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Nine local Cleveland coffee shops to support instead of Starbucks or Dunkin’

It should come as no surprise that there are countless reasons not to support large coffee chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’. Starbucks has appeared in the news numerous times in the second half of this year for its “dirty war against organized labor,” to quote a headline the New York Times ran in July. Many students may remember when the University Circle Starbucks shut down last year only months after its employees unionized—supposedly for renovations, but with the company’s track record, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that the store’s temporary closing was done out of retaliation. And less than a month ago, Starbucks sued its union, Starbucks Workers United, for releasing a message showing solidarity with Palestinians in the midst of the current conflict in the Middle East. Though not surprising, this breach of the workers’ right to free speech has led to calls, particularly from college students and other members of Generation Z, to boycott the company. Dunkin’, whose employees are not unionized at all, is not much better.

In light of these controversies, and the obvious competition each brand poses for local business, I urge Case Western Reserve University students to patronize the following nine Cleveland-based coffee shops instead. Some are on campus, while others are worth a trip on public transit or drive through the city. Either way, you can feel good about where your money is going and enjoy a delicious drink at the same time.


Within University Circle

You’ve probably already heard of The Coffee House at University Circle—it’s right across from the first-year dorms and is consistently packed on weekend mornings. In addition to a variety of coffee and espresso drinks, you can also grab hearty options for breakfast and lunch including bagels, sandwiches, soups, salads and, of course, pastries of all kinds. I’m particularly fond of their lattes made with honey-cardamom syrup, Pumpkin Chai and ham-and-swiss croissants.

Odd Dog Coffee is a mobile coffee food truck parked outside of the Museum of Contemporary Art on Euclid Avenue. Enjoy staples such as drip coffee and cold brew alongside drinks from their full espresso bar. Currently, they are also offering a seasonal Maple Brown Sugar Latte for those with a sweeter tooth.

Blue Sky Brews in Little Italy is situated perfectly for students living on Southside. Though I have found their wifi spotty on occasion, their $3 iced coffee beats out both Starbucks and Dunkin’ in terms of value. Later in the evening, you can also try their beer—the other namesake “brew”—if you’re over 21.


City-wide chains

The first of two Cleveland-based chains, Phoenix Coffee has six different locations; the closest one to campus is in Coventry and accessible via the BlueLink. They serve hot and iced coffee, espresso and tea, as well as blends by the bag and houseplants. All of their syrups and most of their pastries are made in house as well. Plus, unlike most other coffee shops, they do not upcharge for oat milk.

Rising Star Coffee Roasters has six locations as well, the closest of which is off Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Like Phoenix, they do not charge extra for any kind of alternative milk. Many of Rising Star’s drinks are spice-forward, which I love; these include the Cardamom Bomb, Promised Land—which contains cinnamon and honey—and Dirty Chai. They also have hot chocolate, matcha and a lengthy list of teas. If you’re looking for real food alongside your coffee, Rising Star sources bagels from The Cleveland Bagel Co. and pastries from Blackbird Baking Company. The Cleveland Heights location also shares a space with pop-up kitchen ABunDance Culinary, which serves modern, albeit pricey, takes on traditional Chinese dumplings and steamed buns.


Ohio City

There are almost too many fantastic coffee shops in Ohio City to name them all, but I’ll try my best. There’s a location apiece for Phoenix and Rising Star. Edda Coffee Roasters is right across from West Side Market—you’ll struggle to find somewhere to sit on the weekends. They offer a wide variety of espresso-based drinks and several different kinds of tea, plus pastries, breakfast food, sandwiches, salads and even alcoholic beverages. Duck-Rabbit Coffee, on the other hand, takes coffee back to its roots. They offer no sugary syrups to mask their brews’ flavor, and serve only pastries on the side.

Lekko Coffee has a similarly minimalist menu, though their Cafe Miel sweetened with honey and cinnamon is worth indulging in. They’re also my personal preference for the best coffee shop to study in, with plenty of seating and outlets available inside. Finally, Koffie Cafe has an equally long list of hot and cold drinks, breakfast served all day and a cozy, red-brick lined interior.


Hopefully, you find at least one of these coffee shops or cafes intriguing. If you’re looking to venture even further, neighborhoods like Tremont and suburbs such as Lakewood and Beachwood have great options as well. Getting your drink is sometimes only half the fun—checking out the surrounding shops, restaurants, attractions and the local scene is often the best part of shopping small.

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About the Contributor
Kate Gordon
Kate Gordon, Life Editor
Kate Gordon (she/her) is a third-year student double majoring in communication sciences and disorders and cognitive science, and minoring in Spanish. Her favorite part of The Observer is being able to share her passion for movies, television, music and pop culture as a whole. When she isn’t writing or editing she likes to spend her time reading, thrifting, sipping boba and bothering her roommates.

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