Eats,  featured,  Places

Raleigh coffee shops: The best to drink, work, and hang out

If you’re looking for a good cup of coffee and a quiet place to work, Raleigh’s got you covered five times over. You don’t have to go far to run into one of the City of Oak’s many local coffee shops. But how do you choose which one is the best fit for you?

My freshman year of college at NC State, I knew I wanted to make myself to explore the city over my next four years. And what better way than to make it a mission to evaluate every cafe in the area? And so, three years later, I’ve hit most (if not all) of the top places in Raleigh, which means I’ve got some great information for friends trying to find their next favorite coffee joint.


Over the years I’ve developed an (I guess) atypical set of tastes for finding coffee shops I like. My dream coffee shop is good, but not so good that it’s always too busy or is too expensive. It’s two floors, or at least big enough so that I don’t have to be staring at the barista 24/7. They have a nitro cold brew (if you haven’t had one yet, where have you been?). They play a soft indie pop playlist in the background – or maybe folk? rock? Honestly I don’t have too much of a preference as long as it’s songs I’ve mostly never heard of. And of course – it’s open late and has free wifi for when I’m trying to stay awake and study for exams.

I know this probably isn’t the same criteria that you go through when finding your dream coffee shop – so instead of just listing my hands-down favorites (I miss you, Cafe de los Muertos), I’m going to organize this guide by category. So without further ado…



I honestly thought that 42 + Lawrence downtown (near Moore Square) was one of the best nitro cold brews I’ve ever had. I’ve also heard a lot about their Draft Latte and Black & Tan – all good things. One of the things that initially drew me to this spot was the fact that they have coffee draft flights, so you can try a few things at once. Some down sides include price (but honestly…. you get what you pay for and some things are worth the splurge) and seating – it’s trendy, but a small place!

Another good one (with easier parking) is Jubala on Hillsborough Street. I’m not going to lie – the only thing I’ve ever ordered here is their almond latte. Nothing compares. You’ll never find a better almond latte in all of Raleigh. You can get it iced or hot, and both are great. (Downside: I’ve consistently had problems connecting to the wifi here. Luckily the barista’s are always nice and can usually offer advice if you need help).



Sir Walter is the bougiest (is that a word?) coffee place I’ve ever been to. For real. The drink I got–which I definitely can’t remember the name of but it was on their specialty page or something– was made up of vanilla ice cream, espresso, club soda, and chocolate sauce. And guys, this place was so cool. Like. I’m too excited just thinking about it so this review is really bad but trust me on this one.



There’s nothing better than hitting the books and drinking some Joe Juice or a Mango Bubble Tea at the Cup a Joe on Hillsborough Street. It’s not particularly trendy, has a hodgepodge of furniture and seating, and some mediocre coffee, but holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite spots in Raleigh. It’s worth noting that they do have two locations – the other is in Mission Valley off of Avent Ferry – but it’s much smaller over there. Just don’t be an asshole: buy a drink here before just taking up space studying. Their drip coffees are pretty strong and something like $2. And be warned, you’ll leave smelling like Cup a Joe. You’ll know the smell when you get there.

If you’re looking for something a little different (and a killer nitro cold brew), BREW is another one of my favorite places to do work! There’s usually enough seating and outlets to find a place to plug your laptop in and sip your drink. One of the top perks of BREW, in my opinion, is actually its location. Sort of on the edge of downtown, I guess, it’s in a little strip area that has a LOT of parking, making it the most accessible of this entire list. So if you’re trying to study Monday-Friday before 5pm, I highly recommend hanging out here to avoid having to pay to park.



Morning Times has tiny, (expensive) lattes and every hipster in Raleigh. But really. I sat on the second floor when I went, and the entire place was absolutely packed. To not mention Morning Times in this article would be a grave mistake – I think everyone I know loves this place. They’ve got a pretty cool interior with exposed brick and a bulletin board full of Raleigh events while you inevitably wait in line. It’s definitely worth the visit at least once!



Global Village is a small coffee shop on Hillsborough street that’s usually not too crowded. I’ve stopped by in between my NCSU classes on main campus to get a drink and study. If you go, I suggest getting “The Wolfpack.” It’s great. Apparently they also have board games?! Um yes, I’m down.

Apparently sometime within the last two years I’ve visited The Third Place once and wrote about it in my journal (yeah I have a journal, back off! I’m cool!). According to my notes, they have at least one very trendy barista (-o?) and nice music playing. I remember it was pretty small (and actually wrote that I wish it had a second floor). The only reason why I haven’t been back was because I found parking to be very difficult. Maybe I’m just a bad driver.


What are some of your favorite coffee shops in Raleigh?

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