The concept of the coffee house dates back to the second half of the 15th century in Constantinople. Though Constantinople didn't survive, the coffee shop did, exported from what's now Istanbul through Europe and eventually to England, whose colonists brought the concept to the New World. The American coffee shop is as old as America itself, and the best cafes are — and always have been — more than just a place to sip coffee, but about showcasing the arts, cultivating a sense of community, and giving an outlet for ideas and expressions ranging from politics to poetry.
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45 SOUTH CAFE & COFFEE HOUSE
Both wine and freshly brewed, locally roasted coffee flow at 45 South — and on Fridays and Saturdays, music flows just as freely. Blues, jazz and rock bands keep the crowds coming back — or maybe it's the locally made cakes and banana bread, or housemade syrups.
ACHILLES ART CAFE
For early birds looking to get a jump on sunrise, Achilles is probably not the right place: It doesn't even open until 10 a.m. But the coffee is worth waiting for — it's made by Golden Hills, a local micro-roastery. The European vibe just oozes coffee culture, and the art on the walls is by local talent and all for sale.
AROMA COFFEE & TEA
Studio City, California
Sit where you want at the bohemian chic Aroma, from the cafe seating on the sidewalk, a soft chair by the reading room fireplace, or one of the garden patios, and order what you want with extensive menus taking visitors from breakfast to late-night desserts.
In downtown Cleveland, there's not only a great cup of coffee, but a place that does as much to support the local arts community as any business in town. Artefino Cafe rotates a selection of photography, paintings, and other works created by the same local talent eating and drinking there.
ARTISANS GALLERY & CAFE
Historic Phoenixville is home to Artisans Gallery and Cafe, which is owned by a family with Sicilian roots. When they hear words such as "espresso" and "cappuccino," they think not of chic urban baristas with curly mustaches and "Star Wars" T-shirts, but of the Old World coffee gurus who developed those classic Italian drinks. There's pottery and other works from local artists on display and, of course, Italian pastry.
Nyack, New York
Inspired by the quaint, ethnic cafes that line the streets of Tel Aviv, the Art Cafe offers beer, wine, Prosecco cocktails and an impressive lineup of classic Israeli cuisine — but the magic is in the coffee. Art Cafe serves only coffee by Counter Culture, which roasts sustainable beans grown by farmers in developing nations.
ART SMART COFFEE GALLERY
What makes the Tampa-area Art Smart special is that instead of renting space to artists to display whatever they create, the owner — a big-league art aficionado — curates the collection himself. The beans behind its addictive brew comes from Blazing Beans Roasters, an artisanal roaster in nearby Clearwater.
ASHLAND COFFEE & TEA
Ashland Coffee & Tea has spent more than 20 years serving not just the drinks in its name, but also a nice selection of food and snacks. The place is an institution because of its commitment to the concept of coffeehouses as gathering places for people who love live music. Jazz pianists, classical composers, and Grammy nominees keep the place full — but there's always room for local talent.
Located in the village of Carlsbad, Baba Coffee has something for just about everybody. Pannikin coffee and pastries are served alongside hummus plates and acai bowls, VG doughnuts, and Prager Brothers bread. The espresso shop even pours a healthy selection of craft beers.
Babylon, New York
Wednesday is open mic night at Babylon Bean, and every Friday and Saturday the shop converts into a music venue. The coffee comes from beans grown worldwide but roasted locally, on Long Island, and never ground anywhere but in-house. The real treat, however, is cold: Don't leave without grabbing an Italian gelato or sorbetto.
Unlike so many of Portland's chic coffee houses, Barista doesn't roast its own coffee. Instead, it serves some of the finest local roasts, offering in one place tastes of all the beans that are getting the city's connoisseurs talking.
BLUE MOOSE CAFE
Morgantown, West Virginia
Even national talent flocks to Blue Moose to play music and exhibit art, but don't lose sight of the comprehensive menu: Rich shakes and smoothies, exotic teas, imported beers, Swiss water process decaf, and organic vegetarian fare are a few of the seemingly endless options for the thirsty and hungry.
It addition to boasting of being "Nashville's oldest and most celebrated coffeehouse," Bongo Java is home to the Nun Bun — the cinnamon bun looking a little like Mother Teresa that made the shop Internet famous in 1996. More seriously, it's a darling of local cuisine critics and home to a cozy theater and music venue, the separately run Bongo After Hours Theatre.
New Haven, Connecticut
Billed as "the musician's living room," Cafe 9 features an eclectic blend of musical acts. Come for the coffee, but stay for the Sex Beat Dance Party, monthly Words and Music show, or weekly jazz jam sessions.
CAFE DU MONDE
If you're in or around the Big Easy, it's worth a trip to Cafe Du Monde for history alone. Open 24 hours a day every day — except for Christmas and during hurricanes — the classic coffee shop was founded in 1862 as the Civil War raged around it. You can get coffee black or au lait at Cafe Du Monde, which is so traditional the coffee menu consists of dark roast, chicory, and nothing else.
Cafe Reveille stands out even in a coffee-centric city. It has spots anchoring the Lower Haight and Mission Bay, doubling as headquarters for the daily roasting of enticing German Probat beans.
Houston's original "cafeceria," Cafeza is 100 percent Texas. Street-style tacos, tapas, and churros y chocolate are served with a side order of laughter, conversation, music, and street art in this warm, welcoming artists haven.
CALVIN FLETCHER'S COFFEE COMPANY
There's a lot to love about this non-profit coffeehouse. Drip coffee from fresh-roasted beans runs $2, and their array of coffee drinks is equally lower in cost than the big chains. Small bites, freshly made pastries and even a lunch sandwich of fresh chicken salad on a croissant make Calvin Fletcher's Coffee Company a must-do in Indy.
CHAPTERHOUSE CAFE & GALLERY
The Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery takes its organic, fair-trade coffee almost as seriously as it takes its commitment to making sure top local talent has a place to showcase work. Art exhibits rotate seasonally.
Folksy, acoustic acts have been synonymous with coffee shop music for generations, but at Coffee Grinder, DJs spin electronic music every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night. Whether you choose a mocha latte or a Corona and lime while bopping to house, trance, and progressive beats, you're sipping a drink in one of the hippest modern coffee shops in the Sunshine State.
CRESCENT MOON CAFE
Crescent Moon has been making its mark on Lincoln's historic Haymarket District since 2001. Single origin, locally roasted espresso drinks are poured as paninis and made-to-order crepes are devoured. Local musicians and artists flock to the place to perform and exhibit talents for the arts-hungry local population.
On the South Side of Pittsburgh, locals wake up to Delanie's. The decor, which is produced by local artists, changes periodically, but a passion for espresso is consistent, and drives drinks such as the Black Bird and Black and Gold Mocha.
Diesel Cafe is a Somerville staple that launched a small empire of giant spaces. There are sister shops Bloc 11 and Forge Baking Co., where pastries are made fresh and trucked over for loyal customers, along with fresh breads that get turned into giant sandwiches.
It's hard for a coffee shop to stand out in the city that gave birth to Starbucks, but Dubsea's food and coffee have cemented a loyal local following. The fish-bowl style of the space makes visitors feel like they're connected to the streets outside.
EL CAFÉ BY PRIMERA TAZA
Ever since it was profiled on "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," it's safe to say the secret is out about El Café by Primera Taza. But in case you hadn't heard, the Boyle Heights institution, which recently changed its address, is a cultural soup — the coffee, food, and the people they serve there represent a blend of the neighborhood's diverse people and backgrounds.
ESPRESSO ART CAFE
The overwhelming smell of Paris, Vienna, and Trieste-inspired drinks hits as soon as you enter Espresso Art Cafe. Classically trained bartenders mix cocktails to order and there's a dedicated hookah bar, with bowls packed to order.
Keyport, New Jersey
It's not at all unusual to see artists, musicians, comics and poets streaming in and out of Espresso Joe's in the Raritan Bay beach town of Keyport. The low-key coffee shop hosts plenty of high-energy open mic nights, exhibitions, and performances.
Farley's is one of the original anchor businesses in the once-desolate, now-thriving Uptown neighborhood in Oakland. There's cafe seating indoors and out, and plenty for hungry visitors. Try one of the toasted sandwiches or, if you're feeling spicy, the Fiesta Bowl salad.
FOXY LOXY CAFE
Savannah is teeming with awesome coffee shops, but Foxy Loxy doesn't just wake before dawn to bake homemade pastries and prep Perc coffee, which has yet to roast a bad bean; it also has Tex-Mex flavor and a Czech-inspired pastry called kolache that helps it stand out, and Saturday s'mores events around a backyard fire pit.
Head to the Gallery Cafe to nurture the inner artist. The coffee comes from all over the world, and every last bean is roasted fresh to order in a hot-air chamber — but the real draw is the scene. There's a new gallery exhibit every month, as well as art classes.
GOVERNOR'S CUP COFFEE ROASTERS
Like so many cafes in the coffee mecca of the great Northwest, Governor's Cup take coffee very seriously — roasting globally and greenly harvested beans on a vintage, cast-iron Probat — but without a trace of pretension. The fresh sandwiches, music, and art help.
GYPSY COFFEE HOUSE
After nearly two decades in Tulsa, Gypsy is a fixture. The espresso drinks come from beans by Nordaggio's. Stash specialty teas balance out the menu, and the gritty, industrial building is steeped in history dating back to 1906.
HIGH ON ART & COFFEE
More than 180 artists are represented in the space in Lexington that High on Art & Coffee calls home. Locals flock there not just for the high-octane coffee, but to buy gifts from local artists for themselves and others at the exhibitions and events the staff opens to the public.
It's been called a daylong "waffle wonderland" and featured on "Wake Up With Al." It's been named the best or one of the best area coffee shops several years in a row by local press. It's Indie Coffee — and it has a Zen Patio.
KICK BUTT CAFE
Good coffee, good people, good music. That's the Kick Butt way. Home to the iconic SXSW festival, Austin is a music city, and Kick Butt is plugged into the scene with nearly nightly performances by some of the neighborhood's top talent. Oh, and it hosts drawings with prizes such as free kung fu and tai chi lessons.
LIQUID ART COFFEEHOUSE AND EATERY
The New England arts scene oozes out of Liquid Art, where crafts and artwork by local talent is on display and for sale. There are open mics on Wednesdays, regular wine dinners, and a full-on restaurant menu for dinner.
Brooklyn, New York
Little Skips scratches and claws its way to the top of the borough's coffee scene with imaginative drinks such as the Bomb Latte, the Dirty Chai, and the Jake & Taylor, which is sweetened with maple syrup.
MAKERS & FINDERS
Makers & Finders blends the chic vibe of its home in the Las Vegas Arts District with traditional empanadas, arepas, and coffee delicacies straight from South and Central America.
Exposed brick and reclaimed wood tables let visitors know that Menagerie was once an art gallery. Zagat raves about the joe, which comes exclusively from Dogwood Coffee Co. in Minneapolis — everything else is locally sourced from the area around the Old City neighborhood that Menagerie calls home.
ONYX COFFEE LAB
There are four locations in the sophisticated Onyx Coffee Lab chain, which brings high design, impressive drink chops (including inventions such as the Harvest Oat Latte and S'mores Gibraltar), and carefully chosen snacks (such as Avocado & Prosciutto toast with pickled onion and cracked pepper) that differ from Fayetteville to Springdale to Bentonville to the Rogers headquarters.
The burgeoning Melbourne arts scene calls Open Mike's home base. High-end organic coffee is sipped by loyal customers who keep coming back for the live comedy, art and, of course, music. The place is housed in an old music shop.
OTHERLANDS COFFEE BAR
Claiming the perfectly worded title of "cultural oasis in a plastic wasteland," Otherlands is the heart of Memphis' historic Cooper Young district. Live bluegrass and rock music pours out of the place every Friday and Saturday night, and inside is a rotating art exhibit and secret gift shop.
Pastry Art doubles as a bakery and a sandwich shop. The most important draw, however, just might be the price. Pastry Art welcomes visitors to sip some of the world's finest coffee and espresso for less than $2 a cup.
The Resurrect Art Coffee House was built in 1917, and since 1993, it's been the go-to place for Seward-area artists to showcase their work — and it also pours a mighty fine cup of coffee, Italian soda, and tea.
SABINA'S COFFEE HOUSE
If you love good coffee and happen to very hungry, Sabina's breaks the mold of modest coffee shop meals with smothered deliciousness such as sweet potato hash and a famous layered breakfast. Wash it down with coffee or try a house drink such as the Mexican spiced mocha or ginger lavish.
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Cowboy hats, prairie dresses, and bolo ties adorn the musicians in the log cabin-style Sacred Grounds, but the coffee and food is 100 percent modern. Vegans and vegetarians have plenty of options, as do hardcore coffee connoisseurs 7,000 feet above sea level in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains.
Quartz Hill, California
Everyone knows that great coffee shops are part of the culture of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and the rest of California's destination cities — but Sagebrush Cafe is a hidden gem in Antelope Valley serving up some of the finest espresso drinks in the state.
Head to the Mansion Flats neighborhood for jazz, spoken word, trivia, and good coffee under one roof — that of Shine, open to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
SONGBIRD COFFEE AND TEA HOUSE
Songbird Coffee and Tea House is inside a 1904 home in the Roosevelt Row Arts District, and it takes the "arts" part seriously. The shop's brews all come from nearby; pastry comes from a bakery less than 2 miles away.
Sovereign Grounds makes a great cup of coffee, but stands out for the built-in playground and playroom where parents can dump the little ones for a break (or some time on the laptop to do whatever it is people do on their laptops in coffee shops).
ST. JOE'S COFFEE
St. Joe's specializes in the pastry called zeppole in the old country and beignets here — or "bennies" — a 2-inch-deep dough ball, deep fried, covered in powdered sugar, and served warm with dipping sauces.
STARVING ARTIST CAFE & GALLERY
Franklin Square, New York
Starving Artist does have art, but it's hard to imagine anyone starving here: The Starving Artist Burger includes brown sugar bacon and honey mustard on a pretzel bun.
SOULFOOD COFFEE SHOP
Singers serenade visitors to the chic but casual SoulFood Coffee Shop, which has a new age, rather than ethnic, sense of soul food. Enjoy a Yam & Kale Wrap and shop for stones and incense in the gift shop.
THE COFFEE HOUSE
The Coffee House has more than a half-century of history of coffee, music, and poetry, dating to the political and cultural turmoil of 1967. Today, at a new location, it still remains dedicated to music and spoken-word performances as well as good coffee.
THREE PINES COFFEE
Salt Lake City
Three Pines was founded by musicians in Los Angeles whose day jobs — serving coffee — turned into a passion. That passion comes out in some of the creamiest, most perfectly blended coffee drinks in Salt Lake City. The co-founders honed their craft so finely that other coffee shops use them as consultants.
WAKE FOREST COFFEE
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Comedians, musicians, artists and actors showcase their talent at Wake Forest Coffee, with most musical acts sticking to the classic acoustic and semi-acoustic coffee house format. The coffee is from a local roaster in Greensboro, and the cafe is known for its welcoming atmosphere and community ties — the local chess club even meets there.
WORLD COFFEE CAFE
Asheville, North Carolina
Famous for its pastries and savories and known for an obsession with Ethiopian beans, World Coffee Cafe is in a class by itself in Asheville because of the stunning mountain views from the SkyBar — breathtaking even for people used to living in the postcard-perfect Great Smoky Mountains.