WILMINGTON, N.C. (CAPE FEAR WEEKEND) -
North Carolina is crazy for coffee! 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, and the average coffee drinker has three cups every day.
However you like your coffee, you can find great drinks in Wilmington coffee shops. But Wilmington has dozens of locations for coffee, and it can be hard to tell which ones are the best.
Are there any Wilmington chains? What are the best local coffeehouses? What can you get besides coffee?
Answer these questions and you can make the most out of Wilmington’s coffee scene. Here is your comprehensive guide.
Port City Java
Ask a local about NC coffee, and they’ll talk to you about Port City Java. Port City Java is Wilmington’s leading coffee chain, with 11 separate locations throughout the city.
Each location uses handpicked coffee beans with Fair Trade and organic blends. Baristas receive extensive training before they go in front of customers, and they learn how to make fresh milk foam, whipped cream, and other ingredients.
Port City Java’s distinctive drink is the red eye. It’s coffee mixed with espresso shots, adding a richer flavor to the drink. If you prefer espresso by itself, you can order an espresso or an iced latte, which offers milk and espresso together.
Port City Java also offers blended drinks that combine coffee with iced ingredients. A Slush’n Joe combines iced coffee with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. If you like chocolate, you can get a Mocha Shake with Ghirardelli chocolate, espresso, and vanilla ice cream.
Drift Coffee has two Wilmington coffee locations, one in Autumn Hall and another in Mayfaire. The locations have similar options for coffee, but the Autumn Hall cafe has a more extensive brunch menu than the Mayfaire cafe. The Mayfaire shop caters more toward lunch, though you can go to both for lunch.
Drift Coffee orders its beans from Ceremony Coffee Roasters, which is based outside Wilmington. Besides the beans, both Wilmington coffee shops rely on local and fresh ingredients.
You can order classic drinks like lattes and cappuccinos from both locations. If you want a cold drink, you can enjoy flash-brewed iced coffee. The Iced Black Amber is two shots of espresso that the barista combines with agave, ice, and milk.
Drift Coffee also offers holistic drinks, which contain spices and flowers mixed with other ingredients. The Golden Latte is a blend of turmeric ginger with steamed almond milk. You can also enjoy matcha and chai lattes as well as a selection of teas.
You can order many different things for brunch at the Autumn Hall cafe. Avocado toast is very popular, but you can also get a breakfast burrito, an egg sandwich, and a salad bowl. If you prefer something sweet, you can order granola, banana bread, and ricotta pancakes.
For lunch, the Mayfair cafe offers several sandwiches. You can also get a harvest bowl, which mixes kale, quinoa, brussels sprouts, and other vegetables together.
Bitty and Beau’s
Bitty and Beau’s is at 4949 New Centre Drive. People with disabilities manage and work the store, including people with autism and Down syndrome.
The store offers a standard selection of coffee drinks, including iced coffee and lattes. You can also order beans with notes of nuts, chocolate, caramel, and spices.
24 South Coffeehouse
24 South Coffeehouse is located at 24 South Front Street, in the heart of Downtown Wilmington. Parking can be a little tight in the area, so you should make sure you know where to park in the downtown district.
24 South is the oldest coffeehouse in the city, and it is the only coffeehouse to have a manual-lever espresso machine. This allows 24 South to serve authentic Italian espressos to its customers. You can order espresso shots, cappuccinos, and other espresso drinks.
If you prefer other forms of coffee, you can get a cold brew or café au lait. 24 South offers a daily drip with a rotation of coffee brands.
Besides coffee, the coffeehouse serves local loose teas, hot chocolate, and milkshakes. For food, you can order baked goods, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches.
Java Dog Coffee House
Java Dog Coffee House is at 303 North Front Street, also in the downtown area. As you might guess from the name, dogs are allowed in the store, so feel free to bring yours inside.
Like other Wilmington coffee shops, Java Dog offers a selection of espresso drinks. You can also get a cup of tea for $1.50.
One Tree Hill was one of many popular shows filmed in Wilmington. Wilmington is home to festivals celebrating the show every year, and Java Dog gets involved by transforming into Karen’s Cafe from the show. You can stop by and order branded coffee sleeves with the cafe logo on them.
Folks Cafe is at 1201 Princess Street, a few blocks away from the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science and the Bellamy Mansion Museum. The cafe is distinct amongst Wilmington coffee shops for its fresh roasted beans. The beans are roasted in small batches, allowing them to stay fresh for long periods.
The cafe is also distinct for offering South American food. Folks was the first Wilmington cafe to offer empanadas, including ones filled with apples and walnuts. You can also try quesadillas, pozoles, and chimichurri sandwiches.
Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods
Bespoke is at 202 Princess Street, two blocks away from the Wilmington Riverwalk. Its coffee is very rich, so if you prefer a strong drink, you should go to Bespoke.
Bespoke offers unique drinks you cannot get anywhere else. Its espresso tonic combines two ounces of espresso with tonic water, creating a light and refreshing drink. The MUDWTR is a blended drink with chai, cacao, and adaptogenic mushrooms along with spices.
You can modify your latte however you would like. You can add cardamom powder, agave, and cinnamon. You can get hazelnut and blackberry syrup, and you can substitute cow’s milk for oat or almond milk.
At night, Bespoke turns into a beer and wine bar and event space. You can still order coffee, but you can bring a friend and sample from Wilmington microbreweries.
Luna Caffe is located at 604 Castle Street, which is within the Arts and Antique District of Castle Street. After you’re done browsing through local galleries and stores, you can stop by Luna for a cup of coffee.
Luna Caffe has one of the biggest menus in Wilmington, with classic drinks alongside more experimental options. You can get matcha mixed with your coffee or chai, and you can get different roasts in your drinks.
When you’re not in the mood for coffee, you can have a smoothie, tea, or kombucha. The cafe offers hot apple cider in the fall time, which some locals say is Luna’s best drink.
Luna is well-known for its baked goods. Apple fritters and apple turnovers are popular, but you can try almond flour cookies and large muffins.
The cafe is smaller than other Wilmington breakfast places, so it may be hard to find a seat. Luna does have outdoor seating, so feel free to head out back.
Grinders Caffe is at 890 South Kerr Avenue, a couple of blocks from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Grinders has been around for more than a decade, and it’s become well-known for its variety of drinks and upbeat atmosphere.
The menu is extensive. Original drinks include the Spunky Monkey, which is mocha mixed with coconut and banana. The Choffee is spiced chai mixed with coffee, allowing you to sample tea and coffee at the same time.
If you like smoothies, you can sample smoothies with espresso in them. The Mexican Spiced Banana smoothie has coffee cubes in it, giving the drink texture. It also has Mexican-spiced cocoa, fresh banana slices, and half and half.
Grinders is a popular space amongst Wilmington artists, and you can find live events at the cafe throughout the year. Open mics take place on Thursday nights and musical performances take place on most weekends. Visit the cafe’s website to see what events are happening.
The Best Wilmington Coffee Shops
Wilmington coffee shops are more than meets the eye. Many locals enjoy Port City Java and Drift Coffee, which are Wilmington’s most prominent coffee chains. When you want great food, you should go to Drift or Folks Cafe.
If you want a traditional coffeehouse experience, you can visit 24 South Coffeehouse, which specializes in authentic espressos. If you prefer an eclectic cafe, you can visit Luna Caffe or Grinders Caffe.
Once you’ve had your coffee, you can see what else Wilmington has to offer. Cape Fear Weekend lets you plan Wilmington getaways. Read our guide to July events.
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