When it comes to coffeeshops, quaint and a bit quirky is my sweet spot. Hip, sleek and modern is all very nice, but give me a funky hole-in-the-wall any day. Though it’s gaining a name as one of the mainstay local coffee sources in KC — hardly a hole-in-the-wall — Quay Coffee somehow manages to be both hip and homey. Named for the River Quay, the former name of the River Market, Quay (pronounced “key”) is a cozy, brick-walled spot in the heart of the eclectic River Market district. (If you’re strolling through the Nelson-Atkins Museum and in need of a caffeine fix, they also opened a location in the museum, but I highly recommend visiting the original.) Small but with plenty of seating, the place is always bustling with people working or chatting over a cuppa. In short, it’s a friendly, festive spot. It seems like sometimes it’s difficult to find beautiful latte art and a smile (thus the snobby barista trope), but Quay truly manages to do both. They definitely know their coffee, but I’ve never been greeted by anything less than genuine cheer and friendly banter.
But of course, the main draw: the coffee is good. Very good. Quay puts fastidious attention into choosing top-notch direct trade roasters, and the coffee never disappoints. With housemade syrups in scrumptious flavors like Old Overholt Caramel and Spice Brown Sugar, inventive seasonal drinks, and fresh local baked goods, the menu is classic but never boring.
River Market in of itself is worth exploring, and my go-to is fueling myself with a good caffeine dose from Quay as I do my wandering. Then again, it’s worth making a trip there just for the coffee and warm atmosphere. Bring a book, some work, or a friend and settle in with a delicious latte — you won’t want to leave.
What would a trip to Paris be without le café? Despite Paris’s vibrant café culture, it’s generally accepted that the coffee itself isn’t all that great. But in the past few years, the third-wave coffee movement has hit the city — with vigor — and these days there are legit roasters and more coffeeshops than even I could manage to hit in one trip. That’s not to say I didn’t try — I had a mile-long list going into my trip, and I drank enough coffee to fuel endless trekking around the city (which is a lot). Though I don’t want to think about how much of my trip budget went to coffee breaks, this did leave me with a pretty good sampling of the Paris coffee scene. Unlike years past, it’s pretty easy now to find a good latte or filter coffee in Paris (and the list of places offering alternative milks is also growing), not to mention that there’s a collection of friendly, charming cafés to visit. My list was a good one — I don’t think I drank a bad cup of coffee on my trip. That said, I narrowed it down to my top five picks for the best Paris coffeeshops (though the full list of spots I visited is included as well — all of which I would recommend, honestly). Thankfully, there’s never a need to wander Paris under-caffeinated again!
This might just be the tiniest coffeeshop in Paris — it’s also one of the cutest, and serves up delicious coffee to boot (no pun intended). Nestled in an old cordonnerie, or cobbler’s shop, in the Marais, this petite blue café has just enough room inside for the counter and a couple of tables. They manage to fit a lot of charm into a small space, though, with rustic-chic décor, art on the walls, and fresh flowers — plus delicious coffee and pastries, of course. Get a flat white to go as you meander through the Marais, or take a moment to perch on one of the outside seats and enjoy the charming street.
Books and coffee — what’s not to love? Near Bastille in the hip 11e, this charming café is stocked floor to ceiling with books and filled with plants. It’s definitely worth taking your coffee to stay here — grab a seat at one of the eclectically mismatched tables or sofas and enjoy the tranquil vibes as you sip your café from a pastel-hued cup and munch on a house-made treat (I highly recommend the carrot cake — it was scrumptious). Though I generally think the rude Parisian stereotype is a myth, it’s also worth noting that the staff here are lovely (not a surly waiter in sight).
It should tell you something that I went out of my way to return to this little café several times during my trip. There are actually two locations, though I only checked out the bustling café near the Latin Quarter. This was one of the few places where I found a nearly-American-size latte (which is likely a point against me in javaholic cred but was a plus in my book). In any case, the coffee is delicious and the space lively and inviting. If you’re feeling peckish, definitely try the brownie, which is essentially death by chocolate and worth every bite. Strada is a little out of the way of the typical tourist spots, but if you’re exploring the Left Bank (which I highly recommend) — especially Jardin des Plantes or the ancient Roman Arènes de Lutèce — it’s definitely worth a stop (or two).
You can’t visit Paris without stopping into this friendly spot in the Marais. It’s the sort of place where the patrons are regulars and the baristas chatty. I was barely there a minute before I was chatting about my trip with a fellow patron and the baristas, and the owners themselves are often behind the bar, making drinks and talking to people. With Aussie and New Zealand roots, it’s a favorite gathering spot for the expat crowd in Paris, and for good reason. Don’t miss the delicious waffles with your flat white, and if you’re looking for a little guidance around Paris, they also host bike tours around Paris and Versailles.
If you’re looking for a mean flat white and a tasty bite in the up-and-coming Oberkampf district, look no further than Café Oberkampf. This Aussie-inspired café serves up top-notch coffee and fresh, healthy eats in a bright, friendly setting. It’s another tiny spot, but it’s definitely worth grabbing one of the few tables and staying for brunch or lunch. Their specialty is the tartine (an open-faced sandwich or toast) — a perfect accompaniment to a delicious cup of coffee.
There you have it — the best Paris coffeeshops! Here’s the list of all the coffeeshops I visited. Anyone fancy a cuppa?
Well hello there! Yes, I know I’ve been a little AWOL around here — but all in the name of research! (sort of) I’ve been off doing some wandering (grand old Paris, in fact), so you better believe there will be plenty of fresh content coming soon! In the meantime, I thought I’d pop back with a little coffee recommendation closer to home (my hood, actually) to tide you over: PT’s Coffee in Kansas City. Stay tuned!
Full confession: I have a type. A coffeeshop type, that is. (What, do normal people mean something else by that?) Well, two types actually — urban hipster and lovably shabby hole-in-the-wall. PT’s Coffee conveniently bridges the two criteria.
Tucked into an old brick building in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts district, the KC outpost of Topeka-based grassroots roasters PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. definitely qualifies as urban and hole-in-the-wall. (Complete with my favorite urban reno hallmark: brick walls and an exposed tin ceiling.) Inside, though, the space is open, airy, and both funky and minimalist. The artsy Crossroads spirit definitely edges in with a young hipster clientele and local art lining the walls, while the open space and minimalist furniture add an retro urban vibe. My favorite touches, though, are the reclaimed wood tables — mod-looking pieces made from over 100 wood pallets that carried coffee to PT’s roasting facility — and the giant marquee “coffee” sign. Very retro, admirably resourceful, and of course, entirely appropriate for true javaholics. Even better: they just opened a brand new location at 1310 Baltimore St. More modern than the funky Crossroads spot, the new outpost is equally charming (and, of course, delicious).
PT’s is one of those cafes that manages to be bustling without being chaotic. Every time I’ve been in there (yes, the tally is rapidly adding up), it’s been busy enough that finding a table can be a bit of a challenge. It’s a comfortable background din, though, a happy medium fit for chatting with friends or studying (both of which there are always people doing). The last time I was there, a friend and I sat at the bar lining the front windows, providing a perfect view onto the (always colorful) street traffic of downtown Crossroads. Luckily, PT’s doesn’t fall short on this point either — from students to funky artists to the occasional … eccentric urban character, there are all sorts of caffeination-seekers at the cafe. After all, people-watching is a crucial part of the true coffeeshop experience.
Last but most definitely not least: the menu. Obviously, the coffee hits the mark, or I wouldn’t have added it to my regular haunts list. Every time I go there, I plan on trying something new, but I’m afraid I’ve become rather addicted to one particular drink: the lavender-caramel latte. The idea of applying to coffee a scent usually found in soap and soothing eye pillows might seem a bit odd, but trust me on this one: the lavender-caramel syrup is to die for. PT’s makes its own delectable syrups (honey vanilla and lavender caramel are the current options), which I would 100% recommend. On top of that, their latte art game is top-notch (hey, sometimes it’s ok to judge a book by its cover). If you’re feeling peckish, they also have a tasty selection of sandwiches and pastries, as well as smoothies and various teas.
Bottom line: if you’re ever in downtown Kansas City, definitely stop by PT’s Coffee for a java pick-me-up and a good dose of eclectic KC charm.
In my mind, anything that mentions travel, exploration, and/or wandering (obviously) is immediately worth an investigation. A tribute to explorers — literary and literal — worldwide, Nomads Coffee in Kansas City exactly fits that bill. It would be easy to walk straight past it, nestled in a subtle brick shopfront on eclectic 39th Street. It certainly isn’t the most colorful or eye-catching spot on the street. But that would be your loss. This charming café has become my go-to coffeeshop work spot, and it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed.
To fully capture the atmosphere of Nomads Coffee, it’s really best to imagine yourself as a slightly disaffected nineteenth-century writer or a gruff world traveler (or at least following in the footsteps of one). The entire café is a bit dim, with dark wood floors and furniture and deep blue walls. Sophisticated, in an ever-so-slightly gloomy way. Take a spot at the dark-wood bar, curl up in a cushy armchair, or pick an intimate café table and get settled in. My spot of choice is at the bar along the front windows, with a perfect view out onto the goings-on of quirky 39th Street.
To complete the travel theme, shelves throughout the café are stocked with books with a global explorer bent (think Jack London, vintage travel memoirs, old issues of National Geographic). The walls are lined with photos of Alaskan dog races, mountain explorations, maps, suitably gruff explorers, and people and places around the globe.
It’s the type of place where you might expect to come across a grumpy older Hemingway ordering a cocktail or a grizzled old explorer recounting tales of his latest expedition into the jungle or Arabian deserts (though in reality the clientele is more on the young and hip side, thanks to students from the nearby KU Med Center and the vibrant culture of 39th Street).
All that said, in reality the café isn’t at all gloomy. Despite the somber (if charming) aura, the staff and customers are always friendly, and the café is usually bustling, classic and peppy oldies tunes playing in the background. (Just absorb the old-world vibes and be glad no one there actually acts like a grumpy old mountain man).
No literary or global enclave would be complete without drinks, of course! The coffee menu here is classic — none of that foufy frappuccino business — but the lattes are delicious. Plus, there’s also a full cocktail/beer/wine menu (this is an extra plus in my book because it means they’re open late, unlike many coffee shops). If you’re feeling peaky, they have a tasty selection of pastries and cookies, plus quiche, classic and hearty sandwiches, and breakfast burritos. Café fare, but the type you actually want to eat.
Full disclosure: I only tested the ham and cheese croissant, but it was scrumptious — buttery and perfectly flaky, with a subtle spike of Dijon mustard inside — and the rest of the menu looks quite tasty. The quiche is definitely next on my list!
So the next time you’re around 39th Street, wander over to Nomads Coffee for a coffee or cocktail — who knows, maybe you’ll actually run into that rugged world explorer I keep expecting to see.
Can someone please tell me where the summer went? Scratch that, where the year went? Seriously, I swear it was just January and I was cheering when the temp hit double digits (now I’m just praying it doesn’t hit triple digits). I don’t know about you, but I’m now counting down the days until fall. Crisp air, colorful leaves, Halloween ghoulies? Bring it on. That said, summer is a time of exploration. Granted, any time is an opportunity for exploration in my opinion, but there’s something particularly carefree and wanderlust-filled about summer. I’ve been neglecting my Kansas City coffee expedition a bit, and I needed an excuse again to wander and think/write/drink coffee 24/7 — or at least justify the amount of my budget spent on coffee by saying it’s blog research. So I decided to make up for lost (java) time. This weekend, that meant a little jaunt over to Liberty, Missouri, to check out Hammerhand Coffee. To be fair, at only 25 minutes from downtown KC, Liberty hardly qualifies as a road trip, but I’m fairly clueless when it comes to north of the city, so it felt like an expedition. Particularly when you factor in that I spent the first hour there hunting down a police station, who called a tow company, who battled my stubborn car locks, because I locked my keys, purse, and phone in my car … but that’s another story.
Ok, on to the important stuff. In case you’re (shockingly) unfamiliar with the small towns of Missouri, Liberty is a historic frontier town just northeast of Kansas City, founded in 1822, and now home to William Jewell College. Think stately brick campus, rambling old Victorian homes, and an abundance of kitschy yet charming shops.
Hammerhand is right in the historic town square, across from the Art Deco county courthouse and surrounded by quaint circa-late-1800s storefronts. Considering all this, it’s surprisingly hip and modern, the type of cafe that wouldn’t be out of place in Brooklyn hipsterland. Housed in a narrow turn-of-the-century brick building, the grand wooden staircase, stained glass window accents, and iron fire escape give it an old-world vibe. Yet the decor is crisp, modern, and colorful — mid-century style furniture, bright white walls, succulents, faux vintage lightbulbs, turquoise touches. In a whimsical nod, there’s even a Chemex with a live beta fish swimming around. It feels like a cross between a homey neighborhood joint and a student study crashpad, with both lively chattering groups and tables covered in notebooks and laptops. Liberty doesn’t feel like a college town, but almost everyone there looked to be under 25, so I would guess the students, as usual, gravitate toward the caffeine sources.
In the art of full disclosure, the coffee had a slightly odd taste. Not bad, just different. I realized, though, that I haven’t actually had regular milk for quite some time (they ran out of almond), so that might have just been me. That being said, my latte was rich and smooth, and they nailed the latte art (yes, it matters!). The rest of the menu features the standard drip, cappuccinos, cold brew, etc., plus seasonal drinks, housemade syrups, and a selection of pastries. About your usual coffeehouse fare, though it all looked scrumptious. They supposedly also carry a rotating selection of beer and wine, though I didn’t see any sign of that (to be fair, it was also a Sunday afternoon).
Overall, the chances of most people just passing through Liberty, MO, is about zip, and most large cities probably have dozens of Hammerhand-esque java joints. That said, it has a certain flair, with its 19th-century-frontier/hipster mélange, and the coffee is pretty damn good. If you happen to be in the KC area, it’s definitely worth a stop.
When I first heard about a bookstore/café opening in Kansas City, I knew this was going to become my spot. It’s basically my favorite things all in one charming package: coffee, books, cozy urban hideaways. Spoiler alert: that turned out to be a very accurate prediction. After peeking hopefully in the windows almost daily for months, I happily made it my coffee haunt/workspace of choice to the point where the baristas knew my order the minute I stepped through the door (we’ll credit that to their attentiveness rather than my boring predictability/coffee addiction). In the art of full disclosure, I should mention that I now work at Our Daily Nada — so clearly I’m wholly unbiased here — but hey, that’s how much I love it! You could say I strategically wheedled my way into the behind-the-scenes of the place.
A self-proclaimed “boozy bookstore” — they get points there for both the genius of the idea and the alliteration — Our Daily Nada is nestled in KC’s historic River Market neighborhood in a late-19th/early-20th-century brick building. Think exposed brick walls, wood floors, and tall loft ceilings. The cozy space is decorated with a smattering of colorful vintage furniture, Art Deco-esque globe lights, and cheeky touches (one of my favorite bits is a Frida Kahlo pillow on the couch). There’s even a grand piano in the corner — feel free to sit down and tap out a tune.
The name “Our Daily Nada” is a nod to a Hemingway short story, “A Clean Well-Lighted Place,” which the owners say is “a story in part about everyone needing a place to escape.” And that’s what ODN is. It’s the type of place where drinks come in real cups and the modus operandi is browsing, meandering, gathering together and chatting with friends. Take a moment to thumb through the carefully curated selection of tomes — fiction, nonfiction, used, classics, local authors. Settle into a rose-pink armchair or the increasingly Instagram-famous emerald green couch and lose yourself in conversation or another world (or both). There’s an air of cozy camaraderie and whimsy that feels rare in most places these days. People come in to work or study at the little tables, meet up with friends over lattes (or just as often, a glass of wine or cocktail), or gather for a book club discussion. Come on a Tuesday night, and you can join in on game night —games from Monopoly to Trivial Pursuit are there for the playing. Every weekend they host a kids’ story time, and for Halloween a suitably spooky Edgar Allen Poe reading went down. You never know what the owners — two lovably kooky KC women who are usually around overseeing the shop — might cook up next.
And speaking of cooking, there’s plenty of that literally as well. In addition to coffee and cocktails, Our Daily Nada offers a small but tasty menu of bites and nibbles. Toasts are the main feature — avocado, prosciutto, smoked salmon, or ham and cheese — plus a killer Cobb salad and other small bites. Handmade to order, these aren’t for anyone in a hurry, but they’re carefully crafted and as pretty as they are delicious. (Shoutout to our amazing cooks, Stephan, Tori, and Elana!) And then, of course, there’s the main focus for many: the drinks. Coffee and lattes from local Broadway Roasters, and for happy hour (every night, by the way) and beyond, a good selection of wines and beers and an inventive cocktail menu. Half-Blood Prince, anyone? Yes, drink themes include Harry Potter andGame of Thrones. Cheers!
Ok, so I’m hardly an impartial party here. But really, a book wonderland, tasty coffee and booze, yummy homemade bites, cozy colorful charm, a local woman-owned business — what’s not to like? Come in on a Wednesday or Friday, and you can even say hi to little ol’ me!
Let’s talk about goats and mochas. What, isn’t that a typical topic of conversation for everyone? Ok, bear with me here. It perplexed me a bit at first that goats seemed to be a theme for coffee shops — the Laughing Goat, Kaldi’s, Goat Hill, etc. As a java nerd, I should have known better. In case you haven’t brushed up on your coffee history, Kaldi was a ninth-century Ethiopian goatherd who noticed his goats bursting with energy after eating some little red berries — and voilà, the discovery of coffee! Or so the legend goes. I don’t know if this was actually the inspiration for Goat Hill Coffee, but I’m going to officially declare the goat the official javaholic mascot in any case (and there’s your history lesson for the day).
Anyway, my mom and I were wandering around KC’s Westside neighborhood — an eclectic area of quirky shops, tiny indie restaurants, and shabby Victorian houses — and stumbled upon an irresistibly seafoam green coffee shop. Well, more like a coffee hole-in-the-wall. Of course, I can never resist a new coffee shop, let alone anything seafoam green, so we had to check it out.
Keeping with the neighborhood’s vibe, Goat Hill is tiny, charming, and quirky. Case in point: pressed tin ceiling, seafoam green details, vintage snow cone maker. Worn wooden shelves lined with vintage tchotsckes (and old-school lollipops for sale) add a rustic look. And when I say tiny, I really mean tiny. The shop consists of a window cove of retro metal chairs at a wraparound bar, plus a few seats overlooking the counter/kitchen area. It probably fits nine people max, plus the baristas. Luckily, that only adds to the charm.
On to the important stuff! Chocolate + coffee = bliss (amirite?) You would think that with a zealous love for chocolate and coffee (ahem), a mocha would be a sure bet for me. Perhaps surprisingly, though, I’m not really a mocha person. Or at least, I didn’t think I was. But this time I wanted something other than your standard latte, so I decided to give the mocha another chance. Spoiler alert: great choice. Not only was my mocha topped with a lovely rosetta latte art (hey, I’m susceptible to a good presentation), it was also delicious — rich, sweet, creamy, and perfectly chocolatey. Goat Hill has mostly basic offerings — you won’t find a frou-frou turtle-butterfinger-marshmallow fluff latte here — but their coffee is top-notch. They also serve Little Freshies snow cones, locally made icy treats in funky flavors like Blackberry Lavender, Spicy Ginger Fizz, and Blood Orange Rosemary. And if you want something sweet to accompany your java, they have a small but mouth-watering selection of scrumptious homemade donuts and pop-tarts. My only complaint is that they have only 8- and 12-oz. latte sizes. Yes, a massive latte is a java afficionado faux pas, but I wanted more mocha — that must be a good sign, right? I suppose I’ll just have to go back…
This post was originally published on my coffee blog, Beanopia, on March 6, 2017.