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Peter's Guide To Nashville's Coffee Scene


2017 Edition

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Peter's Guide To Nashville's Coffee Scene


2017 Edition

“Everybody wants to be friends with their barista.”

There’s a lot of truth that little piece of wisdom. All across the world, coffee shops occupy a unique place in our social fabric. No drink brings (sober) people together like a cup of coffee. Every country and culture has their own take on coffee, and today we’ll be talking about Nashville’s.

Nashville has a vibrant coffee shop scene. All across the city, these coffee shops are oases, filled with entrepreneurs, musicians, students, and more. And between Nashville’s many small, office-less companies, budding start-ups, and already-huge-but-still-rapidly-growing community of musicians, many of these coffee shops function as co-working spaces during business hours. Coffee in Nashville is a world unto itself, and if you ask me, the following 18 establishments embody the best of that world.

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18 Best Nashville Coffee Shops


To keep you cool & caffienated.

18 Best Nashville Coffee Shops


To keep you cool & caffienated.

1. UGLY MUGS

Address: 1886 Eastland Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Hours: [6:00am – 10:00pm | Monday – Friday] 
……….....[7:00am – 10:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

I’ll start with Ugly Mugs because it’s my favorite coffee shop in Nashville, no contest. When I first moved to Nashville, I was literally homeless. I was driving around town with my entire life packed into the back of my car. It was a difficult time for me, but in that uncertainty, Ugly Mugs was a place of refuge. Most of those early days in Nashville were spent in coffee shops, looking for a job from morning until night. Weighing my caffeine options like that on a daily basis, it didn’t take long for me to become an Ugly Mugs regular.

In the heart of East Nashville (the “hip neighborhood”), Ugly Mugs has managed to strike exactly the right balance between cool and welcoming. Because, for all of East Nashville’s coolness and aloofness, at the end of the day it’s a real neighborhood full of real people. And no coffee shop has done a better of job of connecting with those people than Ugly Mugs. It’s a cool place, sure, but it’s also a place where friends and families can come together to share a cup of coffee. The owners, having children themselves, even have a ‘kids corner’ set up for the other neighborhood parents. Normally that might annoy me while I try to get work done, but in Ugly Mugs, I really don’t mind it because it reminds me that I’m part of a community. That sense of community really important when you move to a new place, but it can be elusive. And it might sound weird, but Ugly Mugs played a big role in helping me get plugged in with a community, and helping Nashville feel like home for me. So thanks, Ugly Mugs.

Sooo…

I’m clearly a little biased on this one. But I promise to be objective moving forward.


2. PORTLAND BREW

Address 1 (12 South): 2605 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204
Address 2 (East Nashville): 1921 Eastland Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Hours: [7:00am – 7:00pm | 7 Days Per Week] 

Portland Brew is, very objectively, one of the coolest coffee shops in Nashville. It’s quiet, it’s accessible, it’s got lots of seating… it really just has all of its bases covered. Oh, and the coffee is also amazing! I visited Portland (Oregon) long before I ever came to Nashville, and the coffee out there was (of course) incredible. So when I first rolled into Nashville, and read their sign, “Portland Brew: Taste of the Pacific Northwest,” I was skeptical. I went in with some high expectations, but I was not disappointed. Portland Brew can hang with the best of them.

Portland Brew does business out of 2 locations. The first is in a cool little area on the southwestern side of the city called 12 South. This is the original Portland Brew. The second location is in East Nashville, and this is known as Portland Brew East. Personally, I think Portland Brew fits in better over in East Nashville, and I prefer the space they own on that side of town to their original location (Portland Brew East is pictured below), but no matter which one you visit, you’ll get the same great coffee. And if you feel like springing for some food, I recommend a sandwich called the Multnomah.


3. FROTHY MONKEY

Address: 2509 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204
Hours: [7:00am – 7:00pm | 7 Days Per Week]

Frothy Monkey started with one location in a neighborhood called 12 South, but has since expanded to include quiet a few other locations around Nashville. They are all a little different from one another, so I’m just going to focus on the original.

When I have friends or family visiting from out of town and I’m trying to show Nashville off to them, the Frothy Monkey in 12 South is one of my go-to spots. It’s just a great atmosphere! It’s always bustling and buzzing with people and conversations. There’s an old story from forever ago that gets passed around about Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal going on dates here (lolz). And on top of all that, the coffee is great, and the food menu is even better! The only problem is that I’m not the only one who thinks that; good luck finding a seat!


4. FIDO

Address: 1812 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212
Hours: [7:00am – 11:00pm | 7 Days Per Week] 

Fun fact: Fido isn’t just the first coffee shop I visited in Nashville, it was the first anything. Truth be told, Fido could probably have passed as a restaurant just as easily as a coffee shop, but to me it maintains a strong “café” vibe in spite of the mountains of food they have on their menu. It’s a big space, and it’s always packed with people, so be prepared to do some hunting to find a seat.

Fido is the centerpiece of a small area called Hillsboro Village just west of Vanderbilt. It’s a pretty happening stretch of town, packed with other cool shops, restaurants, and etc. Poking around and exploring here is a great way to kill some time. There’s lots to do, and Fido is an awesome place to hang out! HOWEVER (this is my big pet peeve), when things get busy, Fido has been known to turn their wifi off. Really Fido? Are you sure you don’t wanna turn the power off too? Anyways… I still like this place.


5. BARISTA PARLOR

Address 1 (Original | East Nashville): 519 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Address 2 (#2 | The Gulch): 610 Magazine St, Nashville, TN 37203
Address 3 (#3 | Germantown): 1230 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208
Hours: [7:00am – 8:00pm | Monday – Friday]
………..[8:00am – 8:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

Oh, God. Barista Parlor. 

Being such a defining landmark of Nashville’s coffee-scape, I’m kind of obligated to put Barista Parlor on this list. And I will be the first to admit that Barista Parlor is actually an awesome coffee shop. Their hand-brewed coffees are amazing, and they will take you on a round-the-world trip, from Colombia, to Indonesia, to Malawi, and beyond. They also sell delicious craft chocolates distributed by fair-trade organizations working all across the developing world. It’s really cool.

The problem is that it’s a little too cool. It’s the kind of place that is so goddamn cool that it reminds you how miserably uncool you are the moment you walk in. Maybe that’s just my insecurities talking, but let’s be honest here—we’re all insecure. Feeling like you’re not cool enough to hang out at Barista Parlor is common sentiment in Nashville, and that’s saying something, because the level of coolness here is off the f**king charts! (It’s a city full of musicians, what do you expect?) The other problem with Barista Parlor is that it’s expensive. Like, $8.00-for-a-cup-of-coffee expensive. So if you’ve got cash to blow, and an Instagram persona to maintain, Barista Parlor will be perfect for you! If not, you’ve been warned.


6. BONGO JAVA

Address: 107 S 11th St, Nashville, TN 37206
Hours: [6:30am – 6:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……….....[7:00am – 6:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

When it comes to Nashville, Bongo Java is the undisputed “classic”—the Grandaddy of the Nashvillian coffee scene. I think it actually might be the oldest coffee shop in Nashville! If it’s not, then it’s certainly the only one that has managed to stay relevant and cool in any way. Bongo Java opened it’s doors in 1993, which is pretty much the beginning of time for Nashville’s indie side. They do business out of a huge converted house in a strip of businesses and eateries just off of the Belmont Campus (that’s Nashville’s music school), and in the upper level of the building, a small comedy club operates. It’s called Bongo After-Hours Theater.

Bongo Java is unique in that they are not only a coffee shop, but also a roaster in their own rite. It is one of just a handful coffee roasters operating in Middle Tennessee, and one of the few coffee shops in Nashville that is its own supplier. In addition to their own brews, however, they also partner with small farmers around the world to put fair trade coffee products on shelves all around Nashville.

The Great Nun-Bun Heist: One Christmas day, way back in the 90s, Bongo Java famously baked a random piece of bread that looked vaguely like a nun. They called it the "nun bun" and they put it on display behind glass in their shop. It sat there for years, and was a well-known local novelty in Nashville. But then, a few years ago, ON CHRISTMAS EVE NO LESS, the front door of Bongo Java was taken off its hinges in the middle of the night, and the nun bun was stolen. To this day, there is still a $5,000 reward for the return of the nun bun, no questions asked. 


7. BONGO EAST

Address: 107 S. 11th St., Nashville, TN 37206
Hours: [6:30am – 6:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……...…..[7:00am-6:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

Bongo East is Bongo Java’s location in East Nashville. For most coffee shops that have more than one location, I took the liberty of consolidating them into one entry on this list, but I’m making an exception here because Bongo East is pretty distinct from Bongo Java on the western side of Nashville, next to Belmont. The two operate almost completely independent of one another, and have completely different aesthetics.

Right in the 5 Points intersection, Bongo East has a great piece of East Nashville real estate. Around this coffee shop are bars, book stores, music shops, vintage clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants, and more. It’s an excellent area to take a walk and explore. So if you’re swinging through Nashville are looking for a nice café to base your explorations out of, I’d definitely recommend Bongo East over the original Bongo Java, but that’s mostly because I’m partial to East Nashville.


8. REVELATOR

Address: 1817 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212
Hours: [7:00am – 6:00pm | 7 Days Per Week]

Revelator is going to be our 2nd and final entry from an area of Nashville called Hillsboro Village. Hillsboro Village is dense collection of shops, cafés, and restaurants just on the other side of Vanderbilt. It’s a congested little strip, but it makes for nice strolling, especially if you’re struggling to show your out-of-town friends how cool Nashville is.

Revelator is at the end of this block, and it’s freaking cool. For all you interior design enthusiasts (if you’re out there somewhere), this place is a real gem. The whole café is has a strong indie, clean vibe, with lots of light colors, plants, and natural light. It’s got friendly staff, reliable wifi, and a great coffee menu. Oh, and they brew all their own coffee down in Alabama! The food menu is a bit lacking, but if you’re in Hillsboro Village you’ll have a million other food options at your fingertips, so it’s no big deal.


9. EDGEHILL CAFÉ

Address: 1201 Villa Pl #101, Nashville, TN 37212
Hours: [7:00am – 6:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……….....[9:00am – 4:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

Adjacent to much of Nashville’s academia (Vanderbilt + Belmont), Edgehill Café has been around for quite some time. Part of the up-and-coming Edgehill Village area, this place is a neighbor to some great restaurants and bars, as well as most of Nashville’s famous music row (if that matters to you). The point is, it’s a cool neighborhood!

Edgehill Café itself is a pretty classy establishment. It’s a beautiful space with a simple, non-nonsense aesthetic to it that I (personally) really love. It feels very up-scale (in a good way), but it hasn’t always been that way. In the past it was a much more informal atmosphere, but they recently completed a pretty substantial remodeling project. The public seems to have mixed feelings about this, but I love its new look. The menu includes a lot of great lunch options, and some killer coffee. Put Edgehill Café on your list.


10. STEADFAST COFFEE

Address: 603 Taylor St, Nashville, TN 37208
Hours: [7:00am – 6:00pm | Monday]
……...…..[7:00am – 10:00pm | Tuesday – Friday]
……….....[8:00am – 10:00pm | Saturday]
……….....[8:00am – 6:00pm | Sunday]

In my restaurant guide to Nashville, I spent a lot of time talking about all the amazing food in Germantown. (Germantown is a historic, transitional neighborhood directly north of Nashville’s downtown.) But for all that amazing food, Germantown pretty much only has 2 coffee shops. Er, well, that’s not counting Barista Parlor’s new satellite location. Anyway, Steadfast is the first one we’re going to talk about.

Steadfast Coffee’s slick, polished interior makes for a pleasant, productive atmosphere. There are always lots of interesting people meeting for a drinks or just doing some work on their shiny MacBooks. Nashville is actually subject to some pretty extreme seasonal variations, so the huge glass windows separating Steadfast from the outside world are great reminder of just how comfortable things are in there. It’s seriously cozy, and seriously cool, so give it a try!


11. RED BICYCLE

Address: 1200 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208
Hours: [6:30am – 9:00pm | 7 days per week]

Red Bicycle is the 2nd coffee shop in Germantown, after Steadfast, and it’s quite different from its counterpart. Instead of Steadfast’s slick, “hipster” vibe, Red Bicycle has a much more rustic, family-friendly demeanor. I’d say that the coffee is better at Steadfast, but Red Bicycle has a much better (and more extensive) food menu. This garners crowds of families and friends every weekend around brunch/lunch, so be prepared to fight crowds of people from 10am to 3pm on weekends.

In this part of Germantown, the (free) parking situation can be grim so if you don’t want to spend the money on an Uber or a Lyft, be prepared to do some searching. I’d say that Red Bicycle is worth it though! There’s plenty of seating, both indoors and outdoors, and the staff is very nice. They also serve some mean crepes. So check it out!


12. THE POST

Address: 1701 Fatherland St, Nashville, TN 37206
Hours: [7:00am – 6:00pm | 7 Days Per Week]

I was only recently turned on The Post, but it has quickly become one of my favorite spots in Nashville. The Post is a shining example of why I love East Nashville so much. It’s tucked away in a leafy, urban sub-neighborhood of East Nashville called Historic Lockeland Springs, across from a chocolate factory (yeah, an actual chocolate factory). It does business out of a pretty unassuming building, but don’t let that fool you…

The Post is a world unto itself. Walking through the doors, you’ll immediately become engrossed in the quirky jungle/tribal vibe that the Post has created. Though it might seem random at first, it actually fits pretty well with their clean-eating, vegan-friendly, gluten-free menu. Personally, I just go for the coffee, but their fresh-pressed juice also gets rave reviews. So, all you health-nuts out there, this is for you!


13. 8TH & ROAST

Address: 2108 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204
Hours: [6:30am – 6:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……….....[8:00am – 7:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

8th & Roast is in kind of a random spot on the southern edge of Nashville. Coming to this corner of Nashville is convenient for very few people, but people swear by this place! Personally, I’m not a HUGE fan of it, mostly just because of its location, but I can certainly admit that it’s cool. And I can 100% understand why 8th & Roast has such a devoted customer base. I often hear 8th & Roast cited as people’s favorite coffee shop in Nashville.

8th & Roast is special because they are their own roaster (if you’d hadn’t already guessed that from their name). The entire back portion of their location is industrial space, which has now been repurposed for intense coffee roasting activities. If you want to get fancy with your order, ask them for the “coffee bong.”


14. THE WELL

Address: 4002 Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN 37204
Hours: [6:00am – 6:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……….....[8:00am – 9:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

The Well sits directly across from Nashville’s giant in post-secondary, Christian education: Lipscomb University. Or, that’s where the location I’m choosing to focus on is located. They also have two other locations in less cool parts of Nashville, whereas their Lipscomb location sits in one of Nashville’s most historic neighborhoods, just a stone’s throw from 12 South.

The Well is somewhere between your token college coffee house and a full-fledged charity. Everything they do and present to the world is centered around their non-profit work, providing clean water in developing countries. They accomplish this by using large portions of their profits to build wells in Subsaharan Africa (thus their name: The Well). Their coffee menu is pretty much entirely fair-trade, organic, etc. They also serve a lot of vegetable coffee, whose flavor has been pretty polarizing. However, regardless of your taste in coffee, I think we can all admit that good things are happening here.


15. CREMA

Address: 15 Hermitage Ave, Nashville, TN 37204
Hours: [7:00am – 7:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……….....[8:00am – 6:00pm | Saturday]
……….....[9:00am – 4:00pm | Sunday]

CREMA is the brain child of a couple of Nashville transplants named Rachel and Ben who spent upwards of 2 years burning the midnight oil to get this coffee shop off the ground in 2007. Since then, CREMA has made a big name for itself in the coffee and culinary worlds of Nashville, having received a number of accolades from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). But their celebrated roasting methodology is not a state secret. You can get a peak into one of their roasting rooms right there in their shop during business hours, and they are always running coffee classes for budding enthusiasts all across Nashville.

So that’s all well and good, but if you ask me, the coolest thing about CREMA is the international network of farmers from whom they source their coffee beans, which extends across Latin America. CREMA’s management travels to visit their suppliers relatively regularly to places such as Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, and more. Sounds like a dream job to me!


16. DOSE.

Address 1 (West Nashville): 3431 Murphy Rd, Nashville, TN 37203
Address 2 (East Nashville): 1400 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN 37216
Hours: [6:00am – 7:00pm | Monday – Friday]
……….....[7:00am – 7:00pm | Saturday – Sunday]

The big news in the world of East Nashville coffee is that Dose. finally opened up their second location on McGavock Pike. I was as excited as any caffeine addict, so I opted to photograph this new location over their original location on the west side of the city. It’s in a nice spot, caddy corner from Fond Object Records, which also puts on awesome shows, and has the most random petting zoo ever out back. But I’m getting off-topic…

Inside, Dose. is spacious, and symmetrical. These two traits do wonders to sooth my claustrophobic, OCD brain. It’s a very cool place, and the staff is about as friendly and helpful as it gets. The last time I was in here, I ordered a drip coffee. They had apparently run out of this, but when the barista saw my look of slight disappointment, she gave me another, more expensive drink, for the price of the drip coffee I had originally requested. This was completely unnecessary, but the nicest thing ever, and a testament to what Dose. is all about. I really appreciate places that foster this kind of atmosphere, so I’m glad that I have this chance to gush about Dose.


17. SIP CAFÉ

Address 1: 3939 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216
Hours: [7:00am – 9:00pm | 7 days per week]

There is nowhere on earth that smells better than Sip Café. Nowhere. Why? Because Sip Café doubles as an Ice Cream shop! This ice cream shop doesn’t have the same hours of operation as the coffee shop does, but the sweet aromas of their various flavors stay in the air ’round the clock, mixing with the glorious scent of coffee to create a spa for your nose.

Sip Café has a classic, 1960s feel to it. Outside there is a giant coffee mug which moves in a slow constant spin at all hours of the day. Inside, Sip feels like a malt shop. This place is also equipped with a drive through, which makes it the most convenient place on this list. The location, however, is a bit less convenient for the average consumer. Sip Café occupies a transitional corner of Gallatin Pike in the far reaches of Inglewood (a large extension of East Nashville), which is a part of town that nobody would ever come to by accident. However, if you ever find yourself in the neighborhood, be sure to pay a visit to Sip Café.


18. SWEET SIXTEENTH 

[COFFEE + BAKERY]

Address: 311 N 16th St, Nashville, TN 37206
Hours: [Closed | Sunday – Monday] 
……...…..[7:00am – 2:00pm | Tuesday – Friday]
……….....[8:00am – 1:00pm | Saturday]

Ok, so this last one really isn’t a coffee shop. It’s actually a bakery that just happens to also sell coffee. And I really love it, so the fact that they sell coffee was all the excuse I needed to include them in this guide. After all, it really does fill the same function in my life as any other place on this list. So let me tell you why I love Sweet Sixteenth so much…

Sweet Sixteenth is the kind of neighborhood fixture everybody wishes they had near them. When you come into this place, you’ll find cops in line behind firefighters in line behind a parent with their 2 kids, in line behind a hipster with a “Bernie” pin on their backpack… there’s something here for everybody! It’s owned by Ellen & Dave, who are just about the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They are the sort of shop owners that remember everybody’s names! The fact that they are able to maintain actual relationships with so many individual members of their customer base and their local community is really special. I’ve never had an interaction here that was anything short of uplifting, so if you’re in East Nashville, I would highly recommend that you swing through for a treat or a breakfast sandwich. Be careful to check the hours first though, because they close early.

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A final few things...


One of them will save you money!

A final few things...


One of them will save you money!


As a final note, I want to pay my respects to Perk & Cork, which recently closed its doors.

I loved that place.

R.I.P.

If you're looking to learn more about Nashville, then you should check out my guides to Nashvillian nightlife and restaurants. There's a lot going on in this city! 

And now, let’s finish things off with one of Nashville’s best young bands, Birdtalker. They finally released their debut EP, which has completely validated my love for them. Check it out!