While everyone knows where to get a beer in West Michigan thanks to our Beer City USA status, beer isn’t the only thing brewing in this town! As a student who needs a boost and a dangerously caffeine dependent human, I set out to bring you some facts about five of the finest coffee houses in Grand Rapids. I was a little jittery by the end but if you hit them one at a time, these five will bring you great joy whether you’re studying, meeting colleagues, reading a book, or just grabbing some java to go.
1. The Bitter End
Students delight at the prospect of 24-hour studying. The Bitter End is located on Fulton, west of downtown, and offers their full menu 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The coffee was reasonably priced with an average specialty drink at around $4.95. They roast a lot of their beans on site and serve around eight varieties at the self-serve coffee bar. The downside is that any refill will run you $1.35, which isn’t ideal for the person who likes the occasional warm-up, or topping off your cup as you get ready to leave. The atmosphere is eclectic/trendy, with tightly packed tables and chairs of varying sizes, a shelf of board games and books you can borrow, and an assortment of art displayed on each wall. Some snacky-type food is served, including your basic muffins and pastries, and they do offer smoothies and frozen drinks in addition to hot cups of joe. The barista told me that the most popular specialty drinks were the French Kiss and the Mayan Mocha, so keep those in mind if you can’t decide!
My personal favorite of the tour was Rowster Coffee. Located on Wealthy Street between College and Fuller,the big windows and minimal decor gives it a clean, efficient feel. Rowster Coffee has been open for about three years and does all of its “rowsting” on site. They are open seven days a week and their most common roast is Milky Way, delightful in a latte or as a take-home bag of beans. They also do a variety of pour-over coffees, and use a simple syrup upon request to sweeten. They are in the first stages of their own “Mug Club,” a year long coffee membership that gets you deals on beans and coffee on site. Members will have their own mug at the shop, so if you live close, go check out the opportunity to join!
If you love being in the heart of downtown GR as much as I do, then Madcap may be your first choice for coffee shops. Established in 2008, Madcap’s central goal is to foster relationships over, what else, coffee! On the corner of Ottawa and Monroe Center, the shop is basically an open space designed for meet-ups. Laptops, briefcases and conversation fill the room and the baristas are very knowledgeable about all aspects of your coffee: where the beans are from, when they were roasted, what flavors to expect, and what makes Madcap’s coffee some of the best in town.
4. Mayan Buzz Cafe
This was one place I had never heard of but was thrilled with the recommendation from another barista if I was looking for cool coffee spots around town. Mayan Buzz Cafe is located on Grandville Ave., very close to Founders, and is another 24/7 hotspot. The cafe serves Central American dishes along with the usual bagels, muffins, scones and snacks. They brew beans roasted locally at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters and have found their niche with live music offerings on Thursday nights, as well as an assortment of poetry slams and readings throughout the week. The atmosphere is comfortable with couches, a fireplace and plenty of tables.
5. Story Cafe
One of the newest java joints around town is Story Cafe, which opened about a year ago in the Westside District on Leonard St. The owners hand make and bake all the tasty treats available and are willing to make whatever drink your heart desires, whether or not it’s on the menu! One of the unique reasons this business has been set apart is their support for the arts. They have hosted a number of improv nights, open mic nights, and short story and poetry gatherings that have identified a community of artists in Grand Rapids that may not have otherwise found each other! With mismatched furniture and a curtained stage, this may be the perfect place for you to sip coffee and get creative.
Are there other coffee spots you frequent in West Michigan? Comment and tell us about them!