Hot Drinks, Cool Vibes: My Favorite North Dakota Coffee Shops

Want to enjoy espresso in a church where Tedddy Roosevelt once worshipped, sip tea in a hidden courtyard or fund a nonprofit with your morning coffee purchase? Then put these North Dakota coffee shops at the top of your list.

There are lots of places to get a great cup of coffee (or tea or hot cocoa, if that’s your thing) in the state. These spots offer a little something extra — an inspiring atmosphere, unique menu offerings or a chance to give back — with your drink order.


Coffee is survival juice. This might be my motto. Art from Grain Bin Coffee in Hebron, North Dakota. You can read more about it later in the post.

Fargo
20 Below Coffee Co.
This is an awfully inviting gathering space. The warm wood accents and art on the wall make it feel cozy, while the long, narrow space and communal seating areas gently nudge people to connect. And it seems to attract more than its fair share of creatives. I always meet someone new here.

Because I tend to sit and stay a while, I’m a fan of the pay-what-you-will coffee. (Even the most simple coffee of the menu is stellar when the baristas pay this much attention to their fresh roasted beans.)  The Harry Potter-inspired butterbeer and the house hot chocolate made with rich, creamy Nutella are on my winter warm-up list.


A pretty latte at Young Blood Coffee Co.
Young Blood Coffee Co.
Getting a drink a Young Blood Coffee Co. appeals to all your senses. The smell of freshly baked bread tempts you the second you push open the door and enter the crisp, white, minimalistic space. Baristas consider the music on the turntable almost are thoughtfully as they focus on their latte art.

The miel latte is a best seller — and one of my favorites. Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling a thick slice of house made toast. (I like mine topped with jam.) I know I sound like a total Millennial cliche, but it’s seriously amazing. I don’t even normally like toast, so consider me a convert.

Red Raven Espresso Parlor
Red Raven is a funky employee-owned and operated joint that occupies some pretty cool real estate in a former fire station in downtown Fargo. And in warm weather, you can grab your drink (which will be served in one of Red Raven’s mismatched mugs) and head out to the courtyard, a brick and art-filled urban oasis that’s one of the best kept secrets in town.

The shop offers a vegan and vegetarian-friendly menu and housemade syrups that are featured on the regular and seasonal menus. (Eggnog latte, anyone?)

Tea drinkers will appreciate the selection and creativity available here. The lil’ smokey (smoked black tea combined with brown sugar, coffee and steamed milk) sounds like the perfect winter drink for a dirty chai latte fan.


The courtyard at Red Raven Espresso Parlor

Dickinson
The Brew
The Brew still feels like the quaint 1880s church it once was, stained glass windows and all. It’s easy to imagine what this place was like when a young rancher (and future president) named Theodore Roosevelt dropped in when this part of world was still the Dakota Territory. I wrote a little about having coffee in a church a few years ago if you want to see a few photos of the interior.

When you visit, come hungry. This place offers a focused menu of panini, fresh baked bread (swoon) and baked goods. I highly recommend the chewy, chocolate-y, oatmeal-based chocolate revel bars if you want a taste of traditional Midwestern baking.

The next time I’m in the mood for dessert, I’m going to try the hot cocoa here. It’s made with steamed milk and decadent white or dark Ghirardelli chocolate sauce, a dash of caramel and house made vanilla whipped cream. Yum.

Hebron
Dark Side of the Brew
Dark Side of the Brew is off the beaten path, but the punny Pink Floyd name, the whipped cream-heavy deliciousness of the mochas and lattes and the tempting array of baked goods, including cookies, streusel topped muffins and hearty blueberry hand pies, make it worth a pilgrimage, especially if you have a sweet tooth. The menu has changed since I stopped in to this Hebron coffee shop a few years back, but the art-focused atmosphere remains the same.

The next time I’m out west, I’m definitely stopping in to see what’s new. Hopefully those amazing caramel rolls will be on the menu when I’m in town!


Inside the Ember in Grand Forks

Grand Forks
The Ember
I stepped into the Ember this fall and dug the comfortable vibe and sunny interior. I could picture myself settling into a chair in front of the window and watching people strolling by. Then I ordered my usual (a cup of black coffee, because I’m kind of basic like that) and realized this place was more than just a cool hang.

It’s actually a nonprofit organization affiliated with the church across the street, a completely volunteer-run spot that believes in building community through art and music and supporting social justice movements in any way it can, from encouraging nonprofit groups to use its meeting rooms to donating profits to a different community organization every month. Even the coffee it serves gives back to help various causes, including poverty relief, refugee resettlement effort and fighting human trafficking.

There are regular live music events, art exhibits and art classes held in the space. Baked goods are sourced from local artisans, but the Belgian waffles are made fresh to order.

Valley City
The Vault
A self-serve coffee shop that operates entirely on the honor system wouldn’t work everywhere, but it’s totally doable in North Dakota. Patrons of this Valley City coffee shop keep track of their purchases, then use the credit card reader or pop cash or a check in the deposit slot. The beverages are basic (mostly K-cups, tea, soda and sparkling waters), but that’s hardly the point.

Locals gathering over drinks, locally made baked goods, homemade soup, freshly baked bread and ice cream treats gives new life to a historic building. (As its name suggests, The Vault was once a bank.) And since there are no employees and very few overhead expenses, there’s more money to put towards community events, movies and art exhibits in the building.

Harvey
Grain Bin Coffee
The very existence of this cheeky Harvey coffee shop makes me smile. I’ve written about the
coffee and art inside Grain Bin Coffee here before. It’s rare to find folks so passionate about great coffee and roasting their own beans in rural parts of North Dakota, so I always make a point to stop in when I’m in the neighborhood. (Mental note — buy the coffee in bulk next time!)

And now this place is offering ice cream and a menu of fancy hot chocolate flavors to attract the dessert lovers in droves. The unicorn hot chocolate is a sparkly, glittery fantasy of a drink. But I’ll start with the Smores hot chocolate, thanks. Its chocolate graham cracker rim and heaps of marshmallows look amazing.

Minot:
Black Iguana Cafe
This is such a cool, creative idea for a coffee shop. The Black Iguana is tucked into Margie’s Art Glass Studio in downtown Minot, so you can get your caffeine fix as you’re shopping for a unique piece of local art. It also attracts a steady stream of creative people who enroll in classes to improve their painting, mosaic creation and stained glass-making skills.

The coffee is delicious, but I really flipped for the smoothies here. They’re made with 100% crushed fruit, fresh and refreshing, and as satisfying as a meal.

I highly recommend grabbing a drink and checking out the colorful, detailed mosaics. They’re seriously amazing — and awfully Instagrammable.


Coffee at Terra Nomad

Bismarck
Terra Nomad
Terra Nomad is my pick for the best brunch in Bismarck, but this place is an aesthetically satisfying experience from your first sip of single origin coffee until your last bite.

The house made syrups here are delicious. I’m especially fond of the lavender syrup in the Lavender Latte, one of the shop’s best sellers. The next time I’m in a dessert kinda mood, I’m going to try to tear my attention away from the perfectly chewy cookies and muffins to try the hot chocolate. It’s made with dark Madagascar blend chocolate, vanilla simple syrup, steamed milk and a house-made marshmallow.

Coffee Break
This spot is the oldest coffee shop in Bismarck and its owner, Sia, specializes in old school hospitality and service with a smile. I walked in a stranger. But after a long chat about travel, language learning and books, I left as a friend.

This is a nice, quiet place to soak up the sun and people watch from the prime corner location. Plants bring a little of the outdoors in. On the day of my visit, red roses bloomed sweetly on every table as I enjoyed a rare moment of stillness.

If you can’t make it in to store, the shop also delivers. (A minimum order of four drinks is required.) There is also a tempting (and fragrant) array of coffee beans on display for the coffee aficionados who buy in bulk.


Coffee and a rose at Coffee Break in Bismarck

What about you?
What’s your favorite North Dakota coffee shop?
What do you look for in a coffee shop?
What kinds of non-caffinated drinks do you order in a coffee shop?
Which shop on this list catches your eye?
What’s your go-to drink?

2 Replies to “Hot Drinks, Cool Vibes: My Favorite North Dakota Coffee Shops”

  1. Great list! I have such a soft spot in my heart for local coffee shops. One of my faves in Fargo is Stumbeanos (as well as 20 Below!), and in Bismarck I like Mighty Missouri Coffee Co. There’s also a little coffee shop in Mandan that my mom used to take my sister and I to as a special treat when we were growing up…but the name eludes me right now!

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