The Hottest Coffee Shops in 15 U.S. Cities

By Kelly Dobkin  |  February 26, 2014

With Coffee Week in full swing, here's a look at the hottest coffee shops in 15 U.S. cities, from Italian coffee experts in Seattle to Scandinavian coffee-lifestyle gurus in NYC. Do you agree with our choices? Tell us in the comments or shout out on Twitter using hashtag #CoffeeWeek.

  • Austin: Wright Bros. Brew and Brew

    If you can’t decide between specialty coffee or beer at Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, you’re in luck. The hip new East Austin hangout features rotating selections of both, as well as a laidback atmosphere that easily transitions from day to night, or, if you want to be cute about it, from brew to brew.

  • Credit: Octane Coffee

    Atlanta: Octane Grant Park

    An epicenter of Atlanta coffee-cool, Octane's location in the Jane Building, one of three local branches, sports sky-high windows and serves up great straight-up coffee they roast themselves, as well as some of the most artfully prepared specialty drinks around. Ask your barista about the day's selections of single-origin pour-over coffees (price varies). With an ever-changing slate of coffees, there's something for most tastes, whether you like floral, robust, acidic, fruity or middle-of-the-road. This Octane location shares a space with the Little Tart Bake Shop, so peruse the European-inspired pastries or come back at night when local chefs frequently host pop-up dinner series.

  • Boston: Brew

    What's the No. 1 thing every office full of start-up entrepreneurs needs? Coffee. (No. 2: angel investors. But first is coffee, definitely.) Answering the call, and quite well, is Brew - the coffee bar and cafe inside District Hall, the world's largest freestanding public innovation center. Opened in October by the Briar Group (the team behind restaurants like City Table and Anthem), Brew uses locally based Rao's Coffee for its hot cups and espresso drinks. But even better: the name "Brew" also refers to the selection of craft beers available. A workplace cafe that is perfect for morning coffee and happy hour? We'll take it. 

  • Chicago: Bad Wolf

    Taking inspiration from the BBC’s Dr. Who (there's even a TARDIS inside), this quaint coffee shop is covered in vibrant art. While the coffee is excellent, the pastries are the selling point. All made in-house by owner and chef Jonathan Ory (Momofuku Ko in New York and Schwa), these expertly crafted sweets include a perfect canelé and flaky kouign amann.

  • Dallas: Ascension Coffee

    Ascension Coffee wasn't the first combined cafe-bar, but the casually chic Design District spot is the hottest. With a focus on fair-trade and hand-crafted brews, Ascension zigs where other coffee houses zag with a full bar, including a nicely curated wine list, and full lunch and dinner service.

  • Credit: Adam Larkey Photography

    Denver: Boxcar Coffee Roasters

    With two locations at Boulder gourmet shop Cured and The Source in RiNo, Boxcar richly deserves the strong buzz (no pun intended) it generates for its roasting expertise and high-altitude brewing methods, showcased in every last espresso blend and single-origin coffee from, say, Rwanda.

  • Houston: Blacksmith

    This hip coffee shop in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston gets plenty of cred all around. Food, like housemade biscuits, Vietnamese steak and eggs and more is from the same restaurant group behind Underbelly and Hay Merchant while the coffee comes from uber-roaster and all-around cult favorite, Greenway Coffee.

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Los Angeles: Go Get 'Em Tiger

    The team behind G &B coffee also opened this streamlined little shop on Larchmont, a standout among the myriad chain coffeehouses on the same few blocks. The space is as minimalist as it gets: plywood box stools, a few tables, a corner bench and one long counter where a couple of guys pull espresso or filtered coffee. That's it. Bags of Ritual, Heart and Forty Ninth Parallel coffee beans perch on their shelves, adding color to the room, as do the vintage-looking red light fixtures. We love the ice chest filled with bottles of G&B's own cold-brew and the wonderfully thick coffee shake blended from vanilla ice cream, espresso and some coffee grounds. Snacks from The Donut Snob are also available, and the locally made coffee mugs make great gifts.

  • Miami: Panther Coffee

    This is a Starbucks on steroids, fully equipped with funky art-splashed walls (inside and out) and potent brews you can smell a mile (or two) away. Opt for the Chemex brew ($6) made with an hourglass-shaped flask that'll have you really tasting the black-cherry-and-clove-infused Fazenda Nova Suica beans. Since this is the popular place for coffee and socializing, expect long lines especially during peak hours like breakfast and lunch.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Ultimo Coffee

    Things have worked out well for Elizabeth and Aaron Ultimo since opening a cafe in 2009 in the South Philly storefront shared with Brew bottle shop. A second location in Graduate Hospital is going strong after a year and a half, and Ultimo baristas consistently place well in national coffee competitions. Last spring, The Daily Meal named Ultimo the No. 1 coffee shop in America.

    When you go, expect Counter Culture beans brewed in pour-over style on Bee House drippers - except during the busy morning rush, when you can score an even quicker cup from larger, Chemex-brewed batches. La Marzocco machines provide the espresso drinks, and there are Four Worlds pastries (and a few sandwiches) to go with.

  • NYC: Budin

    This Scandinavian coffee-bar-meets-lifestyle-shop in Greenpoint recently opened from Elliot Rayman (Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Variety Coffee vet), Crystal Pei and Rut Hermannsdóttir. Its tagline: "Coffee Bar. Design Goods." The coffee-retail concept also sells clothes, scarves and other wares while baristas pump out Scandinavian-inspired brews including a $10 drink called the Lakkris Latte. A back patio and upcoming beer and wine license will make it a destination for boozier drinks during the summer months as well.

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    San Diego: Bird Rock Roasters

    Bird Rock Roasters' oceanside coffee shop is a popular spot for locals and visitors and the recipient of many national awards including 2013's top 30 coffee shops by Coffee Review. All coffee drinks are crafted using free-trade beans that are roasted on-site.

  • Credit: Four Barrel

    San Francisco: The Mill

    Say adios to those frustratingly long waits for one-cup-at-a-time pour-overs. Brewed coffee fell out of vogue for a while, but thankfully, Four Barrel’s baristas have cracked the code on how to brew high-quality drip coffee in large quantities - it's less prone to human error, quick to make and still tastes incredible. The Mill brews up 1-gal. batches approximately every 20 minutes or so, so your 12-oz. mug of joe is always fresh.

  • Credit: Claire Nelson

    Seattle: Caffe Vita

    Caffe Vita has been leading the charge for years on sourcing fair-trade, sustainable beans that it roasts in small batches and turns into heavenly drinks made by skilled baristas. So successful that they've expanded to NYC and LA's Silver Lake neighborhood.

  • Washington, DC: Baked & Wired

    This Georgetown bakery that puts just as much emphasis on the quality of the coffee as it does on its outstanding pastries. Order the tallat ($2.95), a Catalonian version of a cortado (espresso cut with a bit of milk). They use Hario V-60 pour-over cones for most cups but switch to a Chemex if they think that the single-origin beans "should have a cleaner profile."