Even before I moved to Des Moines in 2018, I knew Des Moines held some of the best coffee shops in the Midwest. I just didn’t know where they all were! But I wanted to find out. After all, cafes are the best places to get your morning caffeine fix, work on your laptop, read a book, or drop by with a visiting out-of-town friend.
My first and forever love was the classic Scenic Route Bakery in East Village. Although it wasn’t their coffee that pulled me in (the homemade Rosemary Lemonade is to die for!) they have caffeine in bulk. Intelligentsia coffee, anyone!? Plus, you can find fresh baked goods and hot lunch options, too! There’s lots of natural light, it’s just a few blocks away from the Iowa Capitol building, and you can grab your iced coffee to go and wander the boutiques of East Village or walk across the river to downtown. You’ll have to settle for street metered parking, or the parking garage on Grand for free parking with a walk.
Freedom Blend Coffee has quickly become a staple Des Moines location for me. Not only are their beans the best quality (try their Costa Rica or Guatemalan coffee!) but this business is part of a local non-profit. Each time you utilize their coffee drive through or stop in for lunch, you support the community in a very direct way. You can read more about their vision to stop generational poverty on their website! Bonus: they’re not downtown, so you can park in their lot for freeeeee! (Also, their chicken salad sandwich is amazing. I highly recommend it!)
Smokey Row has got to be one of the oldest and most well known met-up spaces in Des Moines. Located right off the interstate, and on prominent corner with sparkling marquee lights, you can’t miss this historic cafe! They are home to your classic black coffee, fun loose-leaf teas, and plenty of sweets to keep your mouth in tastebud heaven.
Mars Cafe has multiple locations for their same wonderful java. You can find them near Drake, in East Village, or downtown in Capitol Square! You’ll find lots of hipster baristas and artsy folk, as well as student athletes or business people frequenting their spaces. They have signature coffee drinks (Outer Space themed!) plus tea, wine, beer, locally baked goods, light breakfast items, panini sandwiches, and snacks.
Horizon Line has been making waves in the social circles since they opened in 2017. They service a mean drink, but for a little more price. Some feel their space is too curated, and I do agree that it can be intimating. A little like stepping into Instagram or being teleported to a boujee NYC cafe. Nevertheless, they provide a fun caffeine experience! Definitely worth your time.
A few other notable mentions: Ritual Cafe offers an all vegetarian & vegan menu for their patrons! You can find coffee, tea, and more there… plus fun encouragement on their sandwich sign! Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure is a jungle of plants and gorgeous woodworking. This cozy space is a great place to read or have quiet conversation with a friend, and you’ll be eager to come back again thanks to friendly service! DSM Brew Coffee Co. is a hidden gem, on the south side of downtown. You’ll find great deals, a modern space to work or play, and lots of meal options just across the building.