An Ode to Our Favorite Coffee Shops

The coffee shops we visit on our days off or for a cup of coffee when we’re not working are special. We ask baristas to share with us some of their favorite cafes and what makes them unique.


Featured photo by Elizabeth Chai

I despise making coffee at home. Unless the forces of nature are keeping me confined to the four walls of my home, I will almost always use my days off from my full-time barista job at the CRO Cafe in Oakland, Calif., to enjoy coffee somewhere else. Having coffee at a cafe different from the one you work at is one of the most supreme pleasures—you get to enjoy the strangeness of their bar layout, the newness of their coffee offerings, and the freedom from feeling like you have to jump in and help with a rush. Add it all up, and there’s nothing like sitting in your favorite cafe and enjoying a coffee not made by you in a space you don’t work in.

Now that I live in Oakland, I usually end up visiting Subrosa Coffee or Bartavelle, both close to my home with wonderful coffees and intimate spaces. But my favorite coffee shop in the world is Bluebird, a cafe no bigger than most walk-in closets in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. I relish the days I could go in and enjoy a quiet coffee by myself seated by the windows, which would be open on warm days, and every now and then indulge in one of their homemade pastries. I imagine most baristas have a secret cafe they love to frequent on days off or when guests are in town, so we took to social media to ask some of our community members what their favorite coffee shops are.

Elizabeth Chai, a freelance photographer and designer, also skews toward small, intimate spaces, and mentions Steady Hand Pour House in Atlanta as one of her favorite spots. “It was like a little oasis. They had a lot of heart in what they did, and you could tell. It wasn’t to get huge or make money. It was the size of a bedroom, but they introduced Atlanta to Chemex and George Howell. Very tight-knit family,” she shares. She is also a fan of Customs Brew Bar in Wellington, New Zealand and The Coffee Collective in Godthåbsvej, Denmark (pictured above).

Unfortunately, some places live on only in our hearts: Bluebird and Steady Hand are both closed. Kandiss Powell, wholesale coordinator for Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco, holds dear another cafe that has since closed its doors. “Shock Coffee, Omaha, Neb. R.I.P. Used to go there in the mid-late 90s. It was a combo coffee shop and vintage clothing store, wonderfully curated with cool steel art-installations that doubled as tables and chairs. The coffee they used was also called Shock! and was supposedly ‘super caffeinated’ … this place definitely started my love affair with coffee.” Zachary Carlsen, co-founder of Sprudge, also holds onto memories of a coffee shop long since gone. “The Usual in Tacoma, Wash.,” he shares. “Lost but never forgotten.”

Many baristas cited now-defunct Neptune Coffee in Seattle as their favorite coffee shop. Photo by Elizabeth Chai.

One cafe we lost recently that continues to live on for many baristas is Neptune Coffee in Seattle. Although the store was lost in a gas explosion last year, many baristas cited it as one of their favorite spots. Becky Reeves of BARISTA says, “Had my ‘oh my god I get it now’ espresso experience there.” Tyson Stagg of Market Lane Coffee in Melbourne, Australia, is also a fan: “Christine [Esparolini] and Baltazar [Soto] (Neptune’s owners) are some of the most amazingly genuine people I’ve met. While they were both quite new to coffee and hospitality, they left a great legacy,” he shares. Akaash Saini of Equator Coffee in Mill Valley, Calif., also felt a close affinity for the space and the community: “The owners, the coffee, the space, the baristas—everything about it was perfect.”

Although some of our favorites no longer exist, there are plenty of amazing spaces currently opening that baristas love and admire. Tyson mentions Market Lane, although he admits he’s got a perhaps skewed perspective. “Market Lane Coffee on Faraday Street is pretty damn lovely also. (Biased pick) It’s a tiny space where most of the coffee gets served out their window.”

Market Lane, a favorite of Tyson Stagg, serves many of their drinks out of this window. Photo by Tyson Stagg.

Ben Usen of La Colombe also cites a barista favorite: “G+B [in Los Angeles] because they make drinks I can’t get anywhere else or make at home (more specifically their 1+1 menu). Also, the layout, setting, social element, and speed. And it’s accessible for the everyday coffee drinker, you can bring anyone there,” he shares. And Danielle Anderson of Ula Café in Jamaica Plain, Mass., sings the praises of Tandem Coffee for the environment and atmosphere. “It’s a quaint shop in Portland, Maine, run by a kind and genuine couple dedicated to coffee quality and community. Very limited seating and menu, also no internet. Every time I’ve gone in I’ve had wonderful conversation with absolute strangers who are there for all sorts of different reasons. There is an absolute lack of pretension, but joy in sharing a craft and a moment,” Danielle shares. “Also, the coffee is completely delicious.”

Tandem Coffee in Portland, Maine, is a favorite of Danielle Anderson, who mentions the small space, lack of internet, and gracious owners as reasons why she loves the space. Photo by Danielle Anderson.

For whatever reason, the cafes baristas love are special—we can find relaxation, enjoy new experiences, and drink delicious coffee without worrying about bussing dishes or dialing in a new date of espresso. These are just some of the special places baristas mentioned to us—let us know in the comments what cafes are dear to you!

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at