Some of the best roasters and cafes in America are cropping up in some rather unexpected places.
World-class roasters in Arkansas and rural Wisconsin. Top-notch cafes creating community in economically challenged Rust Belt towns and cities. Latte art in Lubbock. It wasn't so long ago that very good coffee was a rarity in many parts of New York and Los Angeles—very quickly, third wave has gone wide, no city or town immune to its meticulous charms.
With recent seismic shifts within our emerging, New American coffee culture, and more than a few people asking where does it all go next, it is a very good idea to take the broadest possible view, because the answer won't necessarily be found in Downtown Los Angeles, or Portland, or Brooklyn—the future could be taking place right now, somewhere you might never have have heard of before, let alone considered. From up-and-coming roasters to outstanding cafes, here are some of the most noteworthy recent openings in the last places you were probably looking.
Des Moines, IA
Two friends from Southern California in search of a more affordable way of life picked the coolest corner of Iowa's biggest city—the Downtown-adjacent, Western Gateway neighborhood—for their visually arresting, extraordinarily serious (in the good sense of the word) roaster café.
A vibrant focal point for Tulsa's ascendant Pearl district, this year-old roaster and café operation is coffee geek heaven, featuring Oklahoma's first Slayer machine and so many brew methods to choose from it'll make your head spin. Two things you'll find here that are too often missing from these more hardcore operations—a sense of humor (cereal milk latte, anyone?) and a strong commitment to good customer service.
At the top of its class in one of the South's emerging food capitals, this roaster and café operation is the brainchild of three savvy local entrepreneurs, a light-filled laboratory of sorts with a young roaster who traveled the world before coming home to perfect his craft.
A hypermodern hangout just north of downtown Phoenix in the now fast-growing Roosevelt Row area, a breathtaking, blank space is the setting for one of the Southwest's most cutting-edge cafes that also manages, somehow, to keep the feel of a friendly local . Just one part of a dynamic collective that includes a hair salon and an art gallery, the whole operation feels like the future. (The clue's in the name, after all.)
The transformation of the northern end of Halsey Street—and so much of the city's historic downtown—over the past few years has been nothing short of sensational; why shouldn't the neighborhood have a terrific new coffee bar, too? Mayor Ras Baraka, who's overseeing some of the most significant growth the city has seen in a generation, has been in for their Matcha lattes more than once.
Maybe it's the long winters, or maybe it's just something to do before the bars open, but one of the many surprises New York's second city keeps from the wider world is its cozy café culture—it's hard to think of a recently-opened quite so essential as this design-forward shop tucked into a residential area, just blocks from the Peace Bridge. On cold days, the giant ceramic heater (look for the colorfully tiled bench along the back wall) is a popular place to sit and work.
A perfect example of how cafes can sometimes help create neighborhoods, this thoroughly modern space adds a much-needed focal point to Toledo's once-again growing Uptown district—coffee comes from source fanatics One Line, out of Columbus, turned here into top-notch cortados (and more).
It's easy to source coffee, paint a few walls white and call yourself the hottest new coffee shop in town, but this multi-roaster operation inside the rustic-cool Dean Hotel has quickly become one of the best multi-roaster cafes in New England not only because it knows how to pull a mean shot, but also for its commitment to customer service. They've recently expanded to take over operations at the café inside the acclaimed RISD Art Museum.
With Four Barrel's coffee, a striking, Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine taking pride of place on the bar, various things on toast and a properly minimal interior, you'd be excused for thinking you'd somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up on the West Coast. That's no accident—the proprietors (one a North Dakota native), met in San Francisco while working at—you guessed it—Four Barrel; both have extensive industry experience.