A Coffee Lover's Guide to the Twin Cities

In my experience, there’s nothing more delightful than sitting in a quirky coffee shop surrounded by art, bustle, and the glorious scent of freshly roasted coffee beans. Fortunately for us coffee lovers, the Twin Cities area is dotted with a wide array of trendy coffeehouses and cozy cafes -- whether you’re looking for quality coffee, quirky art displays, or simply a place to relax, one of these unique locales is sure to charm.

1. Black Sheep Coffee Cafe

Location: 705 Southview Blvd, South St Paul, MN 55075

Atmosphere:

Homey, snug, and family-friendly, Black Sheep offers a wide variety of coffee and espresso specialties in a relaxed, mellow setting. With its stone fireplace, rotating local artwork, cozy armchairs, and cute little black tables, it’s the perfect place to meet friends or catch up on some afternoon reading. It has its busier hours, of course, but most of the times I’ve visited it’s been pretty quiet. I especially love how airy and light it feels -- it’s cozy and quirky, and feels like the ideal neighborhood hangout. Black Sheep also offers a nice area for children to play and occasionally hosts local musicians on the weekends.

Coffee and Food:

In my opinion, Black Sheep’s coffee menu never disappoints -- whether you’re in the mood for a cup of dark roast, a latte with a beautiful coffee design, or a fresh fruit smoothie, Black Sheep has it all. They also offer a unique selection of house-made pastries, bars, cookies, and scones that changes every day, along with light lunch offerings like quiches, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Black Sheep always seems to have something new to try, but I’m particularly fond of the lemon and pumpkin bars. And if you’re in the mood for something fun, try the colorful “Painter’s Mocha”, which features a dash of rainbow sprinkles.

TOP: Dark roast coffee and a cranberry scone

BOTTOM: Three perfect mochas (Photo courtesy of Faith Stickney)

2. Cafe Astoria

Location: 180 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55102

Atmosphere:

Head to this hip, popular coffee cafe for creative drinks, crepes, and more -- boasting an impressive selection of gourmet breakfast options and a fun secret menu, Cafe Astoria always seems to have something intriguing in store. Cute, cozy, and charmingly decorated, it’s a great place for a lunch date with friends, although it gets pretty busy over the late morning and early lunch hours. Despite the fact that it tends to get extremely crowded -- sometimes even requiring a long wait in a very small space -- the cafe’s extravagant offerings and quality coffee are definitely worth it.

Coffee and Food:

Every time I’ve visited Cafe Astoria, I’ve been blown away -- everything tastes great, and feels very wholesome, quirky, and high quality. Popular menu items include smoothie and oatmeal bowls, sweet and savory crepes, salads, and scones. I tried the South Pacific mango crepe and the “peachy keen” oatmeal bowl -- both delicious -- along with several of the Cafe’s famous secret menu items. Some of the most famous secret menu drinks include the s’mores latte, the Rainbow Mint Mocha, and the photo-worthy 24K Latte, topped with real gold leaf.

TOP: The 24K Latte. At $7, slightly more expensive than some of the other drinks, but aesthetically pleasing, with a sweet, creamy almond taste. The gold leaf on top (which is edible!) tastes the way you might imagine gold to taste -- metallic, and sort of like tin foil.

MIDDLE: The Rainbow Mint Mocha. My best friend tried this popular drink, which is as colorful as it is pleasantly minty. Each one seems to be unique in terms of color and design, which makes it all the more fun.

BOTTOM: The “Peachy Keen” Oatmeal Bowl. Oatmeal, granola, blueberries, peaches, kiwi, and honey butter, served with steamed milk. Warm and satisfying -- plus, the milk came in an adorable little silver creamer jar!  

3. Colossal Cafe

Locations: 1340 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105; 2315 Como Ave, St Paul, MN 55108; 2403 E 38th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Atmosphere:

While this cozy restaurant has more of a breakfast/brunch feel to it, Colossal Cafe offers a lovely coffee and pastry selection alongside its main menu. Cheery, airy, and relaxed, Colossal is a perfect spot to grab breakfast or afternoon lunch -- with bar seating, booths, and adorable tables decorated with flowers, it’s usually pretty easy to find a place to sit if you come at the right time. The cafe’s popularity means that sometimes there’s a bit of a wait, but the charming decorations, sunny windows, and cute coffee mugs make everything worth it.

Coffee and Food:

If you’re thinking about stopping here for breakfast or lunch, know that they call this place Colossal Cafe for a reason -- everything comes in insanely huge portions, and more likely than not, you’re going to need a to-go box. The menu consists of standard American diner food with a twist, from giant stacks of yeast-based pancakes to omelets, eggs, salads, sandwiches, and more. The cafe’s sandwiches are served on thickly sliced toast, making them a little hard to eat without a knife and fork, and the yeast-based batter used for the pancakes gives them a very unique taste -- I didn’t mind it, but my mom wasn’t really a fan. Because of the colossal portion sizes of pretty much everything on the menu, I’d recommend choosing something light, being prepared to split, or even just sticking to a cup of Colossal’s wonderful coffee. And don’t forget to check out the monthly rotating scone menu -- each day of the week features a different savory and sweet flavor.

TOP: Coffee and a Vanilla Oatmeal Chocolate Chip scone. Great-tasting coffee in a cute mug! The sweet scone of the day was quite good, but VERY large -- plan on splitting a dessert, or taking half home.

BOTTOM: Coffee and a lovely lemon bar

4. Claddagh Coffee

Locations: 459 West 7th Street, St Paul, MN 55102; smaller shop on 612 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN 55102

Atmosphere:

This artsy Irish-themed coffee shop is one of my personal favorites -- with its brick walls, cool basement, and cute chalkboard menus, Claddagh is charming from the minute you walk in the door. Rustic and relaxed, the shop’s Irish theme is proudly celebrated not only through its Irish flag decorations and intricate Celtic lettering on the menu, but through the clever names of its specialty drinks. Rotating local artwork and cozy seating areas make it an even cooler space. Keep an eye out for the hidden leprechaun (under a grate on the shop’s floor) and be sure to go downstairs! The basement at Claddagh is a comfy, dimly lit space with couches and table lamps that reminds me of a cross between a speakeasy and a secret pirate cavern. It’s the coolest thing EVER.

Coffee and Food:

If you’re on the lookout for unique specialty drinks, Claddagh is the place to go -- besides coffee and tea, the menu includes a number of fun, creative espresso drinks with Irish-inspired names. Among these are “The Hot Molly” (cinnamon and cayenne), “The Salty Dog” (chocolate, sea salt, and caramel), and “The Claddagh” (dark chocolate and Irish cream). Claddagh also offers light cafe fare like oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, salads, and paninis, along with a selection of quality house-made treats. The Dublin crumb cake is apparently its specialty, although I have yet to try it.

TOP: “The Salty Dog” -- espresso, steamed milk, chocolate, caramel, and sea salt -- in the cozy basement of Claddagh.  

BOTTOM: “The Hot Molly” -- espresso, steamed milk, cinnamon, and cayenne. Warm and sweet, with a hint of spice.

5. Black Coffee and Waffle Bar

Locations: 1500 Como Avenue Southeast Minneapolis, MN 55414; 2180 Marshall Avenue St. Paul, MN 55104

Atmosphere:

Hip, modern, and airy, Black Coffee and Waffle Bar serves up extravagant gourmet waffles and specialty coffees in a cozy, relaxed setting. The simplistic, black and white color scheme of the walls and decor gives the shop a decidedly cool feel to it -- I especially love the big menu printed out on one of the main walls. Whether you’re stopping by for a quick cup of coffee or trying one of the many varieties of gigantic waffles, Black Coffee and Waffle Bar is without doubt a fun place to visit.

Coffee and Food:

While Black Coffee and Waffle Bar is most famous for its huge, picturesque waffles, the coffee is pretty darn good, too. The menu is limited to mostly standard coffee shop offerings like mochas, lattes, and drip coffee, but everything feels very high-quality, and pairs very well with the gigantic waffles. You can choose to “Build your own” waffle or try out one of the shop’s specialty creations, all topped with a generous amount of whipped cream -- some of the most popular include “The Naughty Waffle” (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, granola, almond butter), “The Muddsucker” (powdered sugar, cinnamon, raw sugar), and “The Fat Andrew” (peanut butter, powdered sugar, bananas, cinnamon). Once again, be prepared for large portion sizes -- the waffles feel very indulgent, and it’s hard to eat the entire thing by yourself. Consider splitting, or taking half home!

TOP: A mocha with a lovely heart design

BOTTOM: “The Naughty Waffle” -- a waffle with bananas, blueberries, strawberries, granola, almond butter, and lots of whipped cream. Very, very good -- I especially loved the almond butter; it was a nice touch.

6. Spyhouse Coffee

Locations: 2404 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55405; 2451 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404; 907 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401; 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 420 Snelling Ave S, St Paul, MN 55105

Atmosphere:

With five locations nestled within the Twin Cities area, the ever-popular Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co. brews up delightful coffee and espresso drinks that are sure to please. Hip, snug, and usually bustling with activity, Spyhouse has a very modern, trendy look to it, with delightful brick walls and dimly-lit, comfy seating areas. It feels like the sort of place where artistic souls congregate and lonely writers scrawl poetry on coffee-stained napkins. Definitely my kind of hangout.

Coffee and food:

Alongside its selection of freshly roasted coffees, Spyhouse offers quality pastries, scones, croissants, and more, along with seasonal espresso drinks and several popular specialties -- try “The Spygirl,” a latte sweetened with honey and lavender, or “The Caramella,” with caramel and vanilla. Whether you’re in the mood for something unique or simply prefer your coffee black, Spyhouse is sure to have something for everyone, and coffee-lovers are strongly advised to check it out.

TOP: Me drinking my sorrows away with some delightful Spyhouse coffee

BOTTOM: My attempt at an artsy close-up of a mocha

7. Kopplin’s

Locations: 2038 Marshall Ave, St Paul, MN 55104

Atmosphere:

This cheery, artsy coffee shop offers simple coffee selections in a small but cozy space -- making it the perfect spot for a quiet morning. Mellow and usually not very crowded, Kopplin’s also features local artwork, granite tabletops, and quirky, colorful decor. Be sure to check out the shop’s display of unique gifts, coffee beans, mugs, cards, and more -- although everything is a bit spendy, it’s still super fun to look at all of the cute stuff. Whether you’re out for a relaxing coffee date or looking for a quiet place to study, Kopplin’s is the place to go.  

Coffee and Food:

Kopplin’s offers quality coffee and espresso drinks but also a rather limited menu, sticking to basics like drip coffee, traditional lattes and mochas, and hot chocolate. I usually take my coffee black, so this was no problem for me, but if you’re hoping for super fancy, out-of-the-box espresso drinks, this shop might not be the best choice for you.They also didn’t have decaf coffee available when we visited, which my mom grumbled about a little. However, despite all of that, the shop’s coffee is strong and very satisfying -- plus, mine came in an adorable mug printed with the phrase “Good Taste.” In terms of treats, Kopplin’s offers a modest selection of pastries along with small snacks like granola and bakery bread.

TOP: A latte with a cute little spoon

BOTTOM: Coffee in one of the shop’s cute mugs

Remember, these are only a handful of the many wonderful coffee shops and cafes here in the Twin Cities -- there are tons of other quirky places out there to discover. Happy adventuring, and may your days be filled with coffee and love!