Insider's Tour of the Coffeehouse Scene in Burlington, VT

  • 01 of 06

    An Insider's Tour of the Coffeehouse Scene in Burlington, VT

    Maglianero Cafe Burlington VT Coffee Shop
    © 2012 Rachel Carter

    Looking for the hippest, best coffee shops in Burlington, Vermont? Come along on this insider's tour of the Queen City's java hot spots (plus one tea room, for those who prefer milder steamy beverages).

    Maglianero Café
    47 Maple Street, Burlington, VT

    Maglianero Café is where the professionally employed indie crowd pedals on the way to work. It's in a basement café that was created to look like a bike messenger lounge. Actually, many customers drive or walk to Maglianero, as Vermont's metropolitan mecca is not host to nearly as many messenger cyclists as pick-up trucks delivering farm-to-table produce.

    The café more closely resembles a funky cement library with large tables and cold corners that are brightened by the creativity and work flowing out of the patrons, who stay here for hours—longer than at any other Burlington java spot. The food selection will help the slim keep their figures and leave the rest of us famished, but the dog treats are in plentiful supply. Well-behaved pooches can come sit for hours with their owners. We wonder: Do they travel on doggie bikes?

    First and foremost, this is a caffeine stop on the southern tip of Burlington's downtown close to the waterfront, inviting to those seeking some seclusion. The coffee creations are worth spinning wheels for.

  • 02 of 06

    Muddy Waters

    Muddy Waters Burlington VT Coffee Shop
    "Muddy Waters" © Michael Calore @snackfight, Creative Commons License

    Muddy Waters
    184 Main Street, Burlington, VT

    Muddy Waters is a dimly lit, brick-walled den stuffed with sofas, chairs and artfully carved wooden furniture, which you need to navigate through to reach the order counter. Try to snag a seat if one is open as you meander past earnest conversations: Note that newspapers, magazines and books are scattered about for general use and may or may not be saving a table. Patrons look seriously busy in here—art projects, school work, business meetings, blind dates—the crowd is as mixed as Burlington. If you’re not multitasking, scowls from people looking for seats may linger in your direction.

    Artistically prepared java concoctions mingle well with the ambiance and are complemented with a rotating selection of baked goods, vegan specials, smoothies and coffee bar cocktails. Evenings sometimes feature live jazz, making Muddy's a perfect place on a winter's eve: just a step, yet a world away from one of Burlington’s busiest downtown intersections.

  • 03 of 06

    Uncommon Grounds

    Uncommon Grounds Burlington VT Coffee Shop
    © 2012 Rachel Carter

    Uncommon Grounds
    42 Church Street, Burlington

    Uncommon Grounds perks itself smack dab in the middle of Church Street: Burlington's four-block pedestrian mall. Trendy townsfolk and tourists weave in and out of the most conventionally adorned coffee shop in town. A large outdoor seating area is popular in warmer weather (in Burlington, that means weather warm for any season), and tightly packed tables line the walls inside.

    They roast their own coffee here, serving at a busy, fast and somewhat anxiety-provoking counter crowded with typical Church Street Marketplace characters: a mix of Vermont fashionistas, suited professionals, students and tourists. The baked treats are the most decadent, with gooey chocolate cakes and sugary pies, along with a broad variety of specialty drinks including Italian-syrup-based favorites. Coffee and tea can be ordered in bulk, and be sure to check out the vintage and antique coffee equipment throughout the shop.

  • 04 of 06

    Radio Bean

    Radio Bean Burlington VT Coffee Shop and Bar
    © 2012 Rachel Carter

    Radio Bean
    8 North Winooski Avenue

    Radio Bean is cluttered, eclectic and as Bohemian as it gets in Burlington, Vermont. The interior is under constant, subtle décor transformations, and at any moment, you feel as if the cast of Moulin Rouge might burst through a curtain and perform. Live music actually is played here day and night, and this is the best place in Burlington for unplugged music by unknown and well-known names alike.

    Radio Bean is a coffeehouse, where traditional, as well as intricate java concoctions, are served from morning until late into the evening. There is also a full bar. An assortment of snack plates has always been served, as the full spectrum of hippies lingers in the living room lounge, but recently, culinary popularity empowered the purchase of the space next door, and !Duino! (Duende), an international street food café, opened in 2011. Located at the entrance to the Old North End, Burlington's most diverse neighborhood, patrons gather outside day and night, and when evening music is playing, it is crowded: Be prepared to wait in line.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Speeder & Earl's Coffee Roastery

    Speeder & Earl's Coffee Roastery Burlington VT
    © 2012 Rachel Carter

    Speeder & Earl's Coffee Roastery
    104 Church Street, Burlington, VT
    412 Pine Street, Burlington, VT

    Speeder & Earl's is as much of a consumer brand as it is a coffee shop and roastery. Squished into a slim canal of a shop on the lower end of Burlington's Church Street, this zany shop is more of a quick-serve coffee bar. Local hipsters, retro artists and restaurant/bar/​nightclub-industry folk rally in mid-afternoon light at the tables outside in warmer weather. T-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers, and gifts are as popular as the numerous brews.

    A more spacious version of the Church Street location can be found in Burlington's South End on the industry-turns-art-deco Pine Street. Snacks are available at the Pine Street location, but the downtown Burlington stop is a walk in and move on type of venue, unless, of course, you want the inside scoop on the evening scene.

  • 06 of 06

    Dobra Tea

    Dobra Tea Burlington VT
    © 2013 Kim Knox Beckius

    Dobra Tea
    80 Church Street (entrance on Bank Street), Burlington, VT

    If coffee leaves your stomach too acidic, spend an hour at Dobra Tea, an Eastern traditions-inspired tea room. A travel book is the menu, depicting teas and their regions from around the world. Located just around the corner from Uncommon Grounds, this Burlington tea room also has a menu of sweet treats and light meals for hungry tea drinkers featuring ingredients grown and produced locally.

    About the Author

    Rachel Carter is an entrepreneur and homesteader who works in Vermont's travel, agriculture, public relations and journalism industries. A fifth-generation Vermonter, twice removed, Rachel is the co-author of the 13th edition of VERMONT: An Explorer's Guide, published in 2012 by Countryman Press. She has been instrumental in Vermont's changing media landscape through her visionary company, Rachel Carter PR, and serves as Communications Director for the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. Connect with Rachel through her social media handle: RachelCarterPR, and follow her homesteading adventures online.