Stop and smell the coffee beans at some of the best coffee shops in Cleveland


Shreyas Banerjee/The Observer

A latte from Six Shooter Coffee can be the perfect companion in a study session.

Shreyas Banerjee, Life Editor

I have a secret to reveal. I never had coffee before turning 20 years old earlier this year. As such, I could hardly call myself a coffee connoisseur—I’m still dabbling, to be honest—but I believe this gives me a unique perspective. As a complete newcomer, my palette is still sensitive and not completely scalded by years of hot coffee. At least that’s what I tell myself. Regardless, over the last year through my explorations of Cleveland, there’s one thing I’ve noticed—there are just as many coffee shops as breweries here, if not more. If you know Cleveland, you know just how many that is. All across the city, there are coffee shops of varying ages and themes, and I made it my mission to visit as many as I could and sample their wares. Based on aesthetics, quality of coffee and access to Wi-Fi, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites. While my taste may be inexperienced, I hope it will still be helpful in your coffee runs all around Cleveland.

Blue Sky Brews (Little Italy)

This is the coffee shop closest to campus, right in the heart of Little Italy and down the street from the South Residential Village. A recent addition to the area, Blue Sky Brews opened in February of 2020, right before the pandemic. Despite this, the shop seems to have thrived, with students constantly using the shop to study and patrons from the neighborhood able to enjoy pastries and a good—but limited—coffee selection. Though the café originally intended to have beer taps as well to really live up to the name “brews,” this hasn’t arrived just yet, so we are all still waiting. But even now, Blue Sky is well worth visiting, especially since it is so close to campus.

Rising Star (Various Locations)

The former tenant of the Blue Sky Brews location was, in fact, Rising Star, which moved out in November 2019. Despite this betrayal to the area, Rising Star is still great. A favorite across the entire city, Rising Star has locations all around, with one in The Arcade downtown, one in the Edgewater neighborhood and a recently opened location right in the center of Tremont, among others. My favorite is a converted firehouse in the Hingetown area of Ohio City, which they open up completely during the summer months, connecting the outdoor patio with the indoor section. The aesthetics are immaculate in every location, even if the coffee can be a bit inconsistent—my mocha didn’t have enough milk one time—but it’s still worth a trip if you have one near you.

Phoenix Coffee (Various Locations)

Another popular chain, Phoenix Coffee is one of the most beloved coffee brands in the city. With five different locations, including one a 30 minute walk away in the Coventry neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, Phoenix has a huge variety of drinks, ranging from typical espressos to French Presses to more specialty lattes and iced coffees. They also sell their blends at their locations, making it a go-to for those who prefer to make their coffee at home. Always consistent, even if it isn’t the cutest shop around, Phoenix is certainly a reliable choice and might even be worth the 30-minute walk on a relaxing morning.

Ready Set! Coffee (Gordon Square)

This is a new favorite of mine, with this café recently opening up this October in the Gordon Square neighborhood, on the west side of the city. My fondness seems to be shared by local residents as each time I’ve gone the line has consistently stretched out the door. Previously just focused on retail, the café doubles as a store and as a production facility where they prepare the beans and brew the coffee in front of you. The ambiance is modern and simple, but with a bright feeling throughout. Their pastry selection is a bit limited but the taste of the coffee makes it all worth it, with a warm and vibrant flavor present in every sip.

Loop (Tremont)

I have to admit that this coffee shop is less worth visiting for the coffee itself but, rather, just for the concept. Don’t get me wrong, the coffee is good, with the beans roasted fresh, but what makes it an essential visit is the fact that it doubles as a record store and art store. This multi-purpose shop is just so cool, featuring quite a decent record collection and art from local artists, all within a refurbished house. All this adds up to quite a vibe and definitely one of the most unique cafés in the area. Tremont is a beautiful neighborhood and this is definitely one of the highlights.

Six Shooter Coffee (Collinwood)

I would bet that most students at Case Western Reserve University have not been to the Collinwood neighborhood on the far east side of Cleveland overlooking Lake Erie. This is a shame because the Waterloo Arts District within is one of the most unique areas in the city, full of cool art studios, fun restaurants and great coffee shops. Six Shooter Coffee stands above the rest just because of the beautiful, colorful atmosphere. Adorned with local art and a bold wallpaper, Six Shooter is a great, small space. It helps that its small-batch brewed coffee is always great.

Civilization (Tremont)

Civilization is an old neighborhood favorite, having been in Tremont for decades. With its old-European aesthetics, wood paneled walls and warm atmosphere, there’s a reason this café has lasted so long. Having been around so long, it’s fun seeing the regulars come in and sit down for their daily routine and enjoy their conversation. Along with good coffee, though it isn’t anything exceptional, the pastries are always excellent. I must say, I enjoyed my chocolate chip cookie and sandwich more than the drink itself.

StoneFruit Coffee (Downtown)

StoneFruit is one of the newest additions to the Cleveland coffee scene, having recently opened up in the 5th Street Arcades downtown, replacing Pour Cleveland as the central coffee location in the business district. Since then StoneFruit has filled the void magnificently, making the small location feel very homey yet also modern. Their espressos are particularly good, giving you all the caffeine you need in small tasty sips.

Gypsy Beans (Gordon Square)

Gypsy Beans was a surprise to me when I walked in—I didn’t realize just how big it was on the inside after passing by it on Detroit Ave. Another place where the locals have seemingly gravitated to, Gypsy Beans always has quite a line but is always worth it, and the large amount of seating area inside always makes it an enjoyable experience to just sit in and appreciate the chatty surroundings. Their lattes are also particularly good and complement their baked goods quite well, providing an all-around great experience.

Lekko Coffee (Ohio City)

Lekko is another new favorite of mine, having opened this September in Ohio City. Like many new coffee shops, Lekko emphasizes beauty, design and atmosphere as it creates a lounge-like environment, full of books, natural light and art. The coffee is good, though not outstanding, with a pretty simple selection, but it will hopefully grow over time. The physical space is definitely my favorite, though, among all the cafés in Cleveland, making it worthy of inclusion on this list.

There are many more coffee shops in Cleveland, with one seemingly opening up every week. As they continue popping up, I’ll continue to go and try them out as I continue to experiment with which drinks I prefer and which I really don’t care for. Luckily, with the wide variety of shops available in Cleveland, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue my coffee journey, and I hope you will as well.