Local cafes and coffee shops are like tiny, aromatic oases in the middle of the concrete jungle. They offer the everyday patron a peaceful respite from the biting cold or blistering mid-afternoon sun. And when you’ve stumbled onto a hidden gem packed with character rather than crowds, it feels as if you’ve uncovered your destination’s best kept secret.
What could make the experience more welcoming? Some southern hospitality, of course! Next time you’re in the Southeast, swing by any of these eight hidden local gems in Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, or South Carolina. Cozy up with a steaming cup of caffeinated goodness — and maybe a pastry or two — as you kick back and people-watch, share some peaceful time with loved ones, or patter away at your keyboard, drafting the next New York Times bestseller.
1. Barista Parlor
Located in Nashville, Barista Parlor is everything you could hope for in a coffee shop: local craft coffee, made-from-scratch pastries, and art featuring local talent, all presented in a chic modern, industrial setting. The selection of espresso and drip coffees is ever-changing, so be sure to ask your barista for the best recommendations. For a unique flavor that suits the setting, order a whiskey caramel latte or bourbon vanilla cappuccino.
2. Chef Mo Cafe
Chef Mo Cafe isn’t so much a coffee shop as it is a local Knoxville experience. Chef Mo shares their love of food and community with the fresh fixin’s of southern comfort. Enjoy classics like made-to-order pancakes, waffles, and eggs, along with hearty mac and cheese, baked spaghetti, and fresh cakes and pies. The café is currently open Tuesday through Saturday for limited-capacity dining, drive-thru, and takeout.
3. Spitfire Coffee
If you’re looking for a hole-in-the-wall local gem, look very closely or you might miss Spitfire Coffee in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Hole-in-the-wall is an understatement, as they tout themselves as a “250-square-foot walk-in closet.” Don’t expect to stay and people-watch, since the cafe is currently operating as a walk-up window only, but it is still the spot for grabbing a cup of NOLA’s finest and perusing the French Quarter. Enjoy any of their bold, local espressos or try something unexpected with the Las Tres Flores latte — it mixes lavender milk with orange blossom syrup.
4. Coffee Science
Break away from the touristy chaos and step into an atmosphere created for the modern-day artisan. Located in a 100-year-old craftsman-style cottage, Coffee Science has plenty of room to spread out inside or on its outdoor patio. The owner, Oliver, spent years in the coffee business and uses specialized measurements to create a consistent cup every time. Pair that concept with mind-blowing flavors like Bavarian or Venetian cream, and even the most basic drip or pour-over transforms into a sippable dream.
5. Craft and Common
Craft and Common feels as though you’ve stepped into a real-life Pinterest board, complete with expertly crafted drinks and photo-worthy baked goods. Located right in the heart of downtown Orlando, it’s a step away from the theme park crowds and right by plenty of shops, additional dining, and downtown’s focal point, Lake Eola. Delight your senses with the Pacific Fog, a blend of espresso, milk, lavender syrup, honey, and pink Himalayan sea salt.
6. Pom Pom’s Tea House
If you’re a fan of tea or Boba tea — specialty tea with tapioca pearls — swing by Pom Pom’s Tea House for an impressive selection that includes rose hip, hibiscus, strawberry lychee, rooibos, and more. This local hangout also has a delicious menu you shouldn’t ignore — order Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving Sandwich or the Ham Brie Tomato Melt, and you won’t leave hungry or disappointed.
7. Fresh Brewed
An edgy, laid-back atmosphere, with open-mic nights and a mini library? That’s exactly what you’ll find when you stumble upon Fresh Brewed in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Apart from delicious roasted brews, it’s on a mission for good. This coffee shop is also a nonprofit that gives back to those in need. Grab a cup on your way to the beach, and enjoy it knowing you’re supporting the local community.
8. Benjamin’s Bakery
Serving the community for over 25 years, Benjamin’s Bakery is a family-owned and -operated bakery and cafe that offers fresh-baked bites and local roasts. Stop by for a hot cup of coffee or espresso that’s freshly ground and roasted in house. Or cool off with a cold brew, smoothie, or frappe. Compliment your coffee with a pastry or one of Benjamin’s famous bagels and schmear. Benjamin’s cafe also serves breakfast all day and a lunch menu of hand-crafted sandwiches.