As the long summer afternoons drag on, we could all use a quick pick-me-up -- not those sugary, chemical-ridden energy drinks, but rather good old-fashioned coffee. Chances are your local coffee shop is like a second home -- special mugs, chatty baristas and free wifi; it's likely you've grown quite attached. But if you're searching for a new spot to get your caffeine fix or simply looking for a friendly shop with an outlet to plug in your laptop, Gut Check is here to offer up a few suggestions.
Sump Coffee (3700 South Jefferson Avenue; 917-412-5670)
Sump Coffee treats coffee like a sculptor handles a chunk of clay -- patient, calculated movements that result in a veritable work of art. So, yeah, this is not the place for a quick pit stop, or venti cappuccinos or lattes. Head barista Scott Carey carefully approaches each drink with the utmost care. For example, he'll brew El Salvadoran coffee roasted by Chicago's Intelligentsia using a Chemex (glass) brewer, while, on the other hand, he'll brew a Panamanian coffee from the same source in a ceramic Beehive coffee dripper. We didn't really follow that, either, but the end result is there for the tasting: rich flavor and a powerful rush of caffeine. See also: - Warning -- These Photos May Contain Caffeine! - Best Coffeehouse - 2012
Coffee Cartel (2 Maryland Plaza; 314-454-0000)
Show up at Coffee Cartel on a Tuesday night at 2 a.m., and you're likely to find college students cramming for finals, insomniacs drinking their fifth cup of coffee and late-night partygoers sobering up. The Cartel is blessedly open 24/7, and is therefore one of the CWE's premier people-watching sites. A major plus is that the Cartel is happy to spike your coffee to warm you up on a cold night, or to make your afternoon a bit more interesting.
Stone Spiral Coffee (2500 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-335-7388)
A block away from Maplewood's main drag, Stone Spiral's menu includes coffee, lattes and slushies with a few simple food items as well. Patrons can also peruse the free lending library for some literary inspiration while sipping out of a steamy mug -- how quaint! The aesthetics are easy on the eyes, with hand-painted windows boasting ads for lemonade and slushies, and interior walls decorated curious odds and ends, including concert posters from the '70s. So, if you're looking for a quiet place to read, do some work (wifi's fast and free) or hear a singer-songwriter (the evening music schedule is steady and diverse), there's no more friendly or comfortable café in town.
Kaldi's Coffee Roasting Company (700 DeMun Avenue, Clayton; 314-727-9955)
This is the original -- where it all began for Kaldi's, one of St. Louis' favorite coffee houses. And while the building is small and can become a bit cramped, the interior is newly remodeled, and the coffee is modern. The DeMun location utilizes the pour-over method, which produces a surprisingly rich, flavorful cup of joe. The food menu is more than the usual coffeehouse fare of muffins and bagels; start your day with a housemade pastry alongside your morning coffee. If your mornings seem empty without your Kaldi's fix, the solution is simple: Buy your own bag and brew it at home.
MoKabe's Coffeehouse (3606 Arsenal Street; 314-865-2009)
Open till midnight every day of the week, MoKabe's is a South Grand refuge for students poring over textbooks and weary-eyed late-nighters not yet ready to call it night. The menu provides a variety of choices beyond biscotti and muffins, including salads and small bites, sandwiches and burgers, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. And the staff members definitely know the business of the beans: They pour good, strong cups of straight-up java, plus plenty of delicious espresso drinks. There's also a spacious patio, plus a smoking area (downstairs) and a nonsmoking room (upstairs). Perhaps most important, there are electric outlets everywhere.
Foam (3359 Jefferson Avenue; 314-772-2100)
Foam is a multipurpose space: During the day, it's a comfortable spot to enjoy a latte or a beer, with couches aplenty, but at night, it becomes a topnotch concert venue. Step up to Foam's counter for an excellent coffee, and come back a bit later for a beer or cocktail. Better yet, combine coffee and alcohol and go with the house specialty "Kosmo," made with Kamora coffee liqueur, vodka, espresso and cream over ice. Now you're ready to kick back and take in the nightly performances, including everything from local and touring bands of all kinds to open mic night and live comedy.
The Mud House (2101 Cherokee Street; 314-776-6599)
The Mud House raises the bar when it comes to coffee-friendly food. The menu is casual but not simplistic; a standout sandwich features a confit of pork shoulder, the meat sinfully luscious and intensely porky. Breakfast, including an egg, cheese and bacon or sausage sandwich and a terrific breakfast burrito, is available all day. Plus, for all you locavores, multiple items feature produce from the Mud House's own garden. But if all you're looking for is some caffeine, Mud House has you covered.
Café Ventana (3919 West Pine Boulevard; 314-531-7500)
Here you can have a light lunch of excellent lobster bisque, sip a cappuccino while you study for the LSAT or even blot out a bad day with real-deal absinthe. Located on the edge of Central West End and midtown, the café adds a touch of artsy French style to an otherwise industrial stretch. Thanks to the patio and annex, there are always plenty of tables and comfy chairs. The friendly staffers take their coffee seriously, but that's just the beginning. Sure, you can caffeinate at Café Ventana, but you can also brunch, booze and stave off boredom with trivia, live music and movie nights. See also: - Nine More St. Louis Soups for National Soup Month
Hartford Coffee Company (3974 Hartford Street; 314-771-5282)
This is the definition of a neighborhood coffee shop -- it's actually an old south-city duplex on Hartford Street. The coffee is topnotch and fair trade, boasting organic blends from Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, New Guinea, Brazil, Peru and Ethiopia. They even use a process called fluid bed air roasting...we're not exactly sure what that means, but we like the results. But Hartford Coffee Company is more than a place to grab a cup of joe -- sit down, have a conversation, read a book. There's a whole section filled with children's books and games, and there are electrical outlets at each table so you can plug in and get some work done. On Friday evenings you can walk in for an open-mic night, while Saturdays bring stellar local acts.
Foundation Grounds (7298 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-601-3588)
Right smack in the middle of the bustling Maplewood scene, Foundation Grounds features a wide selection of food options, emphasizing organic, gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free or vegan diets. While the food is great, we're here for the coffee, the selection and quality of which is as carefully watched over as the quality-conscious food. Drinks at Foundation Grounds are easily made dairy-free and vegan-friendly, with soy and almond milks available. In addition to its diverse menu, the cafe plays host to live music and hosts events and specials during the week, and offers a cozy outdoor patio for soaking up sun during warmer months. See also: - Maplewood: An Updated Guide to Restaurants on Manchester - The Veggielante Visits Foundation Grounds
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