One of my earliest memories is loving the smell of coffee. My grandfather liked drinking it so we always had a pot brewing when he came over.
I thought since I loved the smell of coffee, I’d love the taste of it. I was wrong. The first time I tried coffee I almost spit it out. It was strong, bitter, and acidic. I thought I took after my grandmother, who only drank tea. I wanted to be a coffee person but I wasn’t.
Then I went to France and everything changed. I know I say that a lot but it’s true. Even though people in Europe drink coffee black, more often than not they’ll drink it with some form of milk. Café au lait, or coffee with milk, is popular in France.
People also drink A LOT of espresso. Even though people would argue that espresso is stronger in coffee, I like it better. I used to put a cube of sugar in a small espresso glass and pour coffee over it. It was the perfect size and it had a little sweetness to cut through the bitterness of the coffee.
Now when I drink coffee, I mostly have it with some form of hot milk. I’ll drink a cup of black coffee once in a while if I’m staying with someone who makes it in a French press or brews a good blend. I’m weirdly discerning when it comes to good and bad coffee, even though I don’t often drink it black.
I should probably start making coffee drinks at home to save money, but to me, going to get it at a coffee shop is one of life’s simple pleasures. It reminds me of a line from “Twin Peaks.” Special Agent Dale Cooper tells the town sheriff to give yourself a present each day, and to let it be a surprise.
I’m mostly unsurprised that I go get expensive coffee drinks a few times a week but I still count them as presents. When I’m enjoying a good coffee drink I usually read or journal, which relaxes me and makes me forget about the stress of the day.
Below are a few of my favorite coffee shops in St. Louis. The list is not exhaustive because I didn’t want your eyes to glaze over.
Honorable mentions go to MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse and Kitchen House Coffee. The only reason I didn’t add them to the list and do a full write up on them is because: a.) I’ve only been to Mokabe once or twice; and b.) I’ve only had soda and tea at Kitchen House Coffee because I went there over the summer when it was a billion degrees and all I wanted was something ice cold. I’m sure Kitchen House’s coffee is delicious, though.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the best coffee in St. Louis:
Fiddlehead Fern Café
Fiddlehead Fern opened recently in Shaw, a cute, historic neighborhood in St. Louis, and I’m OBSESSED. In addition to beautiful, simple chic interiors, the coffee shop boasts a variety of coffee drinks and a food menu. Their coffee drinks are delicious and you can tell that the baristas devote attention to each cup.
Rise is one of my favorite places to go for a couple hours in the afternoon or at night. It’s located in St. Louis’s Grove neighborhood, an up-and-coming area that’s home to a lot of bars and restaurants. Rise has an extensive coffee menu and the crowd inside is very diverse. Make sure to check out their food menu; the vegetarian hash is delicious.
Sump is one of my favorite coffee shops in St. Louis, if not my absolute favorite. The interiors are whimsical with skulls and cartoon statues. Baristas are super helpful and they will explain the coffee menu in detail. I usually order a cappuccino and sit at a booth, but I want to go back over the summer and get one of their iced coffee drinks and hang out on the patio.
If you’re into old school coffee houses, Shaw’s is the place to go. Located in St. Louis’s Italian neighborhood, The Hill, Shaw’s feels like walking into an Italian espresso bar. The interiors are filled with vintage pieces and there’s even an old bank vault at the back. I like to get a macchiato and write and people watch.
Kaldi’s is one of the most popular coffee chains in St. Louis. You can find locations everywhere but one of my favorites is right by St. Louis University. The interiors combine modern and vintage elements and there’s a lot of light from wraparound windows. I like to order the macchiato because it comes with chocolate covered coffee beans.
I’ve only been to Blueprint Coffee a handful of times but each time I go, I love it. It’s the place to go if you want coffee and not much else (their food menu is not extensive). Espresso drinks are the star of the show.
I added Kayak’s to the list as an homage to my days as a student at Washington University. Kayak’s is a neighborhood coffee joint right across from Wash U’s campus. The interiors are modeled after a ski lodge. There’s real wood everywhere which kind of makes you feel like you’re in the forest, but then you see everyone bent over textbooks. Their coffee is delicious. When I was younger, I would go for one of their blended coffee drinks but lately I go for something smaller and less whipped cream-laden.
Park Avenue Coffee
I discovered Park Avenue Coffee earlier this year and I love it. It’s a local chain and the location I go to the most is right by Washington University’s med school campus. I usually get a cubano, which comes in a cute little ceramic cup and saucer, and drink it in small sips as I read.
Maplewood has a few good coffee options but Living Room is my favorite. The inside of the café feels like being inside of someone’s living room, thus the name. Servers are friendly and if you don’t get a table, there’s a bar near the windows where you can sit. I like to spend an afternoon there reading and writing, powered by coffee drinks and cookies.
Pint Size Bakery and Coffee
Pint Size Bakery is one of my favorite bakeshops in St. Louis. In addition to delicious baked goods they also serve a mean cappuccino. Their coffee comes from Kaldi’s, the popular local chain I was telling you about. Baristas at Pint Size know their craft and it’s fun to get a cup of coffee and one of their pastries, and sit in the café for a while pretending like you don’t have to go to work.
Along with Sump and Fiddlehead Fern, Comet Coffee is brewing some of the best coffee in the city. I like to come early in the morning on my way to work and get an espresso drink and a croissant. Their croissants are made onsite and they’re among the best I’ve tasted anywhere.
The Mud House
If you’re on Cherokee Street, definitely stop by The Mud House. The restaurant is nestled in one of the city’s historic neighborhoods. It takes up the bottom floor of an old townhouse. Their food menu is also amazing with lots of options. The last time I was there, I got a lentil curry with a poached egg and it was delicious and warming.
The Coffee Cartel
I’d be remiss not to mention Coffee Cartel. It’s a St. Louis institution with a large coffee and sweets menu. The shop has funky interiors with local art. When you’re done with the coffee you can take a stroll around the Central West End, one of St. Louis’s historic neighborhoods with large turn-of-the-century houses.
So yeah. Those are my recommendations for St. Louis coffee. Here’s a song that isn’t related to the coffee shops but it’s on my mind. My sister is home for Thanksgiving and introduced me to some good music last night, including this song. She said she was surprised that I liked country music now since I used to hate it.