42 & Lawrence
134 East Martin Street, Raleigh, 42lawrence.com
Stop by this downtown Raleigh spot for lattes and nitro cold brew on draft—for the best of both worlds, opt for the Black & Tan. You can also snag pastries from Boulted Bread or lucettegrace and purchase bags of beans of the small-batch “experimental” coffees (locally roasted at Larry’s Coffee).
341 West Main Street, Durham, beyucaffe.com
When you want to sip and settle in with a book or focus on that overdue project, this downtown Durham cafe is your jam. For an espresso beverage that drinks like dessert, opt for the Runaway Latte, laced with praline syrup, cayenne pepper, and a dusting of cinnamon. (You can also get a cuppa and East Durham Bake Shop pastries at Beyù Blue on Duke’s West Campus.)
Multiple locations, cocoacinnamon.com
Lots of Durham residents will swear that Cocoa Cinnamon makes the best coffee drinks in town. (The Al Mohka? Heck, yeah.) There are three locations serving up pour-overs, lattes, and specialty coffees, but the Lakewood outpost, on Chapel Hill Road, has something the others don’t: churros. That one’s our favorite.
Gray Squirrel Coffee Company
360 East Main Street, #100, Carrboro, graysquirrelcoffee.com
This artisan coffee roaster and espresso bar has a clean, modernist vibe. Focusing on precision and service more than volume, Gray Squirrel roasts small batches and serves a narrow menu. Take home a half-pound of beans or let expert baristas bring out the best in them for you.
219 South West Street, Raleigh, heirloombrewshop.com
Between the one-of-a-kind coffee, tea, and sake drink menu, eye-catching ceiling, and artfully placed pink accents throughout the room, Heirloom is simply bewitching. Inspired by its founders’ Laotian and Taiwanese heritage, the brewshop—which opened on the bottom floor of The Dillon in the Warehouse District in 2018—is relaxed and sophisticated, serving inspired concoctions like the five-spice brown sugar latte.
Joe Van Gogh Coffee Roasters
Multiple locations, joevangogh.com
Since 1991, Joe Van Gogh has been expertly roasting beans sourced from high-quality suppliers all over the world, earning its rep as one of the best coffee roasters in the state. It now has five cafes in the Triangle—and two more in the Triad—where you can put that coffee to work in delicious lattes, cortados, cappuccinos, and brews.
Looking Glass Cafe (now closed)
601 West Main Street, Carrboro, lookingglasscafe.us
Looking Glass started as the place you’d go to if Open Eye (see below) was too crowded. As that became more often the case, Looking Glass built its own dedicated first-choice base on the strength of its service and its more spacious outdoor seating.
8450 Honeycutt Road, 2100 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, jubalacoffee.com
Come for the Counter Culture espresso drinks (try the vanilla latte), stay for the waffles, which boast a crisp-caramelized exterior and soft-bordering-on-doughy-interior.
The Morning Times
10 East Hargett Street, Raleigh, morningtimes-raleigh.com
You order downstairs. You collect your beverage. You try not to spill it on yourself as you navigate the stairs up to the second floor, where tables await and the room buzzes: businesspeople meeting, keyboards clacking, students reading, couples laughing, friends eating. The coffee drinks are well-crafted (with Counter Culture beans) in all the usual ways, but it’s the atmosphere that’s made The Morning Times DTR’s go-to coffee shop for more than a decade.
Open Eye Cafe
101 South Greensboro Street, Carrboro, openeyecafe.com
Open Eye is a lodestar of local cafe culture, for both its longevity and for its seriousness about coffee, with owners who judge barista competitions and fly around the world to meet suppliers. The staff is drilled in arcane espresso arts; whatever you order, you’ll get a fine traditional cup. The space is huge but often packed. It’s a great place to meet and mingle—except at peak laptop hours, when it can look like a weirdly homey coding boot camp.
2018 Best of the Triangle Readers’ Picks, Best Coffee Shop:
Cocoa Cinnamon, Durham County
Caffe Driade, Orange and Chatham Counties
Cup a Joe (Hillsborough Street), Wake County