Coffee shops are the heartbeat of a community, sometimes the reviver of a neighborhood’s future, or a reminder of an area’s past. This list is a peek into the ambiance and coffee menus (including the very autumnally spiced seasonal menu) of staple cafes scattered around Charlotte, so that when that coffee craving hits — at any time, and yes, in any neighborhood — there’s an option at every corner. Most of these cafes showcase specialty craft coffee drinks, hovering around six dollars, give or take the milk preference. Some spots are a bit divier, for a quick to-go coffee or just a getaway from the cool craft coffee scene.Read More
15 Top Charlotte Coffee Shops For When That Caffeine Craving Hits
Find the best coffee in Uptown, Myers Park, Plaza Midwood, and all the Charlotte neighborhoods.
Defined Coffee (Concord)
Defined Coffee’s two-person barista team and its artfully crafted coffee drinks are a force for good in Gibson Mill Market in Concord. This small corner in a remodeled mill somehow manages to be simultaneously earthy, industrial, and Santa Barbara-esque. The baristas don’t let a busy line deter them from pulling quality espresso and designing latte art like it’s their last. It’s hard to choose a favorite from the fall menu, but it has to be the recurring seasonal mainstay—the Deathly Swallows, a minty latte with a whisper of a ghost pepper-infused maple kick. There’s nothing like it. This spot, with an enormous antique store next door, is seriously worth a day trip to Concord.
Archive CLT (Washington/Lincoln Heights)
Owner Cheryse Terry has built a space that transcends coffee and celebrates Black culture. Archive does this by way of creating a community gathering space with decades of vintage Black-owned magazines and newspapers, Toni Morrison totes, Maya Angelou books, and art collections highlighting Black history, all tightly situated along the walls and shelves. Enjoy a pared-down coffee menu with a few signature flavors — vanilla, caramel, and savory brown butter — and layered tea blends. This cafe and shop attracts a loyal crowd from surrounding Washington and Lincoln Heights, and nearby Johnson C. Smith University and Northwest School of the Arts. Alongside the coffee, the aux, the Pac-Man machine, and endless ephemera to explore are all compelling reasons to check out this spot.
& Coffee (NoDa)
Tucked into the back corner of the Urban District Market, a mid-sized, hyper-modern food hall in NoDa is & Coffee. It’s possible to be a quick grab-n-go coffee spot, because, unlike the rest of NoDa, the parking is easy and plentiful. Try the corn latte this fall with housemade corn milk — it’s grainy and not quite capable of latte art but naturally sweet and seriously innovative. The strawberry matcha and the waffles made from croissants topped with ube are fun too. The natural light pours into this quiet, industrial-chic space with plenty of seating options, a books-to-borrow shelf, and an Asian snack market beside the coffee counter.
Coffee at Station West (Wesley Heights)
This Wesley Heights coffee shop, with high ceilings, brick walls, and a small-scale roastery, offers a nice amount of space and a tranquil ambiance. Among the many third-wave coffee shops in Charlotte, this spot differentiates itself with a bit of savory-meets-sweet boldness in its fall lattes, black sesame, chai horchata, maple bourbon, and the respective memorable latte names, the Raven, the Cardigan, and O’Captain. Despite being pretty minimal with its design, this spot’s options for coffee and food (bowls and sandwiches of all sorts) are generous.
The Hobbyist (Villa Heights)
The Hobbyist is a coffee and bottle shop, and while right off of busy North Davidson Street in a modern shopping center, it’s leisurely and etched with character inside. It’s situated like a long corridor, with draping plants, local knick-knacks and tables at the front, bar stools and wine racks in the middle, and cozy couches and vintage art in the back. The coffee drinks here are made from specialty Boone roaster Hatchet Coffee. The salty-sweet black walnut latte and brown sugar pumpkin latte are must-trys this fall, and the abundant local tea selections from the Memoire are blended beauties. Also, the mugs to stay are a generous size and there’s free wifi — two little wins. On Mondays, get $1 off drip coffee, because every dollar counts in the costly coffee world. The Hobbyist is open until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends, which means when the caffeine craving hits no matter the time, this is the spot.
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Provided Coffee (Uptown)
A couple blocks down Brevard near the Spectrum Center is Provided, an unassuming coffee shop, not even a year old in this first brick-and-mortar location. The aesthetic is vintage-antique-grandma’s-cabin-in-Kentucky, despite being run by two Gen-Z best friends. Provided combines Greenville’s Methodical Coffee beans with handcrafted syrups to create exquisite, complex flavors, like this season’s carrot cake latte or cappuccino. The steamed milk, with an artful design, glistens on top, as it should. The combination of masterful espresso dialing and a cozy-cabin aesthetic attracts an eclectic crowd of passersby — parents of nearby elementary schools, artsy freelancers, UNCC students at the uptown campus, and finance folks on a lunch break. Do note that there isn’t much seating here, except a couch inside, and a scattering of small tables in the parking lot. So if not for the seating, go for the coffee.
Undercurrent Coffee (Plaza Midwood)
Plaza Midwood is chock full of coffee shops, making the competition stakes high, but not too high, because it’s cool, relaxed Plaza Midwood. What makes Undercurrent the neighborhood’s prized gem is the velvety steam of the latte milk, the impossibly smooth espresso, and the near-scientific milk-sweet-espresso ratio. Perched in a prime location on Commonwealth, Undercurrent’s interior devours sunlight from the open windows, making work-from-home, or rather work-from-Undercurrent, more pleasant. While the wait for a drink — be that the golden turmeric latte or its Onyx or Nightswim pour-overs — is definitely a bit longer than a typical wait, that is for good reason. Undercurrent’s baristas, like coffee chemists of sorts, are consistent in their craft, in the temperature of seasonal favs like the brown butter pecan latte. The tomato gravy grit bowl (add local bacon and a melty poached egg) is a hidden gem for lunch or breakfast. There’s ample seating, indoor and outdoor, to chat, read, and people-watch. Keep an eye out on Undercurrent’s Instagram for silent reading nights, weekend markets, and espresso cupping classes in the Lab, an actual lab in the back dedicated to coffee education and training.
The People’s Market (Elizabeth)
This spot is a very neighborly and very yellow cafe and market on an idyllic Elizabeth street. This fall’s orange cardamom latte is a fun recurring seasonal drink in Charlotte, and the jade roast of Magnolia Coffee makes for a cup of medium-bodied, stone-fruity joe. This is a communal work-from-home spot during the week and social spot on Saturdays and Sundays, with a craft beer bar, light bites (pastries and salads), and less light bites (smash burgers and pizza).
Not Just Coffee (Myers Park)
Charlotteans have definitely heard of beloved local coffee chain Not Just Coffee, but of all the NJC’s, this one feels like a best-kept secret. In a bungalow off of Providence Road, this Not Just Coffee is usually one impressive barista at a small counter, mastering artful shot-pulling and milk steaming. This bungalow is also home to contemporary art gallery Soco and upscale men’s fashion shop Tabor. Together, they’re situated like a little village, giving a low-key luxury aesthetic that’s rare for Charlotte. Visitors can browse the art books and dream up having enough money to buy an Italian jacket, all while sipping a cappuccino or any of the other refined drinks — latte, matcha, drip — on the lean menu. This NJC sells pastries from local Wheatberry Bakeshop and Patisserie La Rue — crumbly coffee cakes and croissants, which sell out quickly and can be dipped and sipped with coffee on the side porch or limited indoor countertop space.
Backyard Brew (Dilworth)
While Dilworth is one of Charlotte’s oldest neighborhoods, Backyard Brew is a new kid on the block. On a quaint front porch off of East Boulevard, the beans are roasted fresh, and Tariqu Khalil (TK for short), the owner bringing Backyard Brew from Palo Alto, California, to Charlotte, guides visitors through their preferences, suggesting drinks that can satiate any combination of craving, like the baklava latte with rosewater and bits of pistachio (best iced) or the matcha cold foam peach tea. He works with visitors to customize flavor, saying they are the “master artists,” and he does so without making the visitor feel like a line-slowing burden. With witty phrases like “We don’t play the pump game” (a nod to its innumerable housemade flavored sweeteners, as opposed to cloying syrups), Backyard Brew is lighthearted, taking the elitism, but not the creativity, out of coffee culture. Also, the limited but lovely front patio seating is reminiscent of a grandmother’s porch. Although there may not be a microfoam latte design on the drinks here, this coffee joint’s selling points are the spunky specialty concoctions and the proximity to a neighborhood fit for a morning walk.
Stable Hand (South End)
South End is lucky to have Stable Hand. There’s a lot of great food and bev options in South End, but there’s also not, and Stablehand speaks to the former, adding a bit of funk — natural wine and Japanese kabocha squash latte funk — to an otherwise sterile and chain-y area. From the same team behind Hex Coffee, this cafe tucked into a mini-plaza is a quiet respite, not because it’s empty, but instead because it is in fact packed with focused remote workers and their laptops during the week. On the weekends though, rail-trail walkers, friend hangs, and the plethora of natural wine bottles and craft beers add a buzzy, boozy oomph. The polished pour-overs air on the light, bright side and don’t really require cream or sugar, and the seasonal beverages, like this fall’s brown sugar rosemary latte, are warming delicacies, not excessively spiced or sweet. Balance the caffeine with an extensive, non-basic brunch menu, like the chorizo biscuit, miso-tofu breakfast sandwich, or the smoked mushroom porridge.
Julia's Cafe & Books (Grier Heights/Cotswold)
This is a feel-good hidden gem of a cafe and used bookshop, attached to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Using local Magnolia Coffee Co. beans, Julia’s offers a reasonably priced standard coffee menu— hot and cold brews and some sweeter, simple lattes. With tables upstairs and bookshelves at every turn, it’s the homiest layout, never too crowded or cramped. Devour a book in one hand and the marshmallow hazelnut latte in the other, and cozy up with tomato soup and local fav Anderson’s pecan pie.
Mugs (South Park)
South Park is generally a boujee, upscale neighborhood, so to really shake things up, try the non-trendy, divey oasis that is Mugs Coffee off of Park Road. Mugs has been rocking its quirky style, board games, funky local art, and Instagram-less vibe since 2011 (a long time for the Charlotte coffee scene). Book clubs, writing workshops, and community meet-ups happen on the couches and tables of this coffee shop. The coffee and tea aren’t polished craftsmanship, but they do hit the spot and taste like they were made by someone who cares about you, before or after a long day of work. It’s a sweet spot to just get a reliable Magnolia drip coffee and a quick bagel, to work and write, and to be away from the hustle and bustle.
Brakeman's Coffee & Supply (Matthews)
A Saturday morning at Brakemans is a storybook small-town escape, with a persistent line that moves quickly, made up of folks either heading to or from the nearby farmer’s market. It’s definitely a family-friendly spot on the main strip of family-oriented Matthews, meaning lots of strollers and wedding planning is going on in this coffee house (it is indeed a house, with an upstairs, screened-in front porch, front and backyard, and seating in nooks and crannies inside). The berry matcha and the basil vanilla fall latte add a little something to a classic latte, while the drip coffee, either the Brakeman’s roast or the rotating featuring roasts, leans clean and simple.
The Lights Cafe (Ballantyne)
The Lights Cafe, in a just-slightly-south of Ballantyne shopping center, recently rebranded as more of an all-day cafe, but because the housemade almond milk is the creamiest, non-grainiest, smoothest steamed gem in Charlotte, it hits the list. The care for local, healthful ingredients is paramount here, and it’s not bird-food “healthy” — it’s a buckwheat berries and cream waffle, in-house vegan olive oil cake, tofu pastrami. The coffee drinks abide by that philosophy too — the mocha is made with raw cacao and the minimal syrups are, of course, housemade. Sip the Lights’ coffee in the morning and the extensive natural wine options in the afternoon. Not a bad combo.