It’s no secret that I travel a lot. Hello, it’s kind of in my name! Usually, I spend 6 months to a year in one place, but the last part of 2014, I was practically in a new city every week! It was exciting, freeing, exhausting, and I’m glad I did it.
In fact, for the first time in 5 years, I was NOT a barista. I was just a traveling coffee taster? Yeah, that’s what I’ll call it. Anyway, upon my arrival back to New York (my home state), I decided being a barista had lots of perks that I began to take for granted. I’m glad I took that break, but I’m also relieved to have the steady paycheck again. Being a freelance writer is wonderful and awful all at once. For more on my travels and personal story, check out my blog at: sandy-lo.com.
In the months that I was city hopping, I had too much coffee, but met plenty of new people at quaint cafes and had some really amazing espresso! Without further adieu, my top 10 picks are below!
Cafe Eclectic – Memphis, TN
With table service, laid back, hipster vibe, lots of food options and interesting coffee concoctions, Cafe Eclectic is a great place to chill and work on your laptop or yuck it up with some old friends! They are the only coffee house that serves Illy brand coffee. Eclectic is perfect if you want some spice in your life (try the Cocoa Capsaicin) or something sweet (try the Karamel Sutra). They also have a full lunch and dinner menu, with vegetarian-friendly options.
Beans and Leaves – Staten Island, NY
I lived in Staten Island most of my life, and never really “connected” with the coffee community here, other than working at Starbucks that is. I was pleasantly surprised to find Beans and Leaves on Forrest Avenue. Not only was the staff super nice, but they were very vegan-friendly (a rarity on S.I.) and served a good cup of joe! The vegan cowboy cookie is filling and delicious!
Breads On Oak – New Orleans, LA
More of a bakery and breakfast place, Breads On Oak makes the list for its awesome food to go along with a decent cup of coffee. The food definitely outshines their beverages, but this place is great for a brunch date and in the warmer months, the patio in the back is nice to sit and read a book while munching on a fresh croissant.
The Bean Gallery – New Orleans, LA
The Bean Gallery is a popular (non-French Quarter located) coffee shop in Mid City. WiFi is hard to come by in NOLA, but The Bean Gallery usually had my back. Sometimes you did have to wait for a good seat, but the staff is super friendly, regular coffee is good and the sandwiches are great! I especially loved the “Healthy Bagel”.
Headquarters – Nashville, TN
A tiny, newer coffee haunt in West Nashville, Headquarters is one of those hidden gems. It’s like a secret I feel like I’m spilling, but it needs to be acknowledged. This place is quiet; a great spot to be productive on your laptop, read a book or write in your journal. The coffee is good, but one of the best attributes of Headquarters is the VeganVee pastries they serve. Out of this world! Not only are these muffins, cookies, and brownies amazing, but as the bakery name suggests, are vegan and gluten-free.
Frothy Monkey – Franklin/Nashville, TN
A trendy hipster-esque joint now with several locations in Nashville, Frothy Monkey has everything those coffee nerds want: latte art, fair trade, and super knowledgeable baristas. I do prefer the Frothy Monkey in downtown Franklin, TN, however, mostly due to their food menu. On a cold December day when I had a ton of work to do, there was nothing like a hot cup of coffee and a hearty bowl of chili.
Cafe enVie – New Orleans, LA
If you’re looking for a scenic spot to sip cafe au laits in the French Quarter, Cafe enVie is the place to be! While Cafe Du Monde is known for beignets and terrible service, Cafe enVie is a much more colorful, relaxed environment. With the look of a French cafe, and a mixed clientele of business men, hobos, artistic types, and some tourists, enVie is something for everyone. A great place to people watch, for sure. On a hot New Orleans day, the ceiling fans and open doors give this place an al fresco feel without baking you under the sun.
Espresso Vivace – Seattle, WA
First and foremost, you will not find a better shot of espresso anywhere! (At least not that I know of. Feel free to challenge me on that!) Being a barista, I have done espresso shots straight up as a way to get fired up for a shift. There is always an after taste and not just where I work, but most coffee shops. Vivace’s shots are so smooth, even those extra cream coffee lovers would be able to drink it straight. This place does not serve regular coffee, only espresso-based beverages. With the beans roasted right in house, the quality is in every 1-ounce shot. With a large selection of pastries, Espresso Vivace is a regular hot spot for locals and tourists alike.
Victrola Coffee Roasters – Seattle, WA
Also roasting their own beans, Victrola Coffee Roasters is great if you want an extra punch in your day. With a friendly staff well-versed on different brewing methods, Victrola is a Seattle staple with loyal regulars.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters – Portland, OR
Stumptown is Portland’s premier coffee stop. Just about every eatery serves the local brew from Stumptown. I personally enjoyed Stumptown’s tea selections and appreciated my own little personal pot that came with it. Overall Stumptown’s coffee was good enough, a little bitter for my taste, but I was also in the area when I was a bit coffeed-out. Nonetheless, definitely check out Stumptown if you like strong coffee and locally sourced places. Though now that it has expanded with locations in L.A. and NYC, I wonder how the quality varies out-of-state.