Roasters, cafes and caffeine appreciation around the 405.
A few years ago, a commentator on a nationally syndicated podcast mentioned that because coffee contains caffeine, many Americans go about their days with all the resultant side effects of regularly ingesting a psychoactive drug. Allow me to speak for all of us: Hush. We don’t care. Give us our psychoactive deliciousness, and let us enjoy it while you drink your fizzy water or orange juice.
No matter an individual’s preference — black, sugar, sugar and cream, loaded with whipped cream, oozing with caramel or poured over ice cream — coffee is our national addiction, but as addictions go, it’s benign and wonderful.
Only one thing makes coffee better: a bite of something sweet. So we’ve compiled a list of coffees and pastries around the 405, and we’ve broken the businesses down into the coffee roasters and the coffee shops. Most of the roasters also have a shop, but not all.
We asked Ian Flemming, owner and roaster at Sincerely Coffee Roasters, why the roast is important. Turns out it’s not just throwing green coffee beans in a big oven and waiting till they turn brown.
“Roasting smaller batches in a roastery is for the purpose of being more intentional about the roast profile for each batch,” Flemming said. “Single-origin coffees are coffees coming from a single place of origin, both country and usually farm or lot. Both of these are usually signs of quality because of the intensive sorting and attention to detail from growing to picking to processing and to roasting that happens at the farm or roastery.”
The roast profile is the important part for our flavor preference, so we asked him to explain that, too. Even if it doesn’t help you enjoy your coffee more, you’ll at least understand how special and specialized this task is, and why you should hug your roaster next time you see them (ask permission first).
“A roast profile is a chart that consists of the temperature and time during the process of roasting,” Flemming said. “It’s usually noted in 30-second increments. The measurements are checked visually and aurally because the beans go from green to yellow, yellow to orange, orange to brown, and then there is an audible ‘crack’ that roasters use as a significant checkpoint. The coffee is then tasted according to the time and temperature it comes out of the roaster, and that becomes the profile.”
By finding the best flavor profile in the process, the roaster is then able to replicate the process over and over to give you consistently delicious coffee. You’ll find information about Sincerely below, along with many more of the 405’s local roasters and coffee shops.
Clarity Coffee, 431 W. Main St., OKC
The downtown shop is home to one of Oklahoma’s most respected roasters, and the founder and one-time partner in KLLR Coffee, Steve Willingham. His shop is clean, bright and bustling, given its location in the central business district. The staff is famously friendly, and the coffee is stellar. Seasonally, he adds outstanding coffee drinks, like the pumpkin spice latte made with fresh, local pumpkin. Pastries are from Quincy Bake Shop.
Coffee Slingers, 1015 N. Broadway Ave., OKC
The OG roaster in Automobile Alley, Coffee Slingers was one of the first shops to take coffee seriously. It still does, with a full roster of French presses, Americanos, cold brews and even the Nitrane — coffee with nitrogen, much like a good beer. It even has drinks for the kids, such as hot chocolate and Italian sodas, and the pastries come from Harvey Bakery and Kitchen.
Elemental Coffee, 815 N. Hudson Ave., OKC
One of the turning points in the development of Midtown was the decision by Elemental’s then-owners to locate their shop and roastery at NW 8th and Hudson Avenue, the site of H & 8th Night Market, the massive nighttime food truck festival in the glorious days before COVID. As of last year, the partners are now Laura and Allie Phillips-Shinn, roaster Marcus Smith and Elena Hughes, the latter of whom has been overseeing Elemental’s delicious food program since she joined the team in 2014. Highlights include the cookies, especially the salted chocolate chip, and pastries, like the blueberry lemon hand pie that occasionally appears in the pastry case.
Eote Coffee Company, 7 NE 6th St., OKC
For Todd Vinson, coffee started as a side project, second to his work as the founder of Willow Springs Boys Ranch near Chandler. The spiritual components of Vinson’s life and work are made plain in the name EOTE — “ends of the earth.” Fortunately, it’s not a gimmick; he cares about people, and he cares about coffee. The shop is located in the Central Exchange Building, and it’s one of the more striking settings you’re likely to see in a coffee shop, with its post-industrial-meets-comfy vibe, the roaster operation behind the counter and large windows lending a diorama feel to the aesthetic. Vinson is a great collaborator, so you’ll find pastries by Ganache Patisserie on the counter, as well as Ganache’s Nutella Italian shortbread cookie (it’s complimentary!) and syrups from Matthew Griffin’s Rose & Thorns.
Hoboken Coffee Roasters, 224 S. Division St., Guthrie
There are stories, and then there is the story of Trey and Mallory Woods riding their bikes from Oregon to Oklahoma after selling their car to buy an espresso machine. They’d moved to Oregon to dive into coffee culture, and they brought their experience and expertise to Guthrie, a town that was just beginning to see its potential as a culture destination. The cafe and roastery are in an old garage made beautiful by their hard work. It’s a popular hangout in Guthrie with a lovely patio, beautiful interior, comfortable vibe and delicious pastries.
KLLR Coffee, kllrcoffee.com
(It’s pronounced “killer.”) Before he launched Clarity Coffee, and after he left Elemental as roaster, Steve Willingham co-founded KLLR Coffee. The company is still running fine without a storefront, but you can find its coffees in many local restaurants, and you can buy them online at its website. The focus is small-batch and single origin, and the beans are roasted to perfection.
Leap Coffee Roasters, 44 NE 51st St., OKC
Named for leap day 2016 — when the Starkeys purchased the roastery from founders Gary Hargrave and Lee Morrison — Leap is best known for its Artist Series, a project that puts local artists on bags of coffee and on the shelves of major retailers. The Starkeys have collaborated with Ebony Iman Dallas, Eyakem Gulilat and Amanda Zoey, among others. The focus is small-batch and blended coffees, all of which you’ll find on its website or at the roastery the first Friday of every month.
Not Your Average Joe, nyaj.coffee
The mission is what gets people’s attention. NYAJ hires people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, and roaster Hannah Barstow makes good coffee. The five locations are cozy and friendly — especially Midtown, where the patio is dog-friendly, including a water bowl, and the walk-up window is very convenient.
Prelude Coffee Roasters, 3 NE 8th St., OKC
Located in the 8th Street Market east of Automobile Alley, Prelude roasts its beans weekly, so the coffee is always fresh. In addition to full coffee service, it collaborates with Urban Tea House and Woodshed Teas and offers pastries from Quincy Bake Shop. Prelude also features ceramics from a local artisan, and you can subscribe to its coffee program so you never need to leave your house to get great coffee.
Sincerely Coffee Roasters, 1325 N. Walker Ave., OKC
Ian Flemming makes coffee for people who like coffee, not coffee drinks. That means that while the lattes at Sincerely are delicious (still waiting for it to be autumn so the house-made butterscotch returns), the pour-over and drip coffee have remarkable balance and drinkability. For those of us who love black coffee, Sincerely is a happy place. Flemming offers a subscription service, too, and his package design is among the best in the business. As an added bonus, there are fresh-from-the-oven scones and tacos from Taqueria Lupita most days.
Tawbi Organic Coffee Roasters, 7519 N. May Ave., OKC
The focus at Tawbi is in the name: organic beans. The roastery creates blends to achieve specific flavor profiles rather than focus on terroir — the French wine term that describes the taste of a place as much as the product. The bags are adorned with Oklahoma critters as a reminder that the organic concept matters, and the shop provides full coffee service, tea, and a few other beverages.
Yellow Dog Coffee Company, 225 S. Porter Ave., Norman
Yes, owners Robert and Sereta Wilson love dogs; they even help operate a dog rescue. But the coffee is also very good. Images of dogs, including the eponymous yellow lab, adorn the bags and are an important part of the shop’s decor, but the Wilsons have built their Norman brand on quality roasts and great, friendly service. The scones from local Sconed are beautiful, creative and delicious.
Zero Tolerance Coffee and Chocolate, 913 W. Britton Rd., OKC
In a perfect world, Maura and Roy Baker would have a line down the street outside their Britton shop every day. The veteran-owned roastery and cafe features bean-to-cup coffee and bean-to-counter chocolates. Maura oversees the day-to-day operations, including the roasting, and all the equipment needed to make the chocolate is behind the counter. The breakfast is excellent — on a very good day, she’ll have Ukrainian oreshki, shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche, from a local producer.
The Shops and Pastries
Coffee Jerks, coffeejerks.com
Named for owner Kenny Wooldridge’s grandmother — she was a soda jerk at a shop in Watonga — the shop certainly has one of the more recognizable and memorable names in the industry. It also has the iced Caramel Creek latte (and frappe!), which is one of the best coffee indulgences in the 405. Conveniently, it has three locations as well, which makes it easy to find a Caramel Creek latte and a bacon, egg and cheddar bagel.
Cafe Evoke, 103 S. Broadway Ave., Edmond
Robert and Lori (Dickinson) Black purchased the downtown Edmond spot from founders Jason and Jenni Duncan in late 2019. Dickinson Black said the goal all along was to create a space with great food and coffee — “It’s hard to find both in the same place,” she said — and art and music. They’ve succeeded in all categories, with a wide variety of delicious breakfast and entree items, pastries — both in-house and from sister spot Twisted Tree (see below) — and with coffee from Middle State in Denver and tea from Rishi. Dickinson Black said they chose to go with Middle State because of the high quality and to avoid duplicating what other shops are doing.
Classen Coffee Company, 2515 N. Classen Blvd., OKC
Located in cute stucco on the east side of Classen Boulevard, the shop boasts what is likely the city’s best dirty chai latte. It has a few pastries, great study/work space and a very nice outside area. It’s a no-frills approach to coffee culture, and the KLLR coffee is always top-notch.
Culture Coffee, culturecoffeeokc.com
It’s really a coffee shop with a greater purpose, and the homage to some of Oklahoma’s great Black artists, activists and civic leaders drives the point home. The original location on NE 6th Street and Stonewall Avenue finally brought good coffee to the Innovation District, as well as breakfast burritos and pastries from La Baguette. Culture Coffee uses roasts from Sincerely and Prelude, and also features vegan fare from Loaded Bowl. The collaborations are evidence of a tangible commitment to building community, and now with a location in the Sequoyah Memorial Office Building, it’s even easier to be part of that community.
Ganache Patisserie, 13230 Pawnee Dr., OKC
If you’ve spent any time at all looking at the assortment of pastries and chocolates in the case at Ganache, you’ll understand the meticulous minds at work in this French patisserie. It’s basically a guarantee that the custom roast from Eote will be delicious, and it is. So, too, are the croissants, macarons, tarts and cakes. Chef-owners Matt Ruggi and Laura Szyld are both classically trained pastry chefs and chocolatiers, and if there is any justice in the world, they’ll have a location within walking distance of my home soon.
Gray Owl Coffee, 223 E. Gray St., Norman
The shop is worker-owned and -operated as of 2021, so it’s a collective effort to ensure you get great service. The focus is on being a community space with excellent coffee and tea, but the freshly baked pastries, breads and croissants are the stars of the menu.
Harvey Bakery and Kitchen, 301 NW 13th St., OKC
Chef Alyssa Ulrich has received a great deal of much-deserved attention since Harvey opened. It’s rare to find this much talent in one shop, but Ulrich manages to serve up beautiful, decadent pastries and flavorful, fresh breads daily, including the Midnight Cowboy croissant, cinnamon rolls, muffins and regular surprises. The coffee is by Onyx Coffee Lab, headquartered in Rogers, Arkansas, a roastery that seems incapable of making bad coffee. The standout on the coffee menu is the Harvey Latte, made with caramel milk.
Junction Coffee, 611 N Broadway Ave., OKC
It’s hard to miss the 1974 double-decker bus named Maebel that is the trademark for Junction Coffee. Owners Nick and Lori Bollinger started the mobile coffee shop in 2015, and they added a storefront on the south end of Automobile Alley last year. You can still find the bus around town, but the coffee shop is easy to find, and they make excellent coffee drinks and a very good London Fog. The pastry case features sweets from Harvey Bakery just in case you want to skip the line on NW 13th Street.
Perets Dessert & Coffee Bar, 701 W. Sheridan Ave., OKC
This new-to-the-city coffee bar has quickly become a destination for students who study after school and groups of friends looking for alternatives to bars, as it’s open 3-11 p.m., rather than the normal coffee shop hours. In addition to the brilliant coffees from Onyx, it also serves a lovely affogato, and the pastries — get the pistachio strawberry tart — are as delicious as they are beautiful.
Quincy Bake Shop, 1235 NW 38th St., OKC
Chef Trisha O’Donoghue arrived in OKC from Chicago, where she studied at The French Pastry School — the train stop near the school is Quincy and Wells, thus the name. We’ve raved about her chocolate babka in the magazine before, and her cardamom bun is on anyone’s list of the 405’s best pastries. The case is always full of brilliant treats, and the coffee is an Eote blend.
Stitch Cafe, 835 W. Sheridan Ave., OKC
Locals have been flocking to Stitch for the hand pies since it was in the old space adjacent to the Paramount Building. The pies are less rustic now, but no less delicious, and the strawberry-prickly pear tart is simply one of the best things in OKC. There are savory options, too, including delicious tacos, and its horchata latte and tres leches latte are must-try delights. The coffee comes from the best roasters in the country, including Onyx.
Twisted Tree Baking Company, 111 N. Broadway Ave, Edmond
The sister operation to Cafe Evoke, it’s also a family affair, and some of the pastries, including the unbelievably delicious cruffins, land in the case at Evoke. You’ll still want to stop by Twisted Tree for the city’s best morning bun, wonderful donuts and an assortment of pastries that make it hard to leave with less than a box-load.
The Underground Coffee, 1621 S. Douglas Blvd., Midwest City
A trio of siblings have inspired enough excitement about coffee in Midwest City that a friend insisted on bringing me a sample all the way across town. The coffee is excellent, and the specialty drinks are even better. Clever names help sell the drinks, but ultimately, it comes down to taste, and The Underground does it right. Try the Caramel Underground or Holy Mocha, Batman! to get a sense of what it’s up to — and don’t worry, the $87 Latte doesn’t actually cost that much.
Vacca Coffeehouse, 10 W. Main St., Yukon
Premium coffee and excellent pastries have made Vacca a favorite in Yukon. Located inside an event center, Vacca is a coffee shop, ice cream shop, breakfast joint and lunch restaurant rolled into one. The brownies and cinnamon rolls are fantastic, and so is the Vaccaccino, a build-your-own frappe that’s just right for the summer months.