by Kevin Shalin
Coffee is king. Fortunately for us, there is no shortage of local options
With our growing community of local coffee shops, corporate giants now have competition from establishments that dot the landscape of the Little Rock area. And as I have come to find out, each spot has something unique to offer, in addition to serving up great coffee.
2 Twenty 1, which resides in the heart of downtown Little Rock, is a beautifully modern boutique shop serving up brewed beans from Dallas-based Noble Coyote Coffee.
Just down the street from there is Nexus Coffee & Creative, a huge space that combines quality coffee, art and entertainment in a welcoming space that is just a stone’s throw from the Statehouse Convention Center. Owner Amy Counce’s philosophy for her business is simple and straightforward.
“The ‘why’ at Nexus is all about community,” she says. “It’s about relationships and our local support. The ‘how’ is through coffee. Our heartbeat is to create and cultivate a space where everyone feels welcomed, seen and valued. We also believe that third-wave coffee is both a science and an art. And we love handcrafting every single recipe and menu item we offer. We believe in the inside-out model. We focus on empowering and finding unique leaders on our team who, in turn, share their gifts to the community. We truly love Little Rock and our downtown community for the diversity, energy and creativity that exists in the DNA of our city.”
SoMa’s Boulevard Bread Company and Community Bakery are two popular spots on the edge of downtown, as is newcomer Fidel & Co in the East Village District. Owner Fidel Samour enjoys calling the neighborhood home.
“East Village has been a wonderful place to springboard our café and roastery,” Samour says. “We’ve received a warm welcome, and the support from our customers has been essential. As we grow our roastery, keep an eye out for our retail coffee this fall. So far, we’ve been able to start using our own roasted beans for our drip coffee, iced coffee and nitro coffee.”
And while java is front and center at Fidel & Co, I would be remiss not to make mention of some of their house-made creations like monkey bread, cookies, scones, and my absolute favorite of the bunch, the “Salvy Cake.” This buttery, mini pound cake is baked with cheese and topped with sesame seeds. The result is a perfect balance of savory and sweet flavors. Pair one with a pour-over coffee and enjoy Fidel’s outdoor seating area on a cool morning. You will not regret it.
Moving outside of downtown, it should come as no surprise that eclectic neighborhoods like Hillcrest and the Heights are filled with a collection of coffeehouses. These include River City Coffee, Mylo Coffee Co., another Boulevard Bread Company location and Mugs Café, a relative newbie to this scene that now occupies the space of a former coffee chain.
“Mugs Café has been so happy to be a part of the Heights,” owner Michael Hickmon says. “We are very thankful for the support of this community over this past year.”
Hickmon also owns Mylo Coffee Co., a coffeehouse, along with Boulevard, that has really been able to maintain a loyal customer base by pairing coffee with in-house, artisan baked goods. If you don’t believe me, try one of the dark chocolate and banana muffins or a pain au chocolat. At Mylo, they even roast their own beans, which are available to purchase on-site or online. The same can be said for Guillermo’s Gourmet Coffee in west Little Rock.
At Guillermo’s, ownership has been able to create a wonderful meeting place for groups large and small. You might even see this writer there from time to time, camped on one of the comfy couches, banging away at his laptop. The combination of background music, quiet chatter of patrons and the wafts of freshly roasted beans makes for a relaxed setting, but one where work gets done.
“Creating a strong communal environment is the heartbeat of what Guillermo’s Gourmet Coffee is truly all about,” owner Josh Alley says. “Ensuring that our friends, family, new customers and regular patrons alike have a place to come work, share and meet are all the elements of what makes this coffeehouse great. It is our customers that create that warm, comfortable, cozy environment. When you balance that with our freshly roasted coffee that is roasted on-site, you have a winning combination that our customers gravitate to naturally.”
The Grind Coffee Bistro and Blue Cake/Honey Pies join Guillermo’s in west Little Rock, and while the latter is more of a bakehouse, customers can still pop in for some quick caffeine.
Across the river in North Little Rock is the original Mugs Café location, as well as Dark Side Coffee Co., a drive-thru coffee hut and former photo mat on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. The place is as cute as can be and provides a perfect alternative for folks who do not want to get out of their car, but also desire to support local with their coffee consumption.
In Bryant, Speakeasy Café, Blue House Bakery and Café and Koffee with a Kause have the area covered for those looking to support local.
Looking across the map, we are, without question, extremely fortunate to have the number of locally owned options that we do. Some places are big, while others are small. Some are cafes that also happen to serve a mean cup of Joe, while others are drive-thru only. Some sell art, while others sell jams and honey. But one thing is for certain, they all have something a little different to offer — and I will drink to that.
Craving for Coffee in the Metro
2 Twenty 1
W. 2nd St., Suite 102, Little Rock
Blue Cake/Honey Pies
315 N. Bowman Road., Suite 14, Little Rock
Blue House Bakery and Café
4000 Highway 5 N., Suite 3, Bryant
Boulevard Bread Company
1920 N. Grant St.; 1417 S. Main St.; 9601 Baptist Health Drive., Little Rock
1200 Main St., Little Rock
Dark Side Coffee Co.
4621 JFK Blvd., North Little Rock
Fidel & Co
500 Shall St., Suite B, Little Rock
Guillermo’s Gourmet Coffee
10700 N. Rodney Parham Road., Suite A2, Little Rock
Koffee with a Kause
23233 I-30 Frontage Road., Bryant
5719 Kavanaugh Blvd.; 515 Main St., North Little Rock
Mylo Coffee Co.
2715 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock
Nexus Coffee & Creative
301 President Clinton Ave., Suite B, Little Rock
400 W. Capitol Ave., Suite 100A, Little Rock
River City Coffee
2913 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock
3411 Main St., Suite 6, Bryant
The Grind Coffee Bistro
11525 Cantrell Road., Suite 407