5 Must-Visit Coffee Shops in Des Moines

By Michelle Kofman

If you’re anything like me, a day without coffee is just as bad as Daylight Savings ending.  I drink at least two cups of coffee a day.  Being a morning person, the only buildings on my college campus that are open are the student union and a small section of the library.  So, I ventured off to a coffee shop near my college campus that everybody raved about.  I wanted to venture off campus and try coffee shops around Des Moines.  This is a list of the best coffee shops in Des Moines.  I have rated these to include the quality of coffee, environment, .

Interior of Mars Cafe
1.  Mars Cafe, 2318 University Avenue, 50311

Mars Cafe was the first coffee shop I visited in Des Moines.  The coffee shop is located a few blocks away from Drake and eventually I ventured out there.  It quickly became my go-to study space in the mornings.  Their signature drink, the Sputnik, reflects the cafe’s space theme.  If you like a place to get work done with a great cup of coffee, this is your spot.  It’s quiet in the mornings and gets busy quickly throughout the day.  It’s a challenge to get a table on the weekends, but for this cup of coffee, taking it to-go is just as good.  If you’re hesitant to try coffee or want a great cup of black coffee, this should be on the top of your list.

Interior of Horizon Line Coffee
2.  Horizon Line Coffee, 1417 Walnut Street, 50309

Located in the Western Gateway neighborhood in downtown Des Moines, this newer establishment is a delight to visit.  The bright and sunny cafe is a great place to get some work done and drink one of the best cups of coffee in Des Moines.  The coffee is ethically sourced.  They serve coffee tasting flights of single-origin and co-op coffee beans.  It’s a great place to go for a quality cup of coffee.


Interior of Ritual Cafe
3.  Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust Street, 50309

Ritual Cafe is a fan-favorite of Des Moines locals.  The baristas are extremely friendly and helpful, which is always helpful for those who are indecisive.  The menu is all vegetarian and vegan.  It’s a great place to work, have meetings, or just meet up with a friend.  The relaxing atmosphere is also a bonus.


Interior of Scenic Route Bakery
4.  Scenic Route Bakery, 350 E Locust Street, 50309

Located in the heart of East Village, Scenic Route Bakery has a beautiful view of the Capitol and it’s near all the most popular boutiques and shops in Des Moines.  It’s bright interior and big patio make it a perfect place to study or meet up with friends.  It’s a very popular stop for summer and weekend strolls.  The coffee is pretty good but not the reason it made the list.  The fresh pastries and the hot/cold lunch options are perfect for all morning and afternoon strolls.

Interior of Smokey Row
5.  Smokey Row, 1910 Cottage Grove Avenue, 50314

Smokey Row is one of the more popular coffee shops in Des Moines.  Located a mile from Drake University, it’s a common study spot for Drake students.  This local cafe features pretty good coffee, but the reason it has made it on the list is the environment, hours, and the menu.  The quaint, dine-in feeling gives it a cozy feel.  The hours are wonderful as they’re open from 6 am to 9 pm which gives college students a nice place to study off campus at night.  The menu includes foods for any time of the day.  Did I mention there’s a drive-thru?      

“As long as there [is] coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” – Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes 

No matter your coffee preferences, these places will all have something to enjoy.  These five cafes have something for everybody.  They are a great place to start your morning walking around downtown, or continuing the stroll.  Each have different charms so I recommend checking them all out!