For some of us coffee shop dwellers, living close to or having easy access to great coffee shops and cafes is essential.
In my case, I’ve always done my best work (including writing many of the posts for this blog) while sitting at cafes.
Having the right ambience, seating, and beverage menu is key.
We are lucky to live in a place with so many options. Narrowing down this list to just 10 was a challenge.
Here are my top picks:
1) Muddy Waters (Burlington)
There is something magical about Muddy Waters, between the indoor tree (so cool), multi-level seating, and eclectic mix of clientele.
What is most enchanting, however, is the tradition of people leaving hidden notes tucked into the nooks and crannies in the wall.
It is the perfect place to start a project and get side-tracked reading about other people’s problems, poems, and inspirational messages.
Some of the seating feels particularly intimate, and it is also a great spot for long drawn out conversations with friends.
Food and drink also rate high with a mix of hot and cold drinks, smoothies, baked goods, and some simple savory food options.
Muddy Waters is one of the few coffee shops around that also serves alcohol and is open into the evening (closes at 10pm on Friday and Saturday).
2) Garden of Eatin’ Cafe (Williston)
Tucked within Gardener’s Supply in Williston, Garden of Eatin’ is an unexpected treasure.
While not a typical coffee shop (and more of a full cafe), Garden of Eatin’ is a great place to get a cup of coffee and work or meet people in a spectacular ambiance. The sandwiches and soup options are also pretty good.
Menu items vary but often include items such as chilled summer gazpacho, cheddar ale soup, and a variety of sandwich options such as the Vermonter (turkey, granny smith apples, red onions, cranberry spread, and cheddar on whole wheat) and the Cuban (a grilled sandwich on sourdough that includes honey ham, red pepper, red onion, dill pickle, tomato, and spicy Cuban dressing).
In winter, you can sit next to an indoor waterfall surrounded by lush greenery. It is the best way to get away from the brutal cold without buying a plane ticket.
In summer, the outdoor seating next to the pond (with koi!) provides a beautiful place to spend the afternoon.
3) Uncommon Grounds Coffee & Tea (Burlington)
Uncommon Grounds is a classic coffee shop offering great coffee, all of the standard coffee shop drinks, and some pretty delicious baked goods.
There is usually a wide variety of both coffee and tea options, and they also have some delicious non-caffeinated beverages including a selection of creative Italian sodas (I recommend the peach/pear soda with cream).
The space itself is long and narrow in shape with small tables running down in a single file line. The tables are perfect for working by oneself (though bring your computer fully charged due to a lack of outlets) or meeting a friend. It probably isn’t the best place for a big group or anyone with a stroller.
On weekends it fills up, and while that means it can be hard to table, it also means that it has a nice little coffee shop buzz going on and really makes it feel like the local hangout.
4) Speeder & Earl’s (Burlington)
At least for me, Speeder & Earl’s is where I got when I want to get a lot done. There is always a comfortable table, it is easy to find a place to plug in my laptop, and the coffee is delicious.
Located on Pine Street in Burlington, Speeder & Earl’s fits in with the cool artistic vibe of the neighborhood.
It is definitely more of a coffee place than food place (only options are a few baked goods), but what they do, they do well.
On another note, it also has ample, free parking.
5) August First (Burlington)
August First is notorious for its no screens policy. Don’t bring your laptop here. They are strict.
Still, I had to include August First on my list because of their amazing light, bright, and comfortable ambiance. On a sunny summer day, sitting in August First and feeling the breeze come in through the two giant sliding windows/doors is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon with a friend.
Standout pastries include the maple biscuits (delicious), Hungarian rolls, and the scones. The food menu is expansive (for both breakfast and lunch) and includes items such as avocado toast, a “smoothie bowl,” and a large selection of creative sandwiches.
6) New Moon Cafe (Burlington)
I’ve always loved the modern yet rustic aesthetic at New Moon and ample tables (probably the biggest coffee shop around), but I was skeptical that their food and drink options could compete with some of my other favorite downtown spots.
I was wrong.
When I finally tried some of their food recently, I was blown away. It is really good.
New Moon’s coffee options are solid, but where it really shines is in its sandwiches, soups, and other offerings such as avocado toast and cinnamon raison french toast. There are also lots of vegan and gluten free options.
Recently, I’ve started going to New Moon more, especially with my young kids as it is more family-friendly than most other Burlington coffee shops (lots of seating and ample high chairs).
7) Pingala Cafe (Burlington)
Located within the Chase Mill building overlooking the Winooski Falls, Pingala is located in a striking spot, especially when sitting on the front deck during summer months.
Unfortunately, apparently a lot of people don’t know about it. Don’t stay left out!
Pingala shines in both its outdoor and indoor ambience (inside the ecclectic design works perfectly with the brick walls and high ceiling).
Some may be skeptical that an all-vegan cafe could compete with other options, but don’t let that deter you. Both the drink and food options are impressive. The Pingala team also runs the Broccoli Bar (which you may see at street festivals throughout the summer), and one of the best dishes on the Pingala menu is the Broccoli Bites (steamed broccoli florets topped with peanut sauce, Korean BBQ sauce, scallions, sunflower seed crunch).
Other favorites include the E.L.T. (eggplant bacon, roma tomato, scallion, mixed greens and dill tahini on toasted multi-grain bread) and Cali Club (herbed tofu, roma tomato, scallions, avocado mash, eggplant bacon, chipotle aioli, and mixed greens on toasted multi-grain bread).
8) Village Wine and Coffee (Shelburne)
Located right in the heart of Shelburne, Village Wine and Coffee is a community institution.
Offering both classic coffee shop drinks and baked goods, the cafe offers enough variety.
Where Village Wine and Coffee offers something unique is in doubling as a wine shop and offering associated events like regular wine tastings.
It is also just a great place to see the Shelburne community gather and witness how having a fun place to hang out can really bring people together.
9. Scout & Co. (Winooski)
Located in Winooski Circle, Scout fits in with the trendy vibe of the area. Scout is definitely a minimalist place. There are fewer tables than could theoretically fit in the space. The menu is short and to the point.
Its tagline is “Explore Coffee. Discover Ice Cream.” That is pretty spot on.
Yet the coffee is really good (and sourced from a variety of rotating roasters), and the ice cream (which comes in flavors that mix flowers, herbs, and other ingredients together in creatively and constantly changing ways) makes the place really stand out.
Surprisingly, despite its cool vibe, there is a little corner with kids toys which has been a lifesaver for me when I’ve wanted a few minutes to chill with a cup of coffee and have my kids be entertained.
10) Barnes & Noble Cafe (South Burlington)
Yes I’m all about local options, and the Barnes & Noble Cafe is basically a Starbucks located within a bookstore, but it is such a valuable asset to our community (and a wonderful place) that I had to add it to the list.
Having the opportunity to sit in a cafe while browsing books is an unparalleled experience and one of the most energizing things to do on a rainy or snowy day when you have a few hours to stay.
We need to support our bookstores to keep them in business and enjoying their cafe is one of the best ways to do it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pallas Ziporyn is a Realtor based in Burlington, VT. She is the founder and head writer for The Vermont Real Estate Blog, and she works with both buyers and sellers in Chittenden County and surrounding areas.
In addition to her real estate pursuits, Pallas enjoys serving on the Winooski Planning Commission, skiing, writing, and spending time with her husband Chris and their two small children, Leander and Hugo.