I’ve always enjoyed good coffee and I’ve also always been intrigued by coffee shop culture. For many folks, coffee shops provide an escape from being at home, a place to go to study or meet with friends. They’re really one of the only acceptable places to go spend time at in public without going out to eat or consuming alcoholic beverages.
What’s interesting is that many times the product isn’t the main focus of these establishments but rather the culture that surrounds them. Every coffee shop has to differentiate itself somehow. Unlike chain coffee shops like Starbucks, all of these local establishments in St Pete have their own unique flair that contributes to their atmosphere.
As my business partner and I have made a concerted effort to build up the blog content on our website, I’ve found myself as a coffee shop regular. I find a comfy spot to sit down with my Macbook Pro, my beard, my double upside down backwards light mocha and start blogging. I believe that I have become the exact definition of a hipster but whatever, I liked coffee shops before they were cool.
As a hardened coffee shop veteran, I am here to give you my opinion on the Top 5 best coffeeshops in St Pete. Things I take into consideration – Atmosphere, unique qualities, product and service. Truth be told I am the guy who just gets regular coffee with cream and sugar in it so they all taste pretty similar to me. This article is more about the culture and atmosphere that surround these coffeeshops. With that said, let’s get started. In no particular order, here are the 5 best coffee shops in St Pete, Florida.
When you think of a quirky, eccentric coffee shop, this place takes the crown. You remember how restaurants like Applebees and TGI Fridays just put a ton of random crap on the walls? That’s what the outside of this place reminds me of. When I first walked by I thought for sure that putting the front end of a Jeep on your store would be some sort of code violation.
I’ve only been here a handful of times but this place is awesome. Unlike pretty much every other coffeeshop they don’t provide Wi-Fi in an effort to encourage socialization. Any other coffeeshop you go into you will see about a dozen people sitting on their Macbooks in silence occasionally exchanging glances. When I first walked into this shop, I was greeted loudly by a boisterous barista (Check out that alliteration), who asked me my name and introduced herself. I felt more like I was walking into someone’s living room rather than a business.
This type of atmosphere sets the tone for their shop – I noticed many folks were more open to talking to each other than you would see in a more reserved coffee shop. Many people wanted to talk to me but that was probably because I was taking care of my friend’s dog when I went in there, who even me as a grown man can admit is the cutest dog in the world. Which reminds me, another great thing about this place is you can bring your dog in. Be sure to subscribe to their Facebook page for inspirational quotes and of course dank memes.
2. Bandit Coffee
This place is relatively new and I’ve also only been in here a handful of times. Walking in and seeing the interior I was reminded of an area near where I grew up – Uptown Minneapolis. Parts of Uptown are really modern and trendy and this coffee shop would fit right in up there. This shop has a very minimalist design with floor to ceiling windows providing plenty of natural light and a clean, sterile feel.
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The lady who was taking orders was the owner and I could tell she takes a lot of pride in her shop. I asked her a simple question about the differences in the two types of coffee they had and she gave me a very thorough, knowledgeable description for both. The atmosphere had nice relaxing music and was relatively quiet which I enjoy when I sit down to do work. This place also has some beautiful photography which you can check out on their Facebook page.
3. Southside Coffee & Brew Bar
I used to live a few blocks from here which is the only reason I knew about this place. It’s a hole in the wall coffee shop with just enough room to order inside. They also have a very pleasant little sitting area outside perfect for the cooler months in Florida.
I had originally stated that this article was mostly about atmosphere but it’s worth noting that this coffee shop is all about quality. It reminds me of those hole in the wall coffee shops you stumble on in Europe, where you have to have the patience to wait a few minutes in exchange for a high quality drink.
I ventured out of my comfort zone one time and ordered a Mexican Mocha here after taking a recommendation from the barista – it was so much better than anything you could get from a place like Starbucks. The drink consists of espresso, steamed milk, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla syrup, pure vanilla extract, red pepper and whipped cream.
The end product was a drink that tasted natural instead of the more processed taste of a sweet drink at Starbucks or other chains. Everytime I’ve been in here, the staff has treated me like a friend. I would love to see this place expand one day but maybe they don’t need to as it already packs a lot of charm in a small space.
As many of you probably already know, Kahwa was the original local coffee shop in St Pete. They opened at just the right time when this city started booming and have rapidly expanded ever since with new locations and new products.
Their brand is very recognizable, you will see people walking around downtown with their bright yellow corrugated cups. If you make a stop at Kahwa, I would highly recommend getting a croissant sandwich there. They are a bit messy to eat but also delicious. I also tried their chocolate covered coffee beans recently which are fantastic.
Kahwa has two locations downtown, North and South. Both locations are probably the most popular coffee shops in St Pete right now. Many times even during the week you will go in there and see most of the seats taken.
Their popularity is partly due to them being the pioneers of local coffee in the area. They secured two great downtown locations with inside and outside seating at both, they always have great service and have created a very recognizable brand.
I would have to say Kahwa North is my favorite for two reasons – There is free street parking nearby and it’s smaller providing a more comfortable intimate setting.
5. Black Crow
Black Crow started off as a very tiny coffee shop. The first time I went in there it was a counter and maybe 5 tables and some lounge chairs. I went back a month or so later and they had knocked down a wall to add another room doubling the size of the space there.
You will notice that the music here is being played on vinyl, there are quirky antique things everywhere and lots of interesting art. This is where I go to channel my inner hipster. Last time I was there, I took a sip of my coffee and then all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with the urge to put on a beanie and get more tattoos. I then started to get light headed, fainted and woke up wearing wire framed glasses and a bowtie. Confused, I opened up my real estate blog in progress on my computer but instead I found a monologue of spoken word about GMOs and factory farming. I went outside to clear my head and found a fixed gear bicycle where my car was once parked.
OK none of that actually happened, but if it did I would definitely fit in with their target demographic. They are known to have open mic nights which include poetry, spoken word and live music. They have also hosted all sorts of art events but I have not had the pleasure to make it out to any of these yet. You can keep up to date on their events with their facebook page.
I don’t think local coffee shop owners set out to get rich. Most of these folks start a coffee shop because they have a passion for creating a sense of community. The arts, music and culture that surround these shops are their own subculture and these establishments provide an area for these concepts to thrive.
Even when stopping in for a minute to get your drink, most baristas will try to connect with you on something other than a superficial level and I think a lot of people appreciate that. I am grateful to live in a progressive city like St Pete that values the culture that these establishments provide.
Chris and his business partner Ryan are Real Estate agents on a mission – Their goal is to help improve the local community by connecting people and giving back. Chris loves finding out about the newest ventures happening in St Pete and the people running them. As fate would have it, Chris & Ryan are like minded aspiring entrepreneurs looking to connect people in a way never seen before and one day take over the world. Call Chris at 727-307-1111 or email him at The727Team@gmail.com for any Real Estate inquiries or if you just want to say hello.
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