While staying in Flagstaff, a popular vacation destination for those visiting the Grand Canyon, one of the first things you will notice is the abundance of coffee shops scattered all around town. Whether a drive-thru, a common chain like Starbucks, or an independent shop downtown, you really can’t drive more than a block without running into a new place to get coffee. While you could pick up a quick coffee to-go from a chain or drive-thru, you would be missing out on the experience of trying out a new specialty shop: a fun activity to add to your vacation itinerary.
Visiting a local coffee house gives you the opportunity to relax, check out local art, find out about local events & activities, as well as enjoy a laid-back place to read and socialize with friends & family.
Flagstaff has a surprisingly high number of independent coffee shops for its’ small population (just under 70,000 residents), possibly due to the abundance of night owl college students (Flagstaff is home to NAU) combined with lots of road trip travelers en route to the Grand Canyon and other national parks who need a pick me up from all the long hours of driving. After all, coffee is considered a must-have for students cramming for exams as well as wearisome travelers needing a boost: 2 groups which dominate the area. Whatever, the case there is a diverse variety of coffee shops to consider.
After testing them all, there are only a few to which I return again and again. Check out my list of 5 fantastic Flagstaff coffee shops, as well as 2 additional choices in nearby Sedona, and feel free to share your personal favorites!
719 N Humphreys St
Hours: 6am-7pm, 7days a week
Kickstand is a nice quiet, laid-back coffee house in the downtown neighborhood. Serving great espresso drinks (they use Italian Espresso Coffee and Illy Cafe brand) in a cozy, spacious setting with attractive local art, Kickstand is the perfect choice for those who want an eclectic coffee shop with a more relaxed vibe.
There are plenty of comfy couches, board games, and in general, more space than the smaller shops downtown. Located on a side street away from all the hustle and bustle, visiting Kickstand is a quieter experience, not to mention a hassle free parking experience.
The specialty mochas here are fantastic. Try the Endo, a delicious mint flavored specialty. The basic Americano is really taste too: probably the richest in flavor in all of town. Drinks are always served piping hot (I hate mediocre temp coffee drinks) by friendly and fast baristas.
Aside from coffee, they make breakfast burritos fresh daily and offer local pastries and treats from Sugar Mamma’s Bakery.
Overall, Kickstand offers the best combination of everything you would look for in a great coffee shop: friendly service, a cozy place to relax, and fantastic drinks.
Late for the Train
22 E Birch Ave & 1800 N. Fort Valley Rd.
Hours: 7am-5pm (open til 6 on Fri & Sat)
Late for the Train is a local Flagstaff roaster that specializes in rich dark roast coffee. They have a location downtown, as well as one along Hwy 180 on the way to the Grand Canyon, Snowbowl, and numerous hiking trails. Both locations are great, although the Fort Valley Rd. shop is less crowded, more convenient to popular outdoor recreational activities, and offers a more unique setting, therefore, making it the recommended of the 2.
This location is housed in an old converted gas station, retaining some of the original architecture while also incorporating modern touches and lots of cute knick knacks like the bumper sticker loaded counter shown below. It’s also one of the few places in town where you can sip your drink while gazing at the ponderosa pines. Why so few businesses in this town took advantage of the great natural scenery is beyond me!
Late for the Train is a convenient place to stop for a wake me up drink before exploring the trails or Canyon, as well as an ideal place to relax and recover with a hot drink after a long day of skiing (both Snowbowl and the Flagstaff Nordic Center are just a short drive away) or hiking (check out Aspen Nature Loop or Veit Springs).
Late for the Train roasts their beans on-site and uses seasonal beans for maximum freshness.
Aside from the strong dark roast they are known for (they also offer a medium, although you will find no light roast here), there are some really creative mocha specialties to enjoy. Chocolate lovers must try the Dark Skies Mocha, a simple mixture of dark chocolate and espresso shots which will keep you coming back for more.
If you prefer to keep it more simple, you cannot go wrong with their perfectly brewed Americano, which is always made to perfection. It’s by far the best tasting Americano in town: smooth, flavorful, with never a hint of burnt or bitter flavor. Late for the Train is one of the few places in town where there is no need to add extra espresso shots as they already have the water/espresso ratio set up just right.
If you want to try something a bit different while in town, check out the Spicy Fireman’s Mocha, a hot drink with a double shot of espresso mixed with cocoa, vanilla, almonds, and Mexican Chili spices.
Tea, iced drinks, chai lattes, and a few signature drinks round out the menu. The food menu is limited to a few pre-made burritos, pastries, and treats. Although, I must say the breakfast burritos are pretty tasty: the perfect mini carb boost before any area hike.
The pricing is a bit high here, although you do get what you pay for. The drinks are higher quality and always consistent.
Overall, Late for the Train is a nice choice for anyone who wants a nice strong dark roast coffee or specialty mocha without fake flavoring. The local atmosphere, dedication of the trained staff, and great menu set it apart from many others in the area.
White Dove Coffee Shop
2211 E 7th Avenue
Hours: 6:30am-6pm (3pm on Saturday), closed Sunday
White Dove is one of the few non-chain choices for coffee on the East side of town. Although it’s a bit further away from everything, it offers the most local vibe and the friendliest service. Here, you are more likely to see locals relaxing as opposed to mounds of tourists.
It’s quaint and cozy with comfortable couches and even a fireplace to warm up by during the colder months. At this laid-back shop, you can kick back for a bit and play a game of chess, read a book, or just relax with friends over a tasty espresso drink.
The coffee itself is pretty decent, not the best in town, but definitely one of the better options. Their beans are roasted at Single Speed Coffee Roasters in nearby Williams. The Americano is usually pretty smooth and flavorful, and not too bitter.
The White Chocolate Mocha (I recommend trying it with almond milk for the creamiest texture) is the must try here: a decadent creamy treat to start the day. Also be sure to try the Protestor, a macchiato pulled ristretto with a dapple of foam.
Iced drinks and caffeine free selections include hot chocolate and seasonal apple cider. A small selection of breakfast and lunch selections (including a few gluten-free treats) are there if you need a small bite to eat.
Overall, White Dove is a quiet, non-touristy option for those looking to take it easy in a non-rushed setting. Wheter you are looking to relax, get a little bit of work done, recover after your outdoor adventures, or simply relax in good company with a good drink, all of which White Dove is perfect for. By far, the best shop to visit during the winter/snowy season as it offers the coziest ambiance.
Rendezvous Coffee House & Martini Bar at the Monte Vista
100 N San Francisco Street
Rendezvous is a cozy little coffeehouse/bar located on the first floor of the historic Monte Vista Hotel in downtown Flagstaff. Known to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country, it is an interesting stop if you happen to be staying in town. The hotel was built back in 1926 and has a long history of reported ghost sightings, including repeated sightings of the “Phantom Bell Boy.” Even famous celebrities like John Wayne, who stayed at the hotel while filming in nearby locations, have noted sightings. Aside from the intriguing history of the hotel, there is a nice little coffee shop which offers the perfect setting for people watching.
Rendezvous serves coffee from local roaster Firecreek. The basic Americano was actually pretty tasty for a bar, and the classy presentation set it apart from other establishments in town. Additionally, there is a small selections of mochas to choose amongst.
Rendezvous has a unique setup as it is half coffeebar/half cocktail bar. You can choose to sit at the beautiful wood bar or in the side room which houses several huge comfy couches. The large windows allow you to people watch while sipping your drink. There’s also a humongous TV where they frequently screen football games, old horror movies, and other special events.
The classy relaxed setting is perfect for a laid-back, yet still stylish coffee drinking experience. After your coffee break, you can stroll the lobby and check out all the ghost stories.
Halloween is the ideal time to visit as you can escape the cold for a bit in a nice warm, cozy atmosphere, gaze out at the fall colors lining the streets of downtown, and enjoy a specialty pumpkin drink.
Overall, Rendezvous is a nice hangout for both visitors and locals. The change from a relaxed coffeehouse by morning to a lively bar at night is something you don’t see everyday.
On an interesting side note, the street of which this hotel is on, San Francisco Street, was used to film one of the Forrest Gump long running scenes, most famous for the “It happens” line.
1520 S Riordan Ranch St, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Bookmans was one of the more surprising finds in town. Located inside Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange, a trade in used books/movies store, it was quite a surprise when the espresso drinks here were better than some of the highly ranked shops downtown.The Americano and Mochas at Bookmans are always top knotch. They also serve Curran’s Specialty Teas, a nice local tea shop in the downtown area. Service is wonderful and the cozy setting inside a bookstore just fits in perfectly. You can browse books while you sip your drink or even bring your own stack to trade in. The best part of all is that you can use your trade in credit at the cafe! So turn those books you no longer read and movies you no longer watch into free espresso drinks!
Great Coffee shops in nearby Sedona
As Sedona is just a half hour drive away (and an incredibly scenic one at that), I’ve decided to include the 2 best places to grab a fantastic drink before/after your activities in the area. Be sure to take the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive (Hwy 89a) for one of the most stunning drives in America, complete with breathtaking red rock vistas!
Indian Gardens is conveniently located right along scenic Oak Creek Canyon drive, making it a great place to stop for a fantastic drink and breakfast before hitting the Sedona trails. They offer the best drinks, the best breakfast, and the best outdoor seating in the Sedona area.
The drinks at Indian Gardens are always perfect, no matter what you order. The Americano is always perfectly smooth and never bitter or burnt tasting. The Mocha is definitely the best around. Their single origin beans are sourced from small producers in Latin America, Africa, and Indonesia. Local roaster Firecreek roasts the beans in small batches, ensuring fresh coffee all the time. A custom espresso blend and several single origin coffees are offered daily.
For breakfast, the Grains & Greens Bowl and the Breakfast Burritos (made with local tortillas) are both highly recommended.
You can linger in the outdoor garden for as long as you want before exploring one of Sedona’s gorgeous hiking trails: the setting is so nice (lush greenery, red rock views, fountains) you will be tempted to order another drink just to stay a bit longer!
2155 AZ-89A #118
Java Love is another great coffee shop in Sedona, although the hours are a bit more limited. Java roasts in small batches on-site. Coffee is organic and fair-trade.
Both the Americano and mochas we have tried were pricey, yet worthy of the upcharge for the deliciousness. You will find all the usual espresso drinks, plus a selection of teas.
They have a rather large food menu, so if you are looking to grab a bite to eat along with your drink, Java Love is a great place to do so. They make fresh pastries daily, plus have a selection of breakfast and lunch entrees available.
The spacious seating area allows you to relax and linger for a bit without feeling rushed, so you can let loose a bit before racking up all those miles hiking in the intense desert heat. As for Sedona trails, I recommend Devil’s Bridge, Little Horse, and Boynton Canyon.
The best part of visiting Java Love is sitting on the pretty outdoor patio on nice warm mornings. Featuring great views of the red rocks, it’s the perfect place to treat yourself to an espresso out while also enjoying Sedona’s one-of-a-kind views.
Other decent choices
Higher Grounds: Higher Grounds offers pretty good espresso drinks in a nice casual, woodsy setting. It feels a bit more local and laid-back than the other downtown choices. On the downside, they keep raising prices and remodeling the shop, and thus, taking away from the attractive individuality which first drew me to the shop.
Flag Buzz: Flag Buzz serves organic coffee in a cute colorful setting. It’s located in the center of downtown with big windows so you can people watch as you sip your delicious drink. On a disappointing note, the barista service here is quite rude.
Campus Coffee Bean: Campus Coffee Bean is located in a strip mall off Milton Road. It’s an okay choice as the drinks are cheap, they offer great 2 for 1 happy hour deals from 4-6 daily, and staff is always pretty friendly. They also have some great food. On the downside, it’s pretty busy all the time and feels more like a cafe than a true coffeeshop.
Overrated coffee shops
Macy’s: Unfortunately, every drink I have tried at this popular shop have been incredibly burnt tasting. Also, the space is very cramped and noisy all the time and near impossible to find a seat. The food on the other hand is quite good, so come for lunch, not your morning coffee!
Matador: Matador is one of the newest additions to the Flagstaff coffee scene. While the convenient location (right on busy Milton Road) is a plus, the espresso drinks are burnt & flavorless, and the unattractive setting (just one small table to sit at) make this a definite skip.
Firecreek: Firecreek has a nice location right along Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff. While the espresso drinks are pretty good, they are always understaffed so it is a very long wait to get your drinks. Because of this, the drinks are always served much too cold. If you like your coffee hot, Firecreek is a definite skip. Surprisingly, Bookmans serves better Firecreek Coffee than Firecreek! Keep in mind that it’s a bit noisy due to the busy Rt 66 location making it hard to concentrate if you are trying to get some work done.
Flagstaff Coffee Company: While the beautiful outdoor patio will initially draw you in, the poor quality drinks will not bring you back. This is unfortunate as they have a gorgeous shady outdoor seating area. Unfortunately, the drinks we tried here were by far the worst in town.
Cultured: Cultured is a unique coffee shop/self serve frozen yogurt bar. They have a beautiful area where you can enjoy a view of the mountains, however, the drinks are always a hit and miss. While the seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte has always been great, the mocha drinks are often bland due to the chocolate not being mixed properly.
Cedar House: I really wanted to like this local shop as they have the cutest decor (around the holidays they really decorate and make the place feel cozy compared to others in town), unfortunately, the drink quality is just not there. As much as I like the great location away from the crowds and the cozy setting, the espresso drinks just are not good enough to bring me back. If Cedar House hires more experienced baristas and invests in better equipment and coffee beans, then they could possibly be one of the top choices in town.
Have you ever tried out any of these coffee shops? What are some of your favorites in the Flagstaff/Sedona area?