The Top 3 Coffeehouses in St. Louis, Missouri

Mocha, Latte, cup of Java, cup of Joe. There are many different names for one of the most popular drinks on the planet.. Coffee drinking has certainly grown in the United States over the past few years with a Starbucks seemingly on every corner. And with so many flavored coffee drinks becoming increasingly popular, it’s getting harder and harder to get a coffee flavored cup of coffee anymore.

In the 10th century, coffee was considered a food. The berries would be gathered, crushed and then mixed with animal fat. The small balls were good for a quick pick-me-up on long trips. A wine was also made from the fermented berries. In the Islamic world during the 13th century, coffee was used to stay awake during prayers.

A lot of the different types of coffees get their names from the place they originated from. Mocha, for example, is a port in Yemen where the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden meet. Java comes from the name of the island where it is grown. How about a cup of Joe? There was a time when the Navy allowed alcohol on all of their ships: grog, ale and beer. When Admiral Joe Daniels came on board as the chief of Naval operations, he decided to dry things out. The alcoholic beverages were replaced by coffee. Sailors asked for a cup of Joe, or if they wanted it really hot to ward off the effects of the cold sea air, they would ask for a cup of Hojo, or hot Joe. Where’s the best place in St. Louis to get a steaming hot cup of Joe?
In the beginning before all of the flavored coffees became popular, the best place to go was the local White Castle restaurant, or the all night diner. The hot coffee kept the greasy food from congealing in your throat. There were also a couple of beat type places in the old jazz district, Gaslight Square. Nowadays, people go to the coffee shops to work and take advantage of the wireless internet “hot” spots, to do home work, socialize, and people watch.

For the biggest concentration of coffee shops in St. Louis, head down to the Central West End. There you will find the chains like Panera Bread, Starbucks, and Einstein Bagels, all of them pretty good places to get a quick bite to eat and some fairly good to very good coffee. Two of my favorite places in the Central West End are Coffee Cartel and the Grind.
Coffee Cartel serves a wide variety of specialty drinks as well as some very good ice cream and donuts. It’s a hip, urban and eclectic place that draws everyone from the locals in the neighborhood, some of which are a little eccentric, ( check out the older gentleman who always wears high heels) to artists and hospital workers from the nearby Wash U. medical complex. The patio is nice and they don’t mind pets. It’s a great place to relax after dining at one of the many fine restaurants in the area.

The Grind is a little more, shall we say, relaxed. It is filled with sofas and overstuffed chairs, college students and lots of smoke. It’s the only coffeehouse in the city that allows smoking inside. There’s a pool table and a bar and the atmosphere is early American frat house. The Grind is THE place to fuel up on caffeine to study all night for the upcoming final.

Kaldi’s sits at the end of a quiet little street near upscale Clayton, just west of the city. The name comes from the ancient sheepherder who supposedly stumbled upon the drink when he saw that his sheep became frisky after eating the berries. Across the street is the park-like landscape of Concordia Seminary. Kaldi’s is consistently ranked as the #1 coffeehouse in St. Louis. They used to roast their own beans right in the back room, but have since moved the roasting plant downtown to Washington Avenue. They supply fresh varieties of their coffee to most of the fine restaurants in the area. They also have a great line of vegetarian fare. The service is a little on the slow side, but this is the type of place that you’d like to linger in for awhile, so it doesn’t really matter. Their homemade chocolate brownies are legendary. They are also firm believers in fair trade coffee and feature a different variety each week. It’s a great place to people watch and engage in random conversations with random people.

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