Midwest Coffee Shops
I'm planning two road trips this Spring around the Midwest and it's coffee culture. I'm looking for coffee houses that are secret gems to anyone outside that town or city. Whether it's the experience going there or the coffee and espresso being excellent. The states I'm interested in are Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Arkansas. And please...no chains!
Broadway Cafe right off Westport Road on Broadway in KC has the BEST coffee. They also have a place 1 block away where they roast their beans called Broadway Roasters. It's at Westport Road and Central. All types of coffee drinks at both locations are just the best.
Broadway Cafe is a pretty good choice -- best of all, it's right next to a Starbucks and busy as ever.
If you're really interested in coffee culture, I would recommend a trip to Lawrence, Kansas. In particular, Massachusetts Street, which is the historic main drag, has the highest caffeine density I've seen in the Midwest. There are five or six distinct coffee shops, each with it's own particular coffee culture. Standouts are:
* La Prima Tazza, catering to grad students and film buffs
* Henry's, catering to the black eyeliner journalistas
* La Bourgeois Pig, catering to international students
There is also Signs of Life Cafe, Milton's, Java Break, House of Cha, and a cyber cafe whose name escapes me. Oh, and Wheatfields Bakery. All right on or a block on either side of Mass St., along a less-than-1-mile stretch.
Columbia, Missouri has three wonderfully distinct, no-chain, coffee houses. Each is located in our downtown district. Broadway is the major east - west street in The District. Lakota is the only one with an in-house roast master. The owner left the corporate world to pursue his passion for coffee. Really great coffee in a beautiful building, located one block south of Broadway on 9th Street. It can come across as a little snooty at times, even though the owner is not that way at all. Coffee Zone is owned by a Jordanian-born imigrant whose slogan is "Death before Decaf." A cup of "Rocket Fuel" will keep you going all day. Good selection of Middle Eastern dishes for lunch and great selection of interesting baklava and other sweet treats. Located one block north of Broadway on 9th Street. Cherry Street Artisan is part coffee house, part deli, part gallery and part performing arts venue. Live music at lunch such as blue grass, acoustic guitar, etc. Poetry slams, belly dancers, jazz and a bit of anything else scheduled in the evenings. This is a fun and funky location, one block south of Broadway between 8th & 9th Streets.
re: Wren Graham
I back up the recommendations for Lakota and Coffee Zone. Not a fan of Artisan based on the way they treat their performers.
If you're going through Fayetteville, Arkansas, check out Arsaga's. They have several locations in town, but they're NOT a chain in the sense that Kaldi's or Starbucks are. They're more like a successful local coffee roaster and they make wonderful baked goods. The one on Block Street (just off the Square downtown, has limited seating), but the locations on North Gregg and the Mission/Crossover area are both cozy and funky.
Here in our tiny little Sac City, Iowa, on highway 20 about 75 miles east of Sioux City, we have a little place called The Hub on 5th. The locals don't quite know what to do with espresso and coffee drinks that cost $2 or $3--and some of them think cappuccino comes out of a packet--but a few of us do like them, and they do serve regular coffee, and also have really good sandwiches and salads and other things at lunchtime. The coffee is good, and they have Italian sodas too (although they looked at me like I had three heads when I asked them to put cream in one for me).
If you happen to pass through at lunchtime (dinnertime to us locals) be sure to stop in. The owner's father is a caterer of some repute around here, a fellow with the nickname of Wimp, and they have his specialty, "Wimpy Beans," every day. They're really nice baked beans with bacon, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, shredded pork, and goodness only knows what else. (They don't stop serving after the dinner hour; you can get any of this stuff till they close late in the afternoon.)
The way you get there is go to the stoplight downtown (5th street) and turn north for one block, and it's on the left-hand (west) side of the street right next door to a secondhand store called "Second Hand Seller."
Very good. I'll keep a file of these. Certainly want to check out Columbia and Sioux City's choices. I've been to Lawrence fairly recently, but haven't seriously hit all the places. I went to a game at KU and had an excellent Americano at a place called The Pulse on campus. Love Wheatfields and their espresso based drinks were very good and well crafted. Then there was the pastries...wow. Anyone out there that hasn't been here, it's worth a drive.
I've been to Broadway. Great location and love seeing them hang with that Starbucks, but their coffee has a reputation of being sub-par and tasty to smokers only. I use to go there a lot in the mid-90's and they haven't progressed much since.
I'm not sure if the road trips are still ahead of you, but if you find yourself in Sioux City the hands-down #1 choice is Pierce St. Coffee Works on 1920 Pierce Street. I grew up in the Seattle area and have found this place to have the closest thing to a real latte I've tasted in the Midwest. They even brew Peet's as their regular coffee. The soups and sandwiches are always fresh and tasty, making it one of the best lunch spots in town. The owner travels around the world taking photographs and often you'll find them lining the walls of the shop along with other modern paintings from talented artists in the region.