My 11 Favorite Coffee Shops in America

My 11 Favorite Coffee Shops in America | Thomas Mark Zuniga

After spending 282 days on the road in 48 states, I encountered dozens of coffee shops. I hit plenty of Paneras and Starbuckses from coast to coast, but I visited many local coffee shops as well. The stereotypical writer in a coffee shop that I am, all this coffee shop hopping was actually one of my favorite facets of #RunningTo.

They might seem to blend together with all those other buildings further fueling America’s dependence on foreign beans. But you learn so much about a city and its culture by its unique assortment of coffee shops.

From the beginning, I couldn’t wait to visit as many coffee shops as I could and eventually compile a list of my 11 favorite coffee shops in all of America.

Note: I am NOT a coffee snob. If it’s brown and liquid and warms the cockles of my heart, I’ll drink it. This list focuses more on the aesthetics of the coffee shop itself than the actual coffee consumed in said establishments. There are other lists out there for the “best coffee,” whatever that means.

I myself am more inclined to adore coffee shops with welcoming people and appealing features. And so, my 11 favorite coffee shops in America are as follows . . .

My #11 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

#RunningTo: Off the Leaf; Billings, MT

Off the Leaf | Billings, Montana

Located at: 819 Grand Ave / Billings, MT 59102

Off the Leaf in Billings was the first coffee shop I fell in love with on my road trip. The front door greets you with Scripture, and the inside is quite spacious. A television screen hangs on the wall, and I caught some of the World Cup here last June. I settled into a comfy couch for a few hours, basking in this Montanan refuge.

My #10 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

Bordertown Coffee; Minneapolis, MN

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Bordertown Coffee | Minneapolis, Minnesota

Located at: 315 16th Ave SE / Minneapolis, MN 55414

An unassuming side entrance for what looks like a giant brick house leads you into a coffee shop labyrinth. Situated inside a former frat house on the University of Minnesota’s campus, Bordertown Coffee gives you a unique coffee shop experience with lots of rooms and seats to choose from. I found a leather couch at a giant fireplace while visiting Minneapolis last September.

My #9 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

Muddy Waters; Burlington, VT

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Muddy Waters | Burlington, Vermont

Located at: 184 Main St / Burlington, VT 05401

When you enter Muddy Waters, you feel like you’re entering a castle from the Middle Ages. Stone walls line the perimeter of this cozy coffee shop in downtown Burlington, and visitors past and present stuff the cracks of these stones with handwritten notes. Muddy Waters’ walls are literally laced with poetry.

My #8 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

The Sentient Bean

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The Sentient Bean | Savannah, Georgia

Located at: 13 E Park Ave / Savannah, GA 31401

Nestled at the head of Savannah’s historic Forsyth Park, The Sentient Bean provides a picturesque vantage point. It’s an expansive coffee shop perfect for a few hours of settling or a quick pit stop en route to wandering about the rest of quaint Savannah.

My #7 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

Open Eye Cafe | Carrboro, North Carolina

Located at: 101 S Greensboro St / Carrboro, NC 27510

In all my coffee shop wanderings I never saw such diverse seating options as I did at the Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro, just outside Chapel Hill. Big tables and small tables and plush couches and chairs and pews filling every crevasse of this oblong shaped coffee shop. Walking inside this eclectic arena, I felt a racing excitement: where should I sit? I went with the pew.

My #6 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

The Ragged Edge; Gettysburg, PA

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The Ragged Edge | Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Located at: 110 Chambersburg St / Gettysburg, PA 17325

Surprise: Gettysburg is an actual town and not just a pivotal battlefield. Situated just beyond that second Lincoln statue to the right, The Ragged Edge is a homey little coffee shop inhabiting a historic building from Civil War days past. There are two floors of seating options, an outdoor atrium in the back, and a street view of downtown Gettysburg where you can wave to Abe.

My #5 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

Sneaky Beans | Jackson, Mississippi

Located at: 2914 N State St / Jackson, MS 39206

Rare did I find such a place of community as I did Sneaky Beans in Jackson. I stopped here twice last October, loving the exploration of their five or six gigantic side rooms. I’d often look up from my laptop and notice that everyone seems to know everyone else who walks through the doors. Indeed, even I was recognized and welcomed by the barista on just my second visit in as many days.

My #4 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

The Frothy Monkey; Nashville, TN

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The Frothy Monkey | Nashville, Tennessee

Located at: 2509 12th Ave South / Nashville, TN 37204

There are probably more illustrious places for coffee in Nashville, but nowhere got my heart more blazing with adoration than The Frothy Monkey. One of the homiest coffee shops I’ve ever visited, The Frothy Monkey sits just down the road from Belmont University. I’ve frequented The Frothy Monkey on multiple occasions and always admire that winding metal staircase in the middle of the place surely leading to another realm.

My #3 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

#RunningTo: Night Owl; Fullerton, CA

The Night Owl | Fullerton, California

Located at: 200 N Harbor Blvd / Fullerton, CA 92832

It was surreal returning to The Night Owl in my former homeland after two long months on the road. It doesn’t have much seating, but perhaps the smushing of tables and chairs furthers an intimate sense of community. There’s nothing like that look at downtown Fullerton from the lone window seat, and sometimes I’d sit there until 1 or 2am. Much of Struggle Central was written at The Night Owl between 2012 and 2013, and that coffee shop will always anchor a special place in my heart.

My #2 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

Colectivo Coffee; Milwaukee, WI

Colectivo Coffee | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Located at: 1701 N Lincoln Memorial Dr / Milwaukee, WI 53202

Formerly Alterra Coffee, the new Colectivo Coffee boasts several locations across mighty Milwaukee. By far their best location sits squarely on Lake Michigan’s pristine shore. The inside is two stories of bustling chaos, but gosh that lakeside view makes it worth the visit.

My #1 Favorite Coffee Shop in America

#RunningTo: The Woods Coffee; Bellingham, WA

The Woods Coffee | Bellingham, Washington

Located at: 470 Bayview Dr / Bellingham, WA 98225

As soon as I set eyes on this coffee shop last July, I knew The Woods Coffee would be my favorite coffee shop in all of America. With wooden walls, floors, tables, stairs, and balcony, it’s like Ron Swanson rolled into town and built this coffee shop paradise on the shores of Bellingham Bay. The Woods Coffee sits in the heart of Boulevard Park, a perfect passing stop for park-goers. There’s porch seating for a fresh bay breeze, and there’s a second story inside with a gorgeous view of sailboats on the bay. If there’s a coffee shop in America with a better view, I never found it. I sat transfixed on that balcony for hours, and I was sad to leave.

Someday, I’ll go back and bask once more.

So, there you have it: my unequivocal list of favorite coffee shops in all America. Have you been to any of these coffee shops? Which one did I miss? What’s your favorite coffee shop in America?

  • MLYaksh

    Ok, first- LOVE the picture at the top of the post.

    Second, I’ve been to numbers 4 and 8 on your list. Definitely loved the Frothy Monkey- the name itself is amazing. I follow those guys on Instagram and wish everyday I could go back for another chai tea latte. Mmmm…

    Third, coffee shops rock. But you knew that already.

  • Rebecka

    Wow, I’d love to visit all of these! I don’t have a favorite coffee shop (anywhere in the world) and that makes me a little sad. But then again, I’m more of a tea person…