Whether you crave a solo cup of joe or a latte outing with friends, here are Champaign-Urbana’s favorite places to go for great coffee
If you forgot to fuel up for the day at home, it’s easier than ever to find a Starbucks or a Dunkin. And sometimes your circumstances demand a caffeine stop at McDonalds or Steak ‘n Shake. But what about the places unique to the Champaign-Urbana area?
Our list of Great Places for Coffee is pretty wide-ranging. It has seen several versions over the years as establishments come and go, and we like to revisit it around National Coffee Day… yes, it’s a thing, it’s on September 29.
For 2020 we’ve added two local roasters to this list, as well as some longtime favorite cafes that have emerged from the pandemic cluster**** as locally owned.
Whether you prefer old-fashioned coffee or espresso beverages, we’re pretty lucky to have some great slingers of joe in our neighborhoods. Without further ado, and in no particular order:
Caffe Paradiso, Urbana. This Urbana staple happens to be where chambanamoms.com was created. Messy birth stories aside, we love the coffee at CP. They serve Intelligentsia, which is a great bean. And don’t miss the barista art if you get an espresso drink.
The Original House of Pancakes, Champaign. It must be a ritual to leave this place shaking after the bottomless cup of coffee you get here. The amazing staff here just keeps pouring away, and the coffee is delicious. Sometimes it’s OK to switch to decaf, I remind myself. (I can’t be the only one, right?)
Pekara Bakery & Bistro, Champaign. We have a soft spot for Pekara in the winter when you can snag a stool at the window to maximize your light exposure. Its menu offers breads, pastries, sandwiches, soups, and salads — plus all-day breakfast omelettes; its coffee is Intelligentsia (and its tea is Rishi, but that’s a whole different post).
Café Kopi, downtown Champaign. Kopi calls itself “downtown Champaign’s classic coffeehouse since 1993″ and one of our readers swears “Best cold brew, anywhere.” They serve breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, smoothies, frappes, and snacks. Food is made onsite; fresh baked goods are delivered from local bakeshops; its coffee and tea come from Columbia Street Roastery just a few blocks away. Be sure to check out artwork from local artists on display — and for sale — inside the shop.
Aroma Cafe, downtown Champaign. In 2020 Aroma relocated from its own storefront a few doors down to 6 E. Taylor St., inside Cowboy Monkey. The mug is part of the experience here: it’s comforting to drink delicious organic shade-grown coffee out of a colorful, round, heavy mug. Besides coffee, Aroma serves breakfast (all day) and lunch, with Cowboy Monkey’s brunch on the weekend.
Clever Moose Market Cafe, Champaign. Our friends at Clever Moose (inside Lodgic Everyday Community) serve up delicious coffee drinks. The staff is friendly, the service is fast, the coffee is good (Big Shoulders Coffee, named 2019’s Best Coffee in Illinois by Food and Wine!), and the space is perfect to grab a cup to go or to settle in for a meeting.
Yo Yo’s Coffee & Tea, Mahomet. Order your coffee beverage of choice in its drive-thru, or walk up to the counter in its open-air environment. We recommend the mocha drinks and don’t forget to pick up a Lucky Moon pastry to go with your coffee while you’re there, too! Yo Yo’s opened in 2018 as a self-serve frozen yogurt shop but transitioned to focus on coffee in 2020; you can still get your frozen treat or smoothie fix in the shop today.
Courier Cafe, downtown Urbana. When you need to nurse a deep cup of coffee over conversation with a friend, this is a great place to do it. This classic Urbana joint is known for its flavored coffee, if that’s your thing. And match your coffee with a sundae – perfection. (Where’s my big puffy sweater now??)
The New Sweet Indulgence, Champaign. This Champaign bakery and espresso bar pulled off a successful move and reopening in its new Neil St. location during the spring of 2020. Its signature iced sugar cookies have legions of kid fans, and their custom pies/pastries for every holiday imaginable are not to be missed. But since this post is about coffee, we should mention it serves coffee (and tea) from our local Columbia Street Roastery.
Espresso Royale CU, Champaign and Urbana. The original Espresso Royale House Blend roast dates from the 1980’s. In the chain’s heyday, you could enjoy Espresso Royale brews at cafes in college towns such as Champaign-Urbana, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Madison, and Minneapolis. When the pandemic hit the storefronts hard in the spring of 2020, the chain officially went out of business. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the C-U locations reorganized as Espresso Royale CU, and the parent roasting operation in Michigan is now owned by a former Urbana ERC barista. The Espresso Royale roasts we have grown to love will live on here in C-U, as well as for online shoppers.
It remains to be seen whether the former Espresso Royale campus locations will reopen (only Gies is currently operating), but our fingers are crossed that we can continue to enjoy the great outdoor seating at Village Green, the parental-sanity-saving drive-thru on South Neil, and the primo atmosphere and people watching on West Oregon — all while drinking the smoothest mocha around.
Local Roasters For those who want an amazing cup of coffee without leaving home.
Page Roasting Company Established in 2017, Page manually roasts its beans — single origin coffees as well as some consistent blends — in small batches. Find it served at Flying Machine Avionics as well as other C-U establishments. Visit their shop at 202 S 1st St, Champaign (located inside Flying Machine Avionics) or order their coffee online.
Columbia Street Roastery Selling whole bean coffee and loose leaf tea since 1998, we are big fans of the seasonal flavors. Very quick (and free) shipping with a $36 order. Curbside delivery is also available via its Champaign store at 24 E. Columbia Ave.
Did we miss an amazing local cup of coffee? I’m sure we did. Let us know and send us an email.