Brian's Coffee Spot

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Mid-America Road Trip, October 2022

Exit 2 on I-75, where I-24 heads west towards Chattanooga and Nashville at the start of our four-day road trip from Atlanta to Madison, South Dakota.At the start of October, I caught the train from New York City to Atlanta, arriving the following morning at Peachtree Station. From there, I hauled myself and my luggage a few blocks north to Bellwood Coffee inside the lobby of 1776 Peachtree, where I waited for Amanda.

Her arrival marked the start of a four-day, 2,000 km road trip that took us across eight states to Madison, in the south east corner of South Dakota, where we laid the ashes of Amanda’s mother to rest in the town where she grew up. In all, we spent three days in Madison, meeting many of Amanda’s relatives on her mother’s side of the family, before retracing our steps back to Atlanta.

Our route took us across Georgia and through Tennessee via Chattanooga and Nashville, where we stopped for the night. From there, we cut through Kentucky and into Illinois as we headed for St Louis and our second stop. The following morning, we crossed the mighty Mississippi, before spending the next two days following the course of the Missouri via Kansas City (the bits of which we visited were, sadly, in Missouri, not Kansas, a state I still haven’t been to). We spent our third night in Kansas City before our fourth and final day saw us heading north through Iowa to Sioux City. Shortly afterwards, we crossed into South Dakota, before finally leaving the Missouri behind as we headed north to Madison.

I feared that the landscape would be predominantly flat, but it was surprisingly varied and even the flat lands of Iowa and South Dakota had their own charm. It was enough to keep me interested for all four days of the drive there and then for the four days of the drive back.

Although we followed the same route on our return, we broke our journey in different places, calling into Sioux Falls before spending our first night at Council Bluffs, where we crossed the Missouri into Omaha, Nebraska for dinner (the eighth state of the trip). The second day saw us get as far as Columbia, Missouri, midway between Kansas City and St Louis, while the third day took us all the way to Nashville, Tennessee, before we finally made it home on the evening of the fourth day, celebrating with dinner at a Waffle House.

Ideally, I’d write up the trip in a series of Travel Spots, but I know that I really don’t have the time. Instead, I will tell the tale through the medium of all the Coffee Spots we visited along the way. These are listed by city, ordered from the southeast (Atlanta) to the northwest (Sioux Falls), although right now only a few of the places are up on the Coffee Spot. However, more will be added in due course.


Header Image: crossing the mighty Mississippi on I-55 at St Louis, roughly the halfway point of our journey. This is the view north (upstream), with the Eads Bridge in the foreground, the Martin Luther King bridge beyond that and the Stan Musical Veterans Memorial Bridge (which carries I-70) in the background.


Coffee Spots

You can read about the trip through the medium of the Coffee Spots that we visited along the way, starting at Atlanta, with stops at Chattanooga, Nashville, St Louis, Kansas City, Sioux City and Sioux Falls. The Coffee Spots are listed alphabetically for each city.

Atlanta

I started the road trip in Atlanta, waiting for Amanda at Bellwood Coffee, which you can read about below.

Bellwood Coffee – Peachtree

A lovely Gilbraltar, made with The Reservoir signature espresso at Bellwood Coffee - Peachtree.I came across Bellwood Coffee, a West Atlanta roaster, at Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe in Marietta over the summer. That led me to discover that Bellwood also had a coffee shop inside a plant shop in East Atlanta Village. Even better, from my point of view, Bellwood had opened a second shop in June 2021, inside the lobby of the 1776 Peachtree office building just a few blocks from Atlanta’s Peachtree Station, where I would be arriving by train from New York City on Monday morning.

1776 Peachtree is a large, modern office building, towering over its neighbours on the west side of Peachtree Road NW. It’s hard to miss, although at first sight it’s not obvious that it houses a speciality coffee shop. I knew where I was going, but had to go up to the main doors before spotting a small sign for Bellwood Coffee. You could easily walk past without ever knowing it was there, which would be a shame, since you would be missing a gem. Bellwood serves its signature espresso, The Reservoir, from a standard menu with its seasonal decaf as an alternative, while there’s also batch brew and cold brew, plus cakes and sandwiches for breakfast/lunch.

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Chattanooga

We stopped at Chattanooga both on the way out and on our return, neatly book-ending the trip. It looks to be a very pleasant city, nestled on the southern bank of the Tenessee River, but we didn’t have time to explore.

Niedlov's Cafe & Bakery

A lovely espresso, served in a classic black cup at Niedlov's Cafe & Bakery and made with the Monarch, from Onyx Coffee Lab.As explained in Monday’s Coffee Spot, Bellwood Coffee, at the start of October I’d taken the train from New York to Atlanta, where Amanda picked me up to begin a four-day road trip to Madison, South Dakota. Our first stop was Chattanooga, where we came across Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery on Main Street, chosen largely because it was open after 5 o’clock and had a large garden where we could sit with Fergie, Amanda’s dog.

I knew nothing about Niedlov’s but was sold the moment I saw the Slayer espresso machine on the counter, along with boxes from Onyx Coffee Lab on the shelves. It may have been a chance discovery, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Chattanooga, or indeed to Tennessee, since it was my first time in the state.

Niedlov’s is a bakery/cafe which takes its coffee as seriously as its bread (and it takes its bread very seriously indeed). A standard espresso-based menu features Onyx’s Monarch, along with its Southern Weather on batch brew filter. There are separate breakfast and lunch menus, plus cake and, of course, bread, all of which can be enjoyed in the spacious cafe or outside in the garden.

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Nashville

Nashville was a tourist stop on the way out, as we took the afternoon to explore the excellent Nashville Parthenon, but was very much a drive past/through on the way back.

Sump Coffee, Nashville

The Sump Coffee logo, a line drawing of a bald, bearded skull with a branch and portafilter crossed behind it.Continuing the retelling of my American road trip through the medium of coffee shops, we started our second day in Nashville, Tennessee, where I sought out Sump Coffee. Our first stop, Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery in Chattanooga, was a chance discovery, but Sump Coffee was a planned stop, one of several places that I wanted to visit along the way. The Nashville coffee shop is the second of two Sump Coffees, which started life in Saint Louis, where the original coffee shop/roastery is still going strong.

Part of the modern OneC1ty development, Sump Coffee was one of the first tenants when it opened in 2017. It occupies a spacious, high-ceilinged unit with lots of inside seating and plenty more outside. When it comes to coffee, which is all roasted on the 10 kg Diedrich roaster in the back of the Saint Louis store, you really are spoilt for choice, with three single-origins on espresso, six/seven more on pour-over and, if you’re there before 11 o’clock, you can have batch brew too. All the beans are for sale in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection cakes and pastries.

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St Louis

St Louis, where we crossed the Mississippi, was pretty much the halfway point of both the drive there and back. Sadly we didn’t really have time to explore in either direction, although we did stop for coffee, which took us into the city centre (on the way out) and to the western part of the city (on the way back)

Blueprint Coffee, Delmar

Details from the door of Blueprint Coffee, which has the Blueprint Coffee logo with the words "Blueprint Coffee STL | MO" and "Available Here" underneath.Continuing the retelling of our road trip from Atlanta to South Dakota last month, our next stop after Nashville was St Louis, home of today’s Coffee Spot, Blueprint Coffee on Delmar Boulevard. We actually visited Blueprint on our way back to Atlanta, having calling into Sump Coffee on the way out. However, since I wrote about Sump Coffee’s Nashville store on Monday, I wanted to spread the love.

Like Sump, Blueprint Coffee is both roaster and coffee shop, with three shops in St Louis. We visited the original which is, for the moment, also home to the roastery, located at the back of the building.

Occupying a long, thin shop in the Delmar Loop neighbourhood, Blueprint is close to the St Louis Metro as well as having free on-street parking nearby (which was handy for us). There are a handful of tables outside on the busy pavement, with several more in the spacious interior. All the coffee is roasted on-site, with a blend and regularly-rotating single-origin on espresso, plus another on batch-brew and a selection of eight blends/single-origins on pour-over using the SP9 and Kalita Wave filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a concise all-day brunch menu and various cakes.

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Kansas City

Kansas City was somewhere else that we would have loved to have explored. At least we were able to pop in for coffee, otherwise we would have just skirted the city on I-70 and I-29.

Monarch Coffee

A cappuccino is a classic white tulip cup, served at Monarch Coffee in Kansas City.Today’s Coffee Spot continues the retelling of last month’s American road trip through the medium of coffee shops. We’ve reached Kansas City, our final overnight stop before Madison, South Dakota, where we called into Monarch Coffee, a recommendation from Sump Coffee in St Louis.

Monarch is a roaster which used to have two bricks-and-mortar stores in Kansas City, one of which was the lovely store on Broadway which we visited. Sadly, Monarch took the difficult decision to close both stores at the end of October, although it’s still going strong as a roaster, making this the first time that I’ve written about a coffee shop knowing it was closed. I did consider not posting, but decided that this would be a fitting tribute to Monarch Coffee.

Monarch Coffee was on the ground floor of the Ambassador apartment building, occupying a large corner unit on the right. With limited tables outside on the pavement, there was plenty more seating in the spacious interior, arrayed on either side of the island counter offset to the left. When it came to coffee, there was a commendably concise espresso-based menu with a single-origin option on batch brew filter, plus iced and nitro options.

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Sioux City

Sioux City, Iowa, was our last stop on the drive out to Madison. I-29 runs right through the city along the north bank of the Missouri, so we pulled off for coffee.

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was our first stop on the return drive. As well as calling in for coffee, we also took the afternoon to explore the eponymous falls.