a cause—that's Fresh Grounds in St. Paul. The cafe has been a non-profit organization from the beginning, providing on-the-job training and mentoring for at-risk youth, then funneling all their profits right back into Minnesota youth programs. Created as a community space, the coffee house encourages lounging and conversation with plentiful seating, a private event room, and low prices. With a menu of creamy coffee beverages, pastries, and local ice cream, as well as free wifi, it's no wonder this cafe has been so embraced by the community the serve.
This quiet corner coffeeshop has a whimsical name and the decor to go with it, with walls covered in expansive bird murals and a sparrow printed on every cup. Quiet and inviting, the Sparrow encourages patrons to sit and stay awhile with its calming atmosphere and creamy coffee drinks. This isn't your normal commuter's cafe serving annoyed and undercaffeinated travelers—this cafe is for the loungers, the students, the people who want to read a book with their latte and pastry. Sparrow offers warm, flaky, house-made croissants, morning buns, danishes, and more to go with your espresso beverage—and it's all certified bird-friendly.
Located in the heart of the University of Minnesota, Bordertown is way more than your standard college java shop. Supplementing the standard drip coffee and espresso beverages are some of the best baked goods in Minnesota, including the ever-popular carrot cake or the sausage and cheddar scones. The menu changes frequently to take advantage of fresh produce or the inspiration of the chefs, so customers have an excuse to check back often to see what's new. Free wifi and plentiful seating complete the cozy cafe feeling that encourages you to sit back and enjoy a buzzy beverage.
This excellent community coffeeshop may be a little confusing to find for first timers—it's in the Bull Run Coffee building and they haven't changed any of the signs (and they don't plan to). Vicinity owner Brent Ringate also owned Bull Run Coffee, and he changed the cafe's name in order to differentiate it from the Bull Run Roasting Company that supplies Vicinity with beans. The potential confusion is worth the visit to this cozy coffeeshop though, with its specialty lattes and daily-changing burger specials. Plentiful seating and free wifi are also available, as well as patio seating in the warmer months.
The family-friendly cafe has everything you need for an afternoon away from the house. A classic collection of coffee drinks, teas, and Italian sodas are available, as well as a full menu of breakfast and lunch options that change seasonally. This hip spot hosts live music and poetry readings, has commissioned murals for the walls from local artists, and even has a space designated for kids to play in. Couches abound for lounging, and there are also plenty of tables scattered around for reading and studying using their free wifi. This is the kind of place that's always full of regulars—and they'll get to know your name, too.