28 of the best local coffee spots, from cozy nooks to drive-thrus

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Photo by Elli McGuire.

If you’re plugging the word “Starbucks” into your GPS for your next coffee fix, you’re missing out. Charlotte is turning into a hotspot for craft coffee, local roasts and hip places opened by local business owners.

To make sure you know where you can support local in every corner of town when you sip your coffee, I’ve updated my list of 28 local coffee spots you need to try. In no particular order:

Undercurrent Coffee

2012 Commonwealth Ave.

Guests are meant to feel a sense of belonging when they step inside this new Plaza Midwood shop. The decor is inspired by the colors of, and feelings evoked by, a true current, while the beverage menu flows with house-made syrups and sauces, and products by a variety of local and regional coffee partners. The food menu is heavy on seasonal and local ingredients, with a veggie-forward, made-from-scratch approach

Enderly Coffee Co.

2620 Tuckaseegee Road

Enderly Coffee Co. was created in 2012 by former teachers Becky and Tony Santoro. While bags of their coffee beans and cups of their brewed coffee have been found around town for years, they finally put down roots in their company’s neighborhood namesake, Enderly Park. The coffee shop just opened in summer 2018, slinging their landmark State St. Blend, a rotating lighter coffee and more.

Basal Coffee

1429 Bryant St.

Couple-owned Basal is a café in the FreeMoreWest Neighborhood, adjacent to LaCa Projects, a contemporary art gallery for Latin American works. “Basal” means foundation, and the owners seek to bring different cultures together while creating a space for connection through conversations, coffee and food. Coffees range from pour overs to macchiatos and breakfast items range from waffles to granola bowls.

Cafe Moka

7416 Waverly Walk Ave., Suite H3

Now open in south Charlotte’s Waverly development, this coffee shop got its start in Virginia Beach before owner Roark Basham’s family got him interested in the Charlotte area. Basham himself designed the logo, the artwork on the walls and various pieces of furniture customers can enjoy here. Sip on espressos, frozen lattes, smoothies, hot cocoas and teas.

Summit Coffee Co.

128 S Main St., Davidson

Summit first arrived on the coffee scene in 1998, opening in a 19th-century building on Main Street in Davidson. Today, that’s the two-story Basecamp location for Summit, also a certified organic roaster, where you can stop in for coffee, beer, wine, live music, pastries and work away from the office. Summit also has locations on Davidson College’s campus and in Asheville.

The Suffolk Punch

2911 Griffith St.

While this hopping South End spot gets busy as a brewery (Hyde Brewing) and restaurant as the day goes on, The Suffolk Punch keeps its coffee bar open every day of the week, with varying hours. The space is airy and filled with greenery, not to mention beautifully crafted coffees with nitro drafts, seasonal flavors and more.

Mac Tabby Cat Café

516 E. 15th St.

This café was created for cat and coffee lovers (dog lovers: the owner here wants you to try out the cat situation, too). Order local fare like cookies from A Smart Cookie, Raw Crunch Bars, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. kombucha, cold brew coffee, and hot drip coffee from Pure Intentions. Guests pay $12 per hour (reservations are recommended) to relax in the Cat Lounge, where adoptable cats flit about for your petting pleasure.

By Sallie Funderburk

Comic Girl Coffee

1224 Commercial Ave.

Opened in 2017, this is a queer-led co-op with a mission “to provide an inclusive space for marginalized people,” according to the website. That demographic ranges from LGBTQ+  community members to immigrants to people of color. Come here for comic books, locally roasted coffee, vegan fare and inclusive community. The calendar is filled with support group meetings and game nights as well.

The People’s Market

1315 East Blvd.

This is the kind of place where you meet a friend for a made-to-order sandwich and a coffee to get a break from your work day. Belly up to the bar seating or a table — but only after you browse the snack items from pimento cheese to chips to pair with your coffee craving. You can also grab a bag of locally roasted beans while you wait for your order.

ROOTS Café

2135 Southend Dr., Suite 109

While ROOTs is a restaurant with counter service, this little neighborhood nook in Dilworth feels like a cozy coffee shop in the mornings and afternoons. Grab a pastry and a hot cup of Enderly Coffee to go if you’re in the middle of your walk with your dog, or order a cappuccino at the counter and snag a table with your computer to get some work done. It’s a quiet and cheerful place, with warm lighting inside and a newly-renovated, plant-filled patio outside.

Mitty’s Café

216 Iverson Way, Suite B

Vigor Charlotte health spa opened in 2018 with a café pairing that offers a relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. While Vigor offers massage services, its little café offers CBD oil (in the form of vials, vapes or gummies) and a beverage menu with hot or iced Magnolia Coffee and their own lemonade.

Photo by Deanna Drogan

Coco and the Director 

100 W. Trade St.

No other coffee shop in Charlotte looks like Coco and the Director, with its high ceilings and tiered seating area featuring a community table, cushioned seats and more tables and chairs, plus its muffled, zen vibe. Order a Lenny Boy kombucha, a snack or one of the coffees brewed with Forte Legato beans. Also, don’t miss out on various social gatherings, from yoga series to mic nights.

May your coffee be strong and your Monday be short. #Coffee #CocoandtheDirector

A post shared by Coco and the Director (@cocoandthedirector) on

Lincoln’s Haberdashery

300 S. Blvd., Ste. S.

New to South End, Lincoln’s doubles as a fast-casual restaurant and grocery, with a coffee bar and charming nooks for tables and chairs and couches. The menu spans breakfast, lunch and libations. The nooks are destined for a quiet catch-up with a friend, or a curled-up hour with a book and made-to-order coffees from flat whites to signature lattes with locally sourced ingredients.

HEX Coffee

125 Remount Road

First hitting the scene as a pop-up café that brought people together in unfamiliar places, HEX Coffee in South End now brings people together with familiar coffees, and an emphasis on espresso. There’s plenty of experimentation, too, for a hint of the unfamiliar, from shandies to matcha-based beverages.

Trade and Lore Coffee

3306 N. Davidson St.

This is the place to go in NoDa if you want to know what innovation tastes like. Drinks range from flash-chilled nitro tea, to iced coffee with seltzer and edible flower garnishes, to signature drinks mixed with syrups and bitters. Not to be overlooked: The plants dangling from the skylight and the cozy corner nook with bright pillows and couch seating.

Not Just Coffee

Locations include 224 E 7th St., 222 S Church St., 2230 Park Road Suite 102, 2000 South Blvd., 421 Providence Road

Across its quickly expanding reach of locations from Uptown to South End, couple-owned Not Just Coffee slings everything from pour overs to espresso beverages (with exquisite latte art) in bright and airy spaces. They’re known for hosting occasional latte art competitions and for rolling out a cold brew bike for a quick fix on the go.

Latte art competition hosted by Not Just Coffee at Atherton Mill

CupLux Coffee Drive-Thru

3115 Freedom Dr.

When you’re on the move and not looking for a sit-down experience, check out Charlotte’s first drive-thru-only craft coffee shop in FreeMoreWest. The menu is curated around convenience to cater to commuters and includes drip coffees, espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, nitro cold-brew on draft, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. kombucha and pastries. The name “CupLux” hints at the luxury that goes into craft coffee making — and drinking. It’s short for “cupping luxury.” Bonus: If you pull up with your dog in the car, there should be a pup treat waiting.

Brakeman’s Coffee & Supply

225 N. Trade St., Matthews

This small-town stop in Matthews was envisioned to be an intentional space for slowing down, indulging in coffee and congregating for conversations. It even reflects in the business name — the role of the brakeman in a train caboose is to slow down the vehicle. Slow down with hot drinks (like drip coffee, Americanos, cappuccinos or lattes) or cold drinks (like milkshakes, smoothies and cold brew).

Rush Espresso

14825 Ballantyne Village Way #135 and 120 Brevard Court

Rush is one of the few independent coffee shops to drop by in south Charlotte, so take advantage. The café and wine bar offers a selection of international coffee, teas, beers and wines, plus breakfast, lunch, dinner, pastries and desserts. A condensed version Uptown focuses on the coffee side of the business for a frothy cappuccino fix during the work day.

Central Coffee Co.

719 Louise Ave. and 1700 Camden Road #101

Central was born as Plaza Midwood’s neighborhood, corner coffee shop before (at last) expanding to South End. They serve and brew North Carolina-based beans by artisan coffee roaster Joe Van Gogh. Pastries and food are prepared and baked in house each day.

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse

514 E 36th St.

Smelly Cat is ideal for a relaxing hour on the patio in the heart of NoDa or tucked into an indoor alcove. Settle in with a single origin pour over, a cold brew on nitrogen, an iced tea or a specialty espresso drink. Worth noting: They roast their own ethically sourced coffee beans.

Amélie’s French Bakery & Café 

2424 N Davidson St. and other locations

The French bakery was named after the 2001 romantic comedy “Amélie” and has overtaken most reaches of Charlotte with its various locations of quirky, French-inspired decor. While the original location in NoDa is open 24 hours, all versions of the bakery are the perfect spot for a Cafe Capuchon and a pastry (like the famed salted caramel brownie).

Mugs

5126 Park Rd, Ste 1D.

Sink into a comfy chair and admire the local art on the walls and the assortment of handmade mugs in this warm, inviting space while you order coffee by Magnolia Coffee, or tea. Check the calendar for game nights and fiction group meetings too, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Subsecreto 

325 E. 9th St.

Welcome to Uptown’s most mysterious place to find great coffees. The decor is plenty mysterious to begin with, with black birds and angels, and shelves of trinkets and crystals and books. When Subsecreto first opened, the press release promised there will be “new, old and interesting pieces that will disappear over time, never to be seen again.” Membership pins are available for $13 (if you want 10 percent off drinks!), but the space is open to all creatives wishing to explore the unknown.

South End Grind

255 Clanton Road

Drip coffee, cold brew, espresso and aeropress — that’s what delicious coffee types are made of in this bright, South End space. Creative concoctions have included beet lattes and activated charcoal lattes. As the company puts it: “They say behind every successful person is a substantial amount of coffee.”

Activated charcoal latte at South End Grind. Photo by Deanna Drogan.

The Common Market

2007 Commonwealth Ave. and other locations

No one does “quirky grunge” better than Common Market, which is my favorite “modern twist on general stores of the past” to stop at for a hummus scoop salad at the deli, a random, weird greeting card and a cup of hot coffee with edgy names like “Sexy Power.”

Rhino Market & Deli

1500 W Morehead St #E, and 400 S Tryon St.

This is your destination if you’re craving inventive sandwiches, trivia nights, a bit of funk and, yes, coffee. You can also browse and buy locally roasted coffee beans here, plus cheap wines and expensive chocolate — the best combo.

Earl’s Grocery

1609 Elizabeth Ave.

While Earl’s is home to one of the eight best meatless burgers you can find in Charlotte, it’s also a great home base for recharging your creativity over coffee and a conversation — or your laptop. Aim for the morning or afternoon to avoid the lunch rush — but don’t forget to treat yourself to that black bean burger, or a prepared food item (their Brussels sprouts slaw is crisp and necessary — when it’s available)

Photos: Katie Toussaint, David Johnson, HEX Coffee, CharlotteFive Staff, Rémy Thurston, Jonathan Wells

16 COMMENTS

  1. How can you left out Waterbean Coffee when they’re the original multi-roasters coffee house that offers coffee/espresso tasting flight?!

  2. A most welcome addition to the Fourth Ward Uptown is the comfortable and tasty QC Grounds on Tenth and Church. They roast and grind on site. The vibe is inviting, staff cool but efficient, upstairs “library” space is special. Small but delicious food menu, too. Try it next review time.

  3. I keep hoping one day there will be a great coffee shop up in University City! It would be nice to have a good place to study and support local businesses up by UNCC.

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