What a difference a few years make. Prior to 2011, Kaldi’s Coffee was the big name—and one of the only names—in Gateway City specialty coffee. Since then, there has been an explosion of cafes and roasters adding their mark to the city’s coffee history. Slowly but surely, the landscape has given way to new, exciting Third Wave coffee companies making their impact known. Larger companies still exist such as Thomas Coffee and Ronnoco Coffee, but St. Louis is currently host to a growing amount of great coffee options in small packages across the metro area. Hop along as we tune you in to some caffeine options for your next visit to the 314.
[Editor’s Note: Evan Jones, a journalist and coffee professional, is currently employed by Blueprint Coffee in St. Louis—because of this fact they are not able to be included in his guide, but let us assure you that Blueprint is a highly recommended stop when you’re in the Lou.]
Located deep in South City, Sump Coffee was a specialty pioneer in this town when it opened in late 2011. Owner Scott Carey had begun his coffee campaign while living in New York City as a patent lawyer. Upon returning to his hometown of St. Louis, he found his coffee experiences lacking, and decided to create something of his own. Originally a multi-roaster shop, Sump now roasts its own coffee, which features via pour-overs via Hario V60, and espresso drinks made on a newly updated Slayer machine. You’ll notice their tight focus on beverages: aside from rotating seasonal drinks, there’s hardly a hint of old-school offerings on the menu besides the Dirty Chai. There isn’t any cream or sugar available, and milk options are limited to whole and soy. Two small pastry choices—macaron and biscotti—make up a very compact case. Although the off-the-beaten-path shop has a spartan aesthetic, it maintains a dedicated fan base. Sump also regularly hosts food pop-up events with local caterers Kitchen Kulture and MOFU Tofu.
Opened just six months after Sump Coffee, Comet Coffee is quietly tucked into the first floor of an office building that sits across the highway from Forest Park. Unassuming is the word best used to describe the shop. The space is quite compact but has a wealth of coffee and pastry options available. As a multi-roaster shop, Comet regularly has at least eight, if not more, V60 pour-over options to accompany their espresso and milk drinks. Recent roasters have included fellow St. Louisians Blueprint Coffee, Vancouver’s 49th Parallel, Brooklyn’s Parlor Coffee, and Oslo, Norway’s Tim Wendelboe.
But what makes Comet really special is its pastry program. In their minuscule 150-square-foot kitchen, phenomenal pastries are rolled out for their time in the case. The croissants are among the best, if not the best, in town. But don’t take our word for it: St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic Ian Froeb placed Comet Coffee on his initial “Top 100 Restaurants” list.
Kaldi’s flagship location in the DeMun neighborhood of St. Louis feels like it’s a world away from the city. The community is made up of students, young and old professionals, and longtime residents, some of whom have been grabbing coffee since the shop opened in 1994. Green landscapes sit right outside the entrance thanks to Concordia Seminary’s campus (the theologians even have their own coffee blend in the shop). Whether fresh faces or 20+ year veterans, guests are greeted warmly into an inviting space full of exposed brick, art, and comfortable window seats lined with pillows.
Espresso is served here on a three-group Black Eagle machine with two Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinders and a Mahlkönig K30. Filter options include batch brew such as Kaldi’s Highlander Grog, a maple-rum-flavored coffee that is a popular choice for Kaldi’s enthusiasts. For the Third Wavers, there are single-origin hand-brew options prepared via Kalita and Chemex. Kaldi’s latest acquisition, Firepot Tea, rounds out the beverage lineup. Accompanying the libations are in-house baked pastries and an entirely vegetarian/vegan food menu. On the weekends, the shop rolls out Mexican breakfast favorite chilaquiles, which regularly sell out. Despite the newer coffee café options around the metro area, Kaldi’s on DeMun remains the epicenter.
The Mud House
The Mud House owners Jeremy and Casey Miller used to sell antiques. Although their cafe sits on a section of Cherokee Street bustling with antique shops, the Millers focus on fresh products nowadays. Their multi-roaster coffee program is anchored by local roaster Blueprint Coffee and rotates featured coffees from a variety of top roasters including Counter Culture Coffee, Olympia Coffee, Bows & Arrows, Sightglass Coffee, and Madcap Coffee. In addition to batch brew, pour-overs are handled by Hario V60s and a Nuova Simonelli rocks out espresso and milk drinks.
The Mud House also brings quality food and pastries to their customers. The pastry case has a variety of treats, including a very delicious lemon almond tea cake. Breakfast options, including their well-loved breakfast burrito, are served all day, as well as a very tasty pork confit sandwich for lunch. Vegetarian menu options are also available.
Anchoring the Grove neighborhood, Rise Coffee is synonymous with community. A light teal color accents the old brick exterior, while wood-grained decor inside warmly invites folks in to stay awhile. Baristas smile and engage with customers strolling through the door from their caffeine cockpit bar setup. Close to the register is the “Coffee for the People” board, where customers can “pay it forward” with a coffee beverage to friends or strangers.
In addition to espresso and milk options, filtered coffee is served via FETCO batch brew, Kalita Wave or Chemex. If you can’t find any seating in the immediate cafe area, there’s more places to sit upstairs. Both levels have an eclectic mix of furniture and furnishings including a deer head wearing a tie, green sofas, and quirky quotes amended to the walls. Since our original visit, founder Jessie Mueller has taken a reduced role and has sold a majority of the business to veteran barista Aaron Johnson. Don’t fret, parents—the upstairs kid play area and play dates are still in effect.
Evan C. Jones is a Sprudge.com contributor based in St. Louis. Read more Evan C. Jones on Sprudge.