Maybe your morning begins with a cold brew, or the mid-afternoon slump of the workweek hits hard and you need a pick-me-up — or maybe you’re hankering for a cozy spot to sip on a dirty chai and catch up on some reading. Whatever your mood, there’s a NOLA coffee shop for you, and the recs are right here, in our list of top five New Orleans coffee shops.
This roundup of java joints hits home for me, as most of my favorite places to hang with friends land inside an inviting atmosphere where coffee beans flow aplenty and the whir of the milk frother is heard between the peaks of laughter and good conversation.
Our first stop is tucked away in the up-and-coming South Market District of New Orleans (SOMA). Upbeat hip-hop with a deep but unassuming bass plays unobtrusively in the background as you walk in the door, while natural light pours through the front of the shop’s glass front window. Several barstools sit side by side along this glass wall with a mounted table-top that runs its length, providing a prime location for people watching. Cozy bench-seats in tufted, rich ochre leather line the back wall, while colorful vintage tile flooring sits beneath your feet. The barista is precise and methodical as he makes you not just a cup of coffee, but a work of art. You can tell he takes great pride in his craft that distinctly sets himself apart from the guy in the green apron at the corner Starbucks. No judgment here, as I like a Tall Java Chip Frappuccino (no-whip) as much as the next person, but you come to Mammoth Espresso to experience coffee with a cozy neighborhood vibe, not just to drink it.
Mojo has three locations throughout New Orleans, and I challenge you to find your favorite. For today, we will visit the one in the Lower Garden District, on the corner of Magazine and Race Streets. Stamped-tin walls in burnt orange are accented by local art pieces (some for sale) and perfectly complement the dark wood tables deftly placed in this small but inviting space. A stellar place for solo-studying or getting some work done, most tables accommodate only two. Cappuccino and cafe au lait are always on the menu, but seasonal coffee “cocktails,” like the Mint Julep Espresso, and other Mojo specialties are must-tries. Made-to-order sandwiches and a large glass case full of housemade pastries are also there in case you get the munchies.
“When you think of coffee, don’t think black. Think Rouge.” This unconventional NOLA coffee shop doesn’t have a stationery lifestyle — it lives on wheels. Bright red ones. On one particular Saturday I happened to stop by, the Petite Rouge coffee truck sat underneath the cozy shade of a hundred-year-old oak tree on the edges of Palmer Park, serving up fresh cold brew and tangy ginger-hibiscus sweet tea. The gentle hum of the generator insists you speak up as you ask the friendly barista what their special is for the day. As you wait for your order to be fulfilled, you glance over your shoulder to see the monthly art market that covers the grounds, bustling with a diverse crowd while a local musician plays in the center of the park. White tents overflow with local photography, handmade wood crafts, glazed pottery and locally designed t-shirts. Take a stroll and maybe make a purchase or two of something uniquely New Orleans.
Petite Rouge has a varied schedule from week to week, so follow their Instagram page to find out where they’ll be parked daily.
Located in the heart of Midcity, the outside of this coffee bar is punctuated by canary-yellow awnings and a hand-painted OPEN sign that welcomes you as you walk in the door. The overall atmosphere feels bright and airy with windows everywhere and a soothing blue-grey color on the walls. Reading nooks are created by a collection of multifarious furniture from aged wicker, contemporary clear acrylic, to high-backed, soft seating covered in suede. A selection of books are stacked along the windowsills, ranging from War of the Worlds to Knitting for Dummies, providing reading material for just about everyone. Once you’ve grabbed your cup of java, bring home some Church Alley branded merchandise or their special Cold Brew Growler. There are also wonderful pieces of local jewelry, art, foodstuffs and paper goods scattered on various shelves throughout the shop for your perusal.
On a quiet street corner in the Lower Garden District, HiVolt strikes a pose in stark white concrete. Showcasing a hipster but slightly edgier vibe, eclectic metal lighting fixtures and paper lanterns hang from high ceilings while avant-garde art pieces adorn every wall space from eye level upwards. Vegan pastries and nibbles fill a glass case at the counter in case you’re in need of a snack, while a healthy green smoothie as well as a stellar cappuccino can be yours from the diverse menu of coffee drinks. Echoes of conversations accompanied by a heavy dose of music with electronic undertones add to the high-energy atmosphere that make this place a local hotspot.
I hope you find your caffeine fix at one of these fabulous bean juice joints in the Big Easy. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to only five. Be sure to keep an eye out for other hidden gems as you explore the city on your own.
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