The Burgeoning Coffee Scene of Reno

Whenever I’m talking about the food, drinks, and culture of Reno to anyone who isn’t from here, it typically begins the same, characterized by raised eyebrows and skepticism from the person I'm talking with. “Yes, that Reno—Reno, Nevada,” is usually what I have to begin with. Needless to say, Reno gets a bad rap. Thanks Obama! It certainly didn’t help that Amy Schumer recently said in an interview that Reno is the worst city to spend a weekend in. Nor was Reno 9-1-1 of any help, either. (SPOILER ALERT: Reno isn’t like Reno 9-1-1, which was actually filmed in Los Angeles County.)

So yes, that Reno, is the one I’m talking about today when talking about its great craft drink scene, and more specifically, the coffee scene. But don’t just take my word for it. Last year, Food52 wrote that Reno is the best city you’ve never been to, while WalletHub recently released a study of the best cities for coffee lovers in America, with Reno coming in at #19. (See, I’m neither crazy, nor was I paid by the mayor, tourism board, or anyone else to write this.)

The fact is, get down to the ground-level, beyond the neon signs and casino hotels, and you’ll find a city that’s defining itself, a place of opportunity, where opportunity is actually possible, where if there’s something you want or want to do, you can have it and do it. And that couldn’t be truer than of the food and drink scene. It’s no L.A., Seattle, New York City, or Austin, but get below the surface, and you’ll find those cool pockets that may bring to mind the likes of a Silver Lake, Capitol Hill, Bushwick, or Rainey Street.

In the coming weeks I’ll be getting below the surface, putting a microscope to Reno, and sharing what I’m discovering in the way of craft food and drinks. Today, it’s all about the coffee scene of Reno.

Old World Coffee Lab. Old World, located in Midtown, was the first Reno coffee shop I visited when I initially visited. I did a double take as soon as I walked in—was I in Portland or Reno? The beautifully designed interior, the wafting aroma of coffee, and the vibe all hit the right notes for me. The name, Old World, really speaks for itself, featuring coffee that’s carefully curated from around the world, including Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia, and Peru. But being the drink maker that I am, I particularly loved their specialty menu, which went above your token coffee menu, with items like the vanilla lavender latte, maple sage latte, and one of the most recent additions, the nitro draft latte (and yes, I turned one of their specialty drinks into a cocktail). The best new addition, however, is the introduction of their first roaster, putting them that much closer to the source of their coffee. Boom, roasted. (Photo below from Old World Coffee Lab.)

Hub Coffee Roasters. As I quickly discovered, you really can’t talk to anyone about Reno coffee and not talk about Hub Coffee Roasters. Starting seven years ago in a Midtown garage, Hub has now grown to several locations, including a university location, roastery, and 2-in-1 riverside location, which features a coffee shop and tea bar and eatery, which I now frequent the most as a Reno resident. Hub has a welcoming, hospitable vibe that you don’t just find at any coffee shop, while their drinks and food are as good as you’ll find at any local café. And few things are more idyllic in the spring and summer months than enjoying a drink outside of their downtown Reno coffee shop with the Truckee River flowing just feet away. Additionally, since Hub is a roaster, you’ll find their coffee at a number of local shops and cafes.

Coffeebar. Coffeebar is like the be-all, one-stop Reno coffee shop. Good coffee, check. Great specialty drinks (hello lavender latte and coconut chai), check. Outdoor patio, check. Bangin’ breakfast burrito, check. Macarons (yes, really), check. Oh, and they have a wine club. But perhaps my favorite feature is their new “apertivo hour,” featuring small bites, beer, wine, and aperitif cocktails like you’d find at a little Italian café. Coffeebar is building something of a West Coast coffee empire, since in addition to their Midtown Reno coffee shop, they also have a Truckee coffee shop and separate bakery, and are opening a Squaw Valley and a San Francisco Bay Area location in Menlo Park.

Blue Whale Coffee. That garage that Hub Coffee Roasters started in? Well that’s now the location of Blue Whale Coffee on one of my favorite blocks in Midtown Reno (at Cheney and Virginia Street), interestingly enough from a former Hub employee. While Blue Whale Coffee is one of Reno’s most no-frills coffee shops, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better cup of coffee or latte. On a warm day, grab a drink and head for their outdoor patio, just off the sidewalk of one of the most happening blocks in Reno, amidst some of Reno’s best food and drink spots, including a brewery, brewpub, sushi bar, and cocktail lounge.

Lighthouse Coffee. Lighthouse Coffee, like Coffeebar and Hub Coffee Roasters, is another Reno coffee shop with multiple locations. However, their new Sparks location has the million-dollar coffee shop view, overlooking the Sparks Marina and rolling mountains just beyond it (as evidenced below, from Lighthouse's Instagram account). The theme here, which is recurring at most Reno coffee shops, is locally owned, locally roasted. But while they have great, locally roasted coffee, Lighthouse features an extensive drink menu for non-coffee drinkers, including several different types of chai tea lattes, matcha, a number of non-coffee blended shakes, and nearly 15 types of smoothies. Lastly, they sell coffee from 10 of the top coffee-producing countries.

Magpie. Simple, minimalist design, and great coffee—that’s what you find at Magpie Coffee Roasters. And being a coffee roaster like they are, you can bet that it’s some of the best, freshest coffee you’ll find in Reno. Like some of the other coffee roasters mentioned here, you’ll find coffee at Magpie that’s carefully sourced from the best coffee regions in the world, which currently includes Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua. What more could you ask from a coffee shop?

Global Coffee. Being a travel website that this is, naturally, I have to include a Reno coffee shop called Global Coffee. Global Coffee I like in part, because it’s located in the single most historic, coolest building in Reno, the 1933 Post Office, which houses The Basement, an adaptive-reuse space with 15 different restaurants and shops. In addition to the basics, Global Coffee also has a menu of specialty drinks, such as the Tahoe Mocha, featuring white chocolate coconut, and marshmallows.

See See Coffee. It has to say something about the coffee scene of Reno when a Portland coffee shop moves here. Am I right? And that’s exactly the case with the newest Reno coffee shop, See See Motor Coffee Co., which just opened this month. See See, located just a couple blocks from The Basement, just kills the game, from its quality of coffee to design to branding to customer experience. Not to mention, that it doubles as a motorcycle shop, featuring vintage motorcycles and apparel. It has to say something, too, if I’ve been there five times in less than three weeks.

While I’ve highlighted what I think are eight of the top coffee roasters and coffee shops in Reno, there are a number of other coffee shops that I’d be remiss not to mention, such as Bibo Coffee, Swill Coffee & Wine, and Walden’s Coffeehouse. Also recently opened is new Reno coffee shop, Vertical Coffee, located inside Crafted Palette in downtown Reno, which comes from David Wilson, former head roaster at Hub Coffee Roasters.

To be dubbed the biggest little city in the world, Reno’s coffee scene is anything but little.