My gift to Grand Rapids coffee lovers: months in the making


A collage of us asking each other the next time we’re doing coffee, and a couple photos from my favorite spots.

My childhood best friend and I lead impressively separate lives. Many people would be surprised that we’re friends; we often remark that we’re surprised that we’re friends. 

Despite our being satisfied with not seeing each other often, a sudden realization came: We needed to spend more time together, out in our city, before we no longer lived five minutes from each other and it wasn’t ‘our city’ anymore.

So began our need for a mostly-monthly tradition to grab coffee—almost always on Sundays, anywhere between the hours of one and six, and never at the same place twice. Over the course of our senior year, we have explored our city and marked monumental moments by way of coffee trips. 

Below is a comprehensive list of these endeavors that mean more to me than I can say, and I can guarantee that each spot is worth a stop. In chronological order, I present, my city, my life, and my longest friendship, as coffee.

Hopeful beginnings: That Early Bird

That Early Bird: Coffee and Food ignited the idea to begin our coffee crawl. We both got different variations of an iced coffee, considered them to be fairly cheap—especially for the area—and ate some of the best breakfast potatoes to date. 

This is a place I would go back to and have already. Although I don’t really remember the coffee now, at the time I rated it a ⅗, probably my fault because how impressive can an iced vanilla latte really be? Beyond the coffee, the atmosphere and location are top-tier, bright, airy, and full of life. Overall, That Early Bird is a great place for experience, and a great introduction to coffee culture. 

Young love: Lantern Coffee Bar and Lounge

Lantern will forever remain one of my favorite places of all time. The barista seemed very aware that I was new to coffee, but extended kindness nonetheless. While my best friend ordered a fruity pour-over, I remained true to my iced vanilla latte (I promise I grow out of this phase as the months progress). 

And although our coffee was slightly more expensive than at Early Bird, it was presented in the cutest coffee cups, which added to the vintage downtown vibes beautifully, and justified its expense.

The juxtaposition of a dark ambiance provides the perfect backdrop for private conversations, and I could’ve stayed there talking forever. 

Below is a comprehensive list of these endeavors that mean more to me than I can say, and I can guarantee that each spot is worth a stop. In chronological order, I present, my city, my life, and my longest friendship, as coffee.

Good feelings only: Sparrows Coffee

Now more well-known as The Scorpion Hearts Club, this historic building held the most wonderful iced vanilla latte I’ve had—and that’s saying a lot considering all the places I now have to compare it to. The vibe of this coffee shop is one that has drawn me back time and time again, and I can’t wait to go back. 

Normally, I don’t leave our coffee outings with more than the beverage we came for, however, I felt so attached to the worn floors and precise decor of Sparrows that I now have a computer sticker to commemorate my experience there. 

Branching out: Squibb Coffee

I spent the entirety of this trip staring into the eyes of an Octopus—a massive mural on the adjacent wall. As the fresh excitement of senior year was truly settling in, I drank an expensive caramel vanilla latte (look at me branching out) and realized the magnitude of the decisions ahead. 

The perfect place for an eerie chat about muddled excitement, everyone at Squibb is business casual and keeps to themselves. The atmosphere is for getting work done and drinking coffee while doing it, not the reverse.

Picking up: Stovetop Coffee Roasters

We sat outside here on one of the last days the weather would allow. Fresh air makes everything better, but nothing can make the impending promise of the future seem easy to swallow—not even an iced vanilla latte. 

The serving size was small and expensive, but foam art and a kind barista made up for it all. I will now never underestimate the power of a smile and a Halloween cat made out of microfoam. Things were getting real, but Stovetop gave me a joy and a spirit I am forever grateful for. 

Foreshadowing: Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea

Sweetwaters is in a quiet corner of a busy city. I felt so alive and capable here, over our most adventurous drinks—my cold brew and her French Vietnam latte—I shared aloud for the first time where I was going to college, and my worries for the week. 

The coffee was a 5/5, the location was a 5/5, and the conversation was a 5/5. Many people might not know of this peaceful city shop, but they should. I can’t wait for the day I return here, hopefully before I leave for the path I manifested into existence first within it’s walls.

Hidden Gem: Schuill Coffee and Tea Store

I had passed Schuill countless times, unaware it was a coffee shop, let alone that it would soon become my favorite. The decor transported me the moment I entered the doors, and I immediately regretted the time I hadn’t spent here. 

Going around Valentine’s time, we had the pleasure of trying their specialty drinks, I chose Heart of Darkness and she selected When (Straw)berry met Sally. The drinks were excellent, the seating options were adorable, and I find it to be an absolutely wonderful local option for a great cup of coffee.

An escape: Rowster Coffee

Rowster Coffee felt like another world both in its interior decor and its location—a calm away from the storm. Another trip near Valentine’s Day, we enjoyed more cutesy specialty drinks for a reasonable price which made the experience that much more enjoyable. 

The atmosphere of the shop matched the wintery scenery outside perfectly, and although there were others in there with us, it felt like we were the only two people around in this cozy winter cafe. This will definitely be my go-to spot to spend snowy days back home.

The Bitter End Coffeehouse

This being our most recent trip, I still remember how I felt when I stepped into this building for the first time. I was no longer on a poorly scaped Grand Rapids street, but rather an adorable hole in the wall in busy, yet beautiful, New York. 

I drank their French Kiss signature latte within minutes, impressive for someone like me who is notoriously slow at drinking anything from water to Celsius to coffee. I can’t wait to be in this Coffeehouse again, it’s definitely a place I’d like to spend some of my last few coffee trips in my hometown. 

Our next stop: Brody’s Be Cafe

We have only a few more chances to make a day out of coffee, and the next place I hope we go is a home away from home I discovered alone. Across the street from Ada Library, Brody’s Be is my go-to before and after study sessions. Its comforting vibe brings me back to life. 

With many options, an encouraging message, a kind staff, and an interior that always makes me smile, I can’t wait to share this love with my best friend. 

No matter how many times we’ve struggled to find parking, spilled coffee, or lost track of time, and no matter how many times we will in the future, I will always find love in our local coffee houses. 

And to you, who has accompanied me on this coffee crawl for the ages, and will continue to as the seasons go on, I thank you for the reassurance that I will never have to get coffee alone ever again, and I will especially never have to do so without a good conversation, interesting critiques, and love.