We surveyed local food industry folks: here are their go-to spots for espresso, iced coffee and everything in between.
By Jamaul Moore
Whether you’re grabbing a quick cup of joe on your way to work or looking for a place to sit and savor a latte with friends, Raleigh offers a range of great coffee shops for every need. For our 2023 guide to Where to Eat & Drink, we asked chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs in the local food industry what their go-to coffee spots were. We gathered the results for your caffeinating pleasure. Here are 12 of the best coffee spots in Raleigh, according to the pros.
With locations in the NC State Farmers Market, Durham and downtown Raleigh, 321 Coffee was founded in 2017 and employs over 50 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its values are about more than coffee, but embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “It’s an awesome concept with community outreach at its core, and they’re fantastic neighbors,” says Jessie Rossabi, bartender at The Willard Downtown Lounge.
1209 Farmers Market Drive, Slot 48 | 321coffee.com
42 & Lawrence
Just off Moore Square, 42 & Lawrence — an offshoot of local roaster Larry’s Coffee — specializes in unique coffee, lattes, tea, seasonal beverages, and an assortment of freshly-made pastries. Since 2016, as part of their promise of the “ultimate cafe experience,” all drinks are brewed on demand for every customer. “When I’m downtown and I need a to-go cup, I go here,” says David Meeker, co-owner of Trophy Brewing. With its floor-to-ceiling windows and small outdoor space, it’s a lovely spot on a sunny day.
134 E. Martin Street | 42lawrence.com
With locations in downtown Durham, Duke University and Boxyard RTP, Beyu Caffé has offered its customers a sense of “community, culture, and connection” for over a decade. It’s also a favorite of Jake Wood, chef at Lawrence BBQ & Ricky Moore’s, chef and owner of Saltbox Seafood Joint, go-to coffee spot is Beyu Caffée at the Boxyard.
900 Park Offices Drive | beyucaffe.com
Iris Coffee Lab
Just off Glenwood South, Iris Coffee Lab opened in early 2018. The specialty coffee shop and gluten-free eatery is a sunny, industrial-modern space. With its signature coffee beverages like its steep-cold brew and rosemary lattes, Iris Coffee Lab’s menu options are handmade and locally sourced, as well as ever-changing to keep customers intrigued. “Fabulous coffee, friendly folks, daily visits recommended,” says Jessie Rossabi, bartender at the Willard Downtown Lounge. It’s Andrew Ullum’s go-to spot, too.
725 Tucker Street | iriscoffeelab.com
This specialty coffee shop has three locations in Raleigh, but they all share a mission of serving quality espressos, coffee and tea. You’ll also find an assortment of food and refreshments to compliment your day, whether it is waffles and biscuits in the morning or sandwiches in the afternoon. “It’s a great environment and coffee to start the day or take an afternoon break,” says Brian Jenzer, executive chef at Rosewater, of the North Raleigh location. Lindsay Rice, owner of Vita Vite, agrees: We love having them as our new neighbors in North Hills!” Boulted Bread co owner Josh Bellamy likes all the locations: “I go to the North Hills location every Monday. I go to the Hillsborough Street location when I need a fix. I go to the North Raleigh location if I feel like wearing a polo.
200 Park at North Hills Street, Suite 140 | jubalacoffee.com
At Layered Croissanterie, you’ll find not only freshly made coffee but a diverse assortment of croissants with a modern twist — all within the chic, Instagrammable walls. For its customers, Layered Croissanterie offers specialty-made pastries as a delicious treat for breakfast, lunch, and brunch. “I like their coffee — but mainly because I can get a croissant, too,” says Liz Porcelli, co-owner of Raleigh Wine Shop.
911 N. West Street, Suite 107 | layeredcroissanterie.com
This contemporary patisserie has a wide variety of French-style breakfast pastries, beverages, and desserts, led by owner and pastry chef Daniel Benjamin. Alongside a collection of traditional French viennoiserie, enjoy a selection of other signature treats and pastries they have to offer. “My go-to order is a cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie,” says Lauren Ivey, executive chef of Death & Taxes.
235 S. Salisbury Street | lucettegrace.com
The Morning Times
Open since 2006, The Morning Times is one of the O.G. places for a great cup of coffee in Raleigh. It offers locally roasted coffee, as well as unique menu options to cater to a customer’s palette. Their breakfast menu delivers a variety of options, including veggie omelets made from local and hormone-free eggs. “When I’m not at my own place, you can find me sipping a cup from the great folks at The Morning Times,” says Pine State Coffee owner Larz Robinson.
10 E. Hargett Street | morningtimes.com
Besides offering Carrboro Coffee Roasters and espresso drinks, NoRa Coffee carries local beer, international wine, and a choice of breakfast items to-go and dine-in. This shop also features a range of books available for sale while you relax in this unique cafe experience in North Raleigh. “It’s a wonderful community spot,” says Preeti Waas, owner of Cheeni Indian Food Emporium.
12333 Strickland Road | noracafenc.com
The Optimist Raleigh
This local specialty shop opened its doors on Brookside Drive during the pandemic but has become a favorite in Raleigh. Here, you’ll find a full range of coffee, tea beverages, and pastries, along with their signature beverages Pine & Dandy and The Stacey. Its chic interiors, plus outside seating, offer a friendly spot for meeting up with a group or setting up shop to work for the day. “My regular spot is The Optimist Raleigh,” says Trophy Brewing co-owner David Meeker.
1000 Brookside Drive, Suite 109 | theoptimistraleigh.com
Pine State Coffee
This shop can be found on Automotive Way, in which they offer traditional and specialty beverages, made for your convenience. With favorites like Americano, cappuccinos, and hot chocolate, Pine State provides wholesale and delivery to the local area with affordable options that make a visit to this business worth your time. “I’m a little biased but it’s my favorite place,” says Larz Robinson, owner of Pine State Coffee.
1614 Automotive Way | pinestatecoffee.com
Sir Walter Coffee
At Sir Walter Coffee in downtown Raleigh, you’ll find typical coffeehouse selections and tea cocktails, all while enjoying a colorful, college-style atmosphere. There’s also the breakfast menu, with a wide range of breakfast items, from avocado toast to salmon bagel and Belgian waffle. “It’s my go-to spot for a work meeting,” says Meeker.
145 E. Davie Street | sirwaltercoffee.com
This article originally appeared on waltermagazine.com in January 2023.