UPDATE: Read our second roundup of coffee shops, with suggestions from readers that included several west-side shops.
Just as there’s an art to getting coffee, there’s an art to finding the perfect coffee shop.
Chains, like Starbucks or Beans and Brews, are great when in a hurry, when you need a fast caffeine fix. Taking the time to sit in a coffee shop, with a friend or by yourself, is something different entirely.
These coffee shops in the Salt Lake Valley each have a unique feel to them, from their menus to the vibes. Look them over. There’s a shop on this list for everyone.
390 E. 1700 South, Salt Lake City
You can’t get more neighborhood coffee shop than Alchemy. The innocuous-looking gray building at the corner of 1700 South and 400 East can easily be missed if one isn’t paying attention, or driving by too fast. Inside, the space is small and cozy, and there are a few seats available outside.
There’s a wide array of decorations inside that help the coffee shop live up to the sorcery of its name. In the middle of September, it’s all fall-themed, with a pin-up skeleton on the glass door, pumpkin trinkets and a skull in a glass jar on one of the tables. The rainbow disco ball still fits in with the darker vibe.
Alchemy has free internet, plug-ins for chargers, and a wide array of both food and drink options. The only downside is the limited hours. It closes at 5 p.m. every day, so for those who like late nights, this is not the spot for you.
7879 S. 1300 East, Sandy
Sunset Coffee is a bit of a hidden gem, located on the far end of a Sandy shopping complex, but well worth the drive if you’re not in the area.
The shop’s interior features chalkboards full of creative drink names like “Voldemort,” and pop-art decorations. There are plenty of tables inside, along with board games people can play. The outside patio that wraps around the shop gives way to beautiful mountain views.
There’s free wi-fi, and the shop is open late — “‘til midnight at least,” according to its website.
4670 S. 2300 East, Holladay
The Holladay location of 3 Cups is the most modern of the five coffee shops we’re profiling, with the sleek white tables and chairs, rustic light wash wood and big windows flooding the space with natural light.
3 Cups is the perfect shop to sit and get work done, with both indoor and outdoor seating and free wi-fi. The menu boasts a decent lineup of drinks, as well as food and gelato.
The coffee shop has started dipping into an evening hangout with wine and cheese nights too. Downside: It can be a bit pricey. (There’s also a 3 Cups at 545 W. 700 South, in Salt Lake City’s Granary District. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays, though.)
Greenhouse Effect Coffee and Crepes
3231 S. 900 East, Millcreek
Walking into Greenhouse Effect is like going to visit your friend who reads an obnoxious amount, but serves the best coffee and has comfy couches. On the outside, the coffee shop seems tiny, but once you step inside you see the way it winds around. The couches are cozy, the wi-fi is strong and there are crepes.
There’s an outdoor and indoor seating area, but it gets tight inside, if you’re lucky you can snag the couches at the very back by the towering overhead bookshelves. Because the quarters are tight, it can be hard to get work done, but it’s easy to spend a day there and get lost in the good food or good reading material.
An unexpected plus: There’s a decent amount of parking, which one should always appreciate in Utah.
878 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City
It’s almost criminal to have a neighborhood coffee shop round-up without Coffee Garden — a beloved fixture of the 9th and 9th area of Salt Lake City. Couple its delicious case of treats and never-ending drink options with the location, and it’s a stop that everyone has been to at least once.
Coffee Garden is the perfect place to meet up with someone for a chat, a stroll, or just a good cup of coffee or tea. It has just about everything you want from a coffee shop.
The only downside is there is no internet available. If you ask the baristas for info, they point to a sign that encourages people to talk rather than use their devices.
Three locations in Salt Lake City: 975 S. West Temple, 502 3rd Ave., and 210 S. University St.
In April, Food & Wine crowned Publik as the best coffee roaster in Utah, describing it as “a little bit punk rock, and a lot into sustainability,” telling out-of-state java hounds to make it their first stop, full stop. As industry mag Daily Coffee News reported a few months later, Publik continues to be a pioneer of sustainable roasting, from its careful single-source beans to the 65 solar panels that power its roasters.
Whether or not you’re into conscious coffee-sipping, Publik Coffee serves top-notch small-batch artisan coffees that are meticulously monitored using digital systems that calibrate heat and roasting time down to the dot. That coffee is served, along with a full menu, in carefully thought-out spaces, built to reflect each neighborhood. The original downtown location, which opened in 2014, is big, busy and sleek; the Avenues location is cozier and more intimate, with an outdoor patio encircled by trees. The University location (dubbed Publik Ed’s because it’s located in the former Big Ed’s) still serves tots, in a tip of the hat to Ed’s, and serves salad in the old flowered soup bowls.
This fall, Publik will re-open its 9th and 9th location, after a sustainable rebuild that includes solar panels and beehives on the roof.
1709 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City
Earlier this year, Logos made the jump from coffee cart to brick and mortar, partnering with Emigration Cafe and taking over the existing coffee counter — and the only ModEspresso system in Salt Lake, left behind by One-O-Eight.
As Logos Coffee founder Nick Nelson told us this spring, he became a “coffee nerd” while working as a city planner in Denver, and wanted to bring something a little different to town when he moved back home to Salt Lake City a few years ago. That would be “third wave” coffee roasting, which emphasizes medium rather than dark roasts, which generally have cleaner, more complex flavor profiles. They put those fancy espresso machines to good use, and also do pour-overs and pastries baked in-house by Emigration’s chef.
When the weather is mild, Logos offers one of the best patios in the neighborhood, and when the weather’s not great, indoor seating in Emigration Cafe’s space, as well as a coffee counter where you can sit at the bar and watch the baristas work their magic.
331 S. 600 East, Salt Lake City
Located in a 19th-century brick house on a tree-lined street just off 400 South, the only clue Encircle Cafe is a coffee shop is the neon sign in the window. Step inside (follow the rainbow-hued sidewalk on the right side of the building) and you’ll enter a warm space that feels like your favorite auntie’s house.
Encircle is no ordinary cafe — it’s a center supporting LGBTQ+ young people and their families, but the cafe is open to all, with 100% of the proceeds going to support their work. The first Encircle Home was opened in Provo in 2016, and they now operate six houses.
The coffee shop itself is set apart from the rest of the house, and feels like a separate space, with sleek white counters and cafe tables and chairs. It offers the full range of handcrafted drinks, including coffee flights where you can sample drip coffees, espresso drinks, cold brews and teas. Beans and teas are sustainably and ethically sourced. They also serve sparkling soda, cookies, cinnamon rolls, scones, and bagels.
Encircle opens at 8 a.m. every day of the week and serves until 2:30 p.m. on weekdays and till 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Sugar House Coffee
2011 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City
Sugar House Coffee, which opened in 2002, also intentionally offers a safe, inclusive space for all, especially the LGBTQ+ community, hosting events such as the Queer Makers’ Market and more. The cafe’s calendar includes live local music, and it hangs the work of local artists on its walls to show off during the Sugar House Art Walk during the second Friday of the month.
The cafe sources coffee and food as locally as possible, partnering with Rimini Coffee, Kessimakis Produce Han’s Kombucha, Clifford Farms, Rosehill Dairy, Kessimakis Produce, and lots of local bakeries including Sweet Hazel & Co., Stoneground, Lone Pine, and City Cakes. It even sources its ice locally, from Bagley’s Ice.
All of those ingredients go into its handmade espresso drinks, smoothies, and cold brews as well as its extensive food menu, which leans heavily toward vegetarian and vegan fare. Which makes total sense — its next door neighbor is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
The cafe is pretty much always buzzing with crowds; your stand in line may require a tiny bit of patience, but the baristas make up for any waiting time with their warmth, friendliness and skills with the espresso machine.
140 B Street, Salt Lake City
Located inside Ellerbeck Bed and Breakfast in the Avenues, Cafe 140B opened as a walk-up window during COVID-19, with seating in the garden and on the porch.
On Sept. 14, it opened its restored Carriage House (behind the B&B proper) for indoor coffee and tea sipping. In addition to specialty coffees, the cafe serves a formal afternoon tea, with loose leaves in an individual teapot plus a choice of tea sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and jam, or a petite salad. They also offer tea for two, with tea and scones to share. The carriage house, like the B&B, is a slantwise 21st century take on Victoriana, with an eclectic mix of antiques arranged with a modern sensibility. The cafe is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The cafe also serves a full menu, which Ellerbeck describes as “pioneer fare with a Victorian flair” — that’s also pretty modern, too. Pick your era: johnnycakes, pioneer breakfast or avocado toast.
Salt Lake Roasting Company
820 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City
Salt Lake Roasting Company is the pioneer ancestor of Salt Lake coffee shops. In 1981, founder John Bolton bought a 10-kilogram coffee roaster from a guy in Cleveland, to make good-quality coffee to the Snowbird restaurant where he worked as a chef. That meant leaving the resort at 11 p.m., driving to a warehouse in Sandy, and roasting till the wee hours, then getting up and going back to work in the early morning. Two years later, he opened the first SLRC at 249 E. 400 South, and introduced the city to high-quality, carefully roasted gourmet coffee with the slogan “coffee without compromise.”
Nearly 40 years later, SLRC hasn’t embraced the current trend of expanding into a franchise like a some other Utah-founded eating and drinking businesses, though it has operated five locations over the years, including inside the main branch of the Salt Lake City Library.
SLRC now has one location at 820 E. 400 South. The ambience is classic coffee shop: Wood tables filled with chatting friends, people laser-focused on their laptops or novels, teenagers drawing in notebooks. The coffee, as always, is picked out, roasted, brewed and served with a sharp eye on quality. And for those who grew up on their dense quiches, rich croissants and wonderfully un-spongy, not-too-sweet muffins, they are still available.
Elsewhere in Utah
Though this list focuses on coffee shops in the Salt Lake Valley, we also want to highlight Daily Rise Coffee, Soul City Coffee and Coffee Links in Ogden; Atticus Coffee, Tea and Bookhouse, Stoked Roasters and Lucky Ones Coffee in Park City; as well as Rugged Grounds and — for those looking for non-caffeine options — Latter-Day Cafe in Provo.
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