Nestled right in the middle of the American heartland, St. Louis is a surprisingly sophisticated city, with internationally renowned art, food, and design. So it’s only fitting that this destination would have world-class coffee shops, including these 10 standouts to try.
Cafe, American, Coffee, Tea , Vegetarian, Fast Food, $$$
Kaldi’s is a St. Louis institution, founded by coffee connoisseur Howard Lerner in 1994 when café culture was still nascent. There are Kaldi’s coffeehouses all over the Midwest now, but you’d never know it was a chain sitting in the original location, in St. Louis’s leafy, European DeMun neighborhood. The baristas are likely Ph.D. students at nearby Washington University, and the café takes on their effortless sort of intellectual air. But the real draw here is the gooey butter cake, a St. Louis specialty that’s as good as it sounds and which locals take very seriously.
Given its location right across the street from the Washington University in St. Louis campus, you’d be forgiven for assuming Kayak’s is nothing more than a convenient meeting and study spot for undergrads. And while it is both of those things, Kayak’s also has innovative and fresh food from local farmers and can whip up a mean cappuccino sure to satisfy even the most incorrigible coffee snob. Kayak’s also has a seriously outdoorsy vibe. The walls look like those of a cabin; the baristas can point you in the direction of the best climbing and biking on nearby trails, and outdoors equipment (including, of course, kayaks) line the rafters.
Cafe, American, Wine, Beer, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food
Meshuggah Café is the uber-bohemian café in the uber-bohemian Delmar Loop. Faded and mismatched armchairs are arranged around old wooden tables; local art lines the walls, and a healthy selection of reading material always seems to have migrated over from the excellent used book store next door, Subterranean Books.
Located on the main thoroughfare in tony Clayton, Northwest serves impeccable demitasse coffees and matcha lattes to moms on their way to Pilates and the rest of the neighborhood crowd. Live in St. Louis long enough, and you’re sure to start seeing people you know at this see-and-be-seen spot, which also serves killer smoothies (try the bee pollen).
Sump is a highbrow coffee bar in the up-and-coming Benton Park neighborhood. Self-described as a “safe space for coffee enthusiasts of all kinds,” patrons (such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey) are in good hands with expert baristas who whip up their drinks with top-of-the-line Steampunk Brewers, Kyoto cold coffee drippers, and Slayer espresso machines.
It is taking nothing away from The Mud House’s coffee to say that the star attraction is the food. The owners grow a majority of the produce that they serve in their garden out back and elevate simple Southern food into the territory of the sublime. For example, a pork shoulder confit sandwich replaces the ubiquitous pulled pork sandwich, and a breakfast burrito substitutes chorizo for bacon. There is also gooey butter cake, of course.
Former New Yorkers own 2Schae Cafe, and it shows in the menu, which features not only bagel and lox but also classic black and white cookies flown in direct from the city. 2Schae Cafe is on the ground floor of the historic Senate building—a classic prewar apartment building where Charles Lindbergh used to live—and has an unpretentious yet elegant neighborhood atmosphere mixing the best of St. Louis and New York together.
Blueprint Coffee is a hipster’s paradise. The menus are written on chalkboards, and the focus is on pour-overs. Also, the coffee is so hyper-local that it’s actually roasted right on the premises. Located in the hipster-heavy Loop (right across from a record store and a taco shop nonetheless), Blueprint also serves excellent food, including PB&J pancakes that are not to be missed.