Louisville is a city that loves coffee. To the casual coffee drinker, the intricacies of roasts, beverages, styles of brewing and coffeehouses may seem intimidating. To the seasoned coffee drinker, the options may often seem underwhelming. Fear not – Louisville has a little something for everyone.
As it turns out, there may be coffee snobs in other cities, but Louisville’s baristas are friendly, helpful and patient with guiding newcomers on their coffee journey.
McQuixote Books & Coffee is nestled inside of the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery. The Tim Faulkner Gallery is not your standard art gallery. It is a re-purposed factory and pioneer of the renaissance of the Portland area, presenting unique art in its maze of rooms and exhbitions. It’s also a 1,500 capacity concert venue, presents plays, features a resident circus troupe and is generally a cornerstone of the offbeat community. In the midst of all of this is McQuixote Books & Coffee.
McQuixote fosters community with coffee, hosting public tasting sessions, and welcoming local and regional authors to the coffee shop, because, in addition to serving beverages and pastries, McQuixote is also a used book store. McQuixote’s calls their house blend “Southern Exposition,” – a melding of Ethiopian and Brazilian beans that results in a “delightfully sweet, full-bodied coffee with a crisp finish.” Grab a cup and stay a while to browse the books, or take it with you to fuel your exploration of the gallery.
Day’s has been a staple of The Highlands since 1994, making it the second oldest coffee shop in the Highlands (right behind Heine Brothers). For 20 years, the fine people at Day’s have been serving caffeinated beverages to Louisville.
Day’s great drinks and friendly customer service keep people coming back. Day’s offers plenty of room and comfy seating to hang out and stay a while, with games and books on the shelves for your enjoyment. It’s a quiet place to study or catch up on some reading.
Heine Brothers’ has been serving organic, fair-trade coffee to Louisville since 1994. Twenty years and 12 locations (and an Airstream!) later, they’re still going strong. Heine Brothers has been committed to sustainability and operating responsibly since the beginning and was a founding member of the world’s first fair-trade coffee buying cooperative.
You can always count on Heine Brothers to serve a good cup of coffee. Expect to find many varieties of coffees, sourced from Central America, The Caribbean, South America, Ethiopia, and Indonesia. Their friendly baristas, flavorful coffee and commitment to community has made Heine Brothers’ a welcome presence in Louisville over the years. Plus, their stores feature Wild and Woolly dropboxes to return DVDs, so you don’t have to drive across town to return your movies.
“Coffee – Treats – Records” are what Please & Thank You offers to the people. It’s a quaint shop in NuLu, which offers communal tables throughout the restaurant to encourage chatting with other guests, which are always plentiful. The bustling energy of Please & Thank You is a testament to how much Louisville loves what they have to offer.
Their drip coffee is provided by local roasters, Argo Sons. Their drinks exhibit artistry and come in just as many varieties as their baked goods. Please & Thank You makes what many would call the best chocolate chip cookie in town. It’s a secret recipe, but you can buy some of the dough and take it home with you, in case you get a hankerin’ for a chocolate chip cookie in the middle of the night. P&TY also serves a variety of herbal teas and signature drinks. Overall, It’s a very “Louisville” experience.
Their creative offerings in the way of breakfast and brunch go above and beyond. The Curious Bagel, in particular, is almost as raved about as their chocolate chip cookies. It’s an explosion of flavor, comprised of an everything bagel spread with cream cheese, red onions, cilantro, apricot jam, and peppadews.
This cozy bed and breakfast is brought to you by the creators of the Holy Grale (and happens to be right next door and shares its beautiful Gralegarten). Gralehaus offers what you’d expect from a Highlands coffeehouse: espresso, pour-over coffee, and their own creative signature drinks. In addition to delicious coffee, Gralehaus serves Kombucha tea on draft, shrub soda, and an original brunch menu. Dinner is now also available on the weekends.
The breakfast offerings are creative explosions of flavor – like the lamb sausage & grits or the biscuit & duck gravy. Gralehaus also offers unique espresso beverages and teas. Plus, mimosas. It’s the best of a coffee shop and brunch spot, all in one.
Highland Coffee Company is tucked away behind Urban Outfitters (in the Highlands, as it turns out). You can expect to find an impressive variety of roasts at this coffee shop, in addition to rich and creamy espresso concoctions, and refreshing teas. This shop also serves up an assortment of cupcakes, pastries, breakfast wraps, and panini sandwiches.
Stop in to say “hey” to the friendly staff and hang out for a while and enjoy the eclectic crowd. This is a great place to meet to catch up in their cozy cafe, or get some work and studying done.
7. Java Brewing Company/Safai Coffee
Java Brewing Company serves pour-over coffee, made fresh to order. Come for the coffee, stay for the crepes (they’re delicious). Java Brewing Co. is currently undergoing a re-branding to complete its transformation to more closely reflect its parent company, Safai Coffee – but this is good news for coffee lovers. Safai’s Master Roaster is a proponent of the “seed-to-cup movement,” visiting coffee farms personally to build direct relationships with the coffee farmers. Only 100% Specialty Grade Arabica beans are selected to be shipped, from 11 different countries from around the world.
Seasonal blends of coffee are served at Java Brewing Co., which are locally roasted and created with the greatest care.
8. Four Sisters
This “Creperie – Banh-mi – Espresso Bar” serves coffee creations crafted from Quills Coffee. Four Sisters is really actually owned and operated by four sisters (who are super friendly, by the way). The ambiance of Four Sisters is often described as “whimsical” and “adorable.”
The Vietnamese coffee is served with sweetened, condensed milk and a small metal French drip filter, so the coffee drips right before your eyes and you can mix the coffee and milk at your table. Not all of the coffee is served this way – the Nutella Latte is a favorite here, and the other espresso drinks are exquisite. The Mojito Tea is also refreshingly minty.
While you’re here, you’ll have to try their crepes. The crepes are fluffy, sweet and fruity or savory and hearty. Try the Strawberry and Nutella crepe or the Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Crepe.
Mrs. Potter’s is located downtown, near Museum Row, which makes it a convenient place to stop on a lunch break if you work downtown. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, it’s a charming cafe to stop in and have a leisurely breakfast, lunch, or specialty espresso drink, Italian soda, or just a plain black coffee.
Roast your own marshmallows for your tableside s’mores (really!), or enjoy another decadent dessert, breakfast burrito, or panini.
There’s so much about Quills that shines – the skill, knowledge, friendliness and helpfulness of the baristas, the interesting variety of roasts of the coffee and espresso, the rich, velvety lattes, the original signature drinks. The abundance of outlets for your laptops doesn’t hurt, either.
Quills is a great place to come to get work done – the atmosphere is warm and inviting, somewhat bookish, but in a good way. Their pour-over coffee is exquisite, their roasts and blends are complex, and their signature drinks are unique. Think coffee cocktails – these drinks change seasonally and are concoctions of things like maple syrup, spices, steamed milk and espresso.
If you live in or near the South End, or find yourself frequenting Iroquois Park, you may have thought that gas-station coffee was the only option. Think again! Sister Bean’s gives the South End a family-owned coffee shop to call their own. Stop in for a mocha, cappuccino, latte, americano, Italian soda, or just a regular black coffee.
It’s a warm and inviting place to sit a while and enjoy your beverage, catch up on some studying, enjoy a book or visit with friends. The baristas are friendly and helpful and there’s even a drive-thru, for your convenience.
12. Red Hot Roasters
Since 2006, Red Hot Roasters has served organic Arabica coffee, roasted in small batches. Don’t be put-off by the store being drive-thru only – it’s the favorite cup of coffee of many in Louisville. The attention to detail in the small-batch roasts really shows through the coffee’s bold flavor, and the same can be said for the espresso. Purchase a can to take home with you, so you’ll never have to go without.
Their specialty drinks are unique, and this is not limited to the drinks involving coffee – the Kentucky Soda is a twist on an Italian soda, made with Kentucky’s own Ale-8. The Derby Mint Julep Mocha is a favorite, made with mint and chocolate and topped with bourbon whipped cream.
13. Sunergos Coffee
Sunergos, a “micro-roastery” native to Louisville, serves coffees that are “sourced through responsible and sustainable partnerships is a constant pursuit. Highlighting origin characteristics and their best development dominates Sunergos’ roasting philosophy.”
Sunergos serves both drip and Chemex and V60 pour-over coffee. Its beans are sourced from Africa, the Indo-Pacific, Latin America, as well as offering blends and seasonal offerings. All roasts are flavorful and aromatic. The staff is friendly and helpful and willing to help you navigate their menu. They also offer a variety of teas, and will combine them upon request.
Vint is an inviting, cozy place that provides plenty of comfy chairs to relax by the fireside in the cafe, or by the fireplace out on the charming patio. It’s a great place to share an intimate conversation and indulge in the half price wine on Thursday nights.
All beverages served have a “vintage” – an annual release cycle. Vint is an offshoot of Heine Brothers’, a Heine Brothers’ deluxe, if you will. Serving coffee, tea, ale, and wine, in addition to a great selection of scones and pastries, you’ll have plenty of reasons to come and stay a while (or hit the drive-thru if you’re in a hurry).
Featured Image Credit: Susanne Nilsson