Indy’s Coolest Coffee Shops
Coffee: It’s not just for breakfast at these cutting-edge counters.
This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s February 2016 Cool Beans coffee package. For more coffee coverage, click here.
2119 E. 10th St.,
Josie Hunckler’s Halloween movie night packed her six-table cafe with neighbors, some strong validation for the young general manager whose drive comes from connecting with her near-eastside community. (Keep an eye on Facebook for the next flick.) But Hunckler’s quiet ambition reaches well beyond the neighborhood. Even without serving pour-overs, Rabble has quickly earned a spot in the city’s inner coffee circle with its menu of single-origins, multiple local companies, light to dark roasts, quirky espresso specials (Dirty Chai-Nog Latte), and an exclusive house blend, Rouser, developed with Tinker Coffee Co. to taste like the best “classic cup” of java you can find. Overall, Rabble serves a smallish selection, but that means you can’t go wrong.
5547 Bonna Ave.,
What started as an art gallery that offered the occasional warm drink has blossomed into a full-blown coffee shop serving espresso, pour-overs, and Indy-roasted Brickhouse Coffee, a ministry business for Horizon Christian Fellowship. The divey Irvington location hasn’t abandoned its artsy roots, though. It’s packed with quirky pieces and frequently hosts poetry slams, live jazz, and game nights. Be sure to try a barista concoction, like the Bellatrix (with bursts of Szechuan pepper and vanilla, topped with whipped cream) or Mystique Meringue (enlivened by honey and ginger).
112 S. Main St., Zionsville,
A months-long search for a new home turned Zionsville’s once-cozy coffeehouse into a massive coffee loft—an open, spacious, seriously-how-is-this-so-big realm filled with natural light, reclaimed wood, interior brick, and plentiful soul music. Owner Darrin Marion’s place draws Main Street boutique browsers, professionals, yoga moms, and their kids; he has direct-trade deals for Ethiopian yirgacheffe (sweet and winey) and Colombian nariño (nutty). The house drink is the magnificently chocolatey Grasshopper, but the Nutella Latte’s a close second. Ask him why Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee; it’s a good story. (Genius move: Darrin’s sells iPhone chargers on the counter for $3.75.)
4800 W. Smith Valley Rd.,
Missing that super-chill coffee shop you went to in college, the one with perfectly worn-in couches, Cake playing on the sound system, and lattes in mismatched mugs? Southside favorite Strange Brew fills the void. The strip-mall location just east of State Road 37 belies the eclectic hominess inside, honed by owners Daniel and Toni Carr, from wall-spanning murals to local art for sale. A row of self-serve blends and single-origin brews roasted locally—including flavored takes like Sticky Bun—round out a wide-ranging menu of espresso and iced drinks, dessert-in-a-cup mochas (such as the popular Peanut Butter Cup), and a small spread of cookies, muffins, sandwiches, and Rocket 88 vegan doughnuts.
Sure Shot Coffee
8684 E. 116th St., Fishers,
First off: You’re going to feel like you’re walking into a boutique, because you are. Nestled inside Vardagen’s flagship skateboard-apparel shop is Fishers’s only non–Seattle-based coffee option, an espresso bar launched in July on the back of a Kickstarter campaign. Sure Shot buys straight from farmers, and the counter also serves cold-brewed coffee on tap and rounds from General American Donut Company. The bar is a small yet sturdy stone slab right in the store, but there’s a tiny room up the stairs in the back if you’re sticking around. Bonus: The clothes are cool, too.
Mile Square Coffee Roastery
All of City Market
City Market, 296-8181,
Office workers tired of chasing Mile Square’s peripatetic truck now have a permanent parking place to visit on the mezzanine level of City Market. The kiosk offers espresso drinks and Chemex-style pour-overs of its small-batch single-origin beans—typically Arabicas, like a floral choice from Ethiopia—and does a killer cold-brew of single-origins, including a favorite recent roast from Papua New Guinea. Can’t decide? Try the coffee flight (three single-origin drinks) or the brew flight (the same type of coffee brewed via three different methods) for $10. The catch-as-catch-can seating may not invite lingering, but we recommend going in the morning, when you can sip a latte at a two-top along the railing and watch the market wake up.
534 Virginia Ave., 986-5131,
It’s easy to side-eye when Milktooth owner Jonathan Brooks calls his coffee menu “approachable.” Are we supposed to recognize Heart Roasters of Oregon and Kenyan Kiunyu beans? No—but even if you don’t speak coffee, the decadent espresso concoctions here won’t go over your head. Billed ingredients pop, be they brown-sugar syrup or shockers like cola and rosemary. If a description promises Szechuan pepper and lemon zest, the tingle of those flavors will seem both unmistakable and logical. “We’re not weird and crazy for the sake of being weird and crazy,” Brooks says. He and lead barista Mitchell Tellstrom run the sleek java bar with the same ambition as the acclaimed kitchen. The result: intriguing sippers, served in twee teacups and cordial glasses.
Noble Coffee & Tea
933 Logan St., Noblesville,
There are two doors into this comfortable shop/sitting room on Noblesville’s picturesque Back to the Future–style town square. The cafe door is on Logan Street; the other leads into a large but cozy drinking area filled with Paris art, column lighting, and the sense that you should be here deep in conversation with an author. Opened in 1996, “before Starbucks was barely east of the Mississippi River,” the store offers more than a dozen single-origin, fair-trade, and flavored coffees, and sells bags of its own beans (the Black Magic is especially bold and slick).
(starting this spring) 59
647 Virginia Ave., 423-9697,
Father-son duo Doug and Jeff Litsey have been serving coffee and espresso at this Fletcher Place shop since 2009. For years, they featured Jameson Coffee beans roasted in Greencastle, but after recently purchasing a roaster, they plan to start prepping their own beans come spring. While they certainly take their coffee seriously, perhaps what sets them apart is their not-for-profit status. Every year, they donate a big chunk of their earnings to a whole range of other not-for-profits in the city—so you can sip the signature Calvin Pepper, a traditional cappuccino with a dash of honey and cayenne, knowing your dollars are going to a good cause. Get a discount when you bring your own mug.
Soho South Cafe
620 S. Range Line Rd., Carmel, 564-4800,
Part cafe, part corner meeting space, and part gallery (owner Vivian Lawhead is president of the Carmel Arts Council), Soho South has been arting up downtown Carmel for five years. That vibe spills into its original monthly creations—a recent visit found staffers brewing up beverages based on The Beatles—and daily offerings are heavy on local providers Julian Roasters and the “light, nutty” Liberation Roasters. Soho’s back door also leads right to the Monon Trail—so it’s a ready-made rest stop for path walkers. Mostly, says gallery coordinator and cafe manager Mike Rebis, it’s a homey little place where friends can gather ’round the fire. “Well, it’s electronic,” he says of the faux flames, with a laugh. “But it still looks good.”