If you’re a coffee shop fanatic like me who is there for the coffee as much as I am there for the atmosphere, then I have the five best coffee spots for you. Coming to Rochester, I’ve learned that the city is a melting pot for coffee, and has many locations where you can buy the beans of specific brands, such as Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters. When looking for a college, it’s essential that you also research the surrounding area and its culture. If you enjoy coffee shop culture, Rochester is the place for you. Here are my top five favorites.
1. Equal Grounds Coffee House
Located on South Avenue, this colorful abode is by far the most engaged with representing its community. You’ll find Pride flags and signs that read “Equal is for all.” It markets itself as an all-inclusive environment that supports the LGBTQ + community and definitely presents itself as a warm, welcoming space. The many times I’ve been there studying, a group or organization will get together there, pulling up extra chairs to fill the bigger room with loud laughter. I’ve seen strangers become like old friends, catching up like no time has passed, and I’ve seen individuals chatting up the owner, who is always keen to give students a discount.
Besides the atmosphere being as fantastic as you can get, the drinks are a whole other story. By far, Equal Grounds has the best chai latte I’ve had. They also have the option to add syrup to your drink, so if you want to be extra adventurous, I recommend the vanilla chai latte with nutmeg and an extra pump of cinnamon. According to my friend who had the regular house coffee, it was also the best coffee he’s had, and even though he is a harsh critic – having been a barista himself. Overall, Equal Grounds is the place to be, especially if you need a break from campus to capture a moment of the city’s flourishing community.
2. Café Sasso
Picture this: portraits of smiling and expressionless faces, cartoon-ish landscapes of childish curiosity, chairs of all sizes filling the narrow space, and people crowding the floor to the sounds of conversation and coffee grinders. The sweet scent of sugar, the familiar fragrance of coffee. People’s spirits fill the picturesque playhouse art gallery… This is Café Sasso, the aspiring artist’s liveliest home to cram in their studies or chat with a friend.
Much more venturesome with their caffeine concoctions, Café Sasso on Park Avenue has drinks with all the flavors you could think- a candy store for syrups. If you’re not so much of the coffee type, there are more than enough drinks to satisfy your tastes. The menu itself extends to food as well. I can attest that their paninis are far better than Starbucks. If you need a place to study for a while, this café will have the food to extend your energy. Besides, the crammed art on the walls will surely spark inspiration.
You can’t love UR without loving Java’s, the café that is Eastman School of Music’s beloved home. It is our own little coffee shop full of student culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the River Campus or Strong Hospital, students, faculty, and staff all come to meet at Java’s, conveniently a few bus stops away from River Campus. Likewise, it’s a great excuse to visit Eastman and catch a concert or meet some musicians. There’s always something fun happening around Java’s, whether that’s big groups of students studying together or Eastman students playing live impromptu concerts outside.
The coffee itself is always a treat. Never has Java’s let me down, allowing me the space and caffeine to get my work done. One of my favorites of their specialties is the “Aztec Mocha” or a simple hot chocolate with a shot of espresso- what they call “A Shot in the Dark.” Their regular house blend also is always a safe bet if you’re not one for fancy drinks. A second home to UR, Java’s has a beautiful atmosphere that extends into its own community.
4. Matilda’s Café
A hidden gem within the city, this cute little café is on the corner of University Avenue in the heart of the Neighborhood of the Arts. It is quite a charming spot, second biggest to Java’s with many spaces inside and out. The vertical, narrow entrance may be deceiving at first, but once inside, you’ll find a more contemporary atmosphere, as if it’s a free office space for remote workers. There’s a brightness that instantly fills you up. If there’s any place that rips away outside distractions, it’s Matilda’s Café.
Although the food may outshine its coffee, there are many fun drink options depending on their season specialty. Over the summer, I delightedly tried their lavender latte, and it tasted like honey-sweetened milk with a dash of espresso, sending my taste buds into a dizzy explosion, something I’d never expect from a flower flavor. If you’re a connoisseur for café sandwiches that can be true meals (because after studying for over two hours, you’re going to need more than a muffin to keep you going), then you’ll be glad to hear that Matilda’s has the best food on this list.
5. Founders Café
If you need a quick pick-me-up while exploring downtown, this café located on South Fitzhugh Street is the place for you. Although not the greatest place for extensive studying since it often gets rushed during the day, it has fast service that also extends to fantastic meals. My friends and I have often stopped by for lunch while wandering around. Conveniently, it is also close to my internship’s office, so it’s a great stop after work for some tea.
Speaking for which, I am also an obsessive tea drinker, and it is often a challenge to find a coffee shop that does justice to tea drinks. Founders Café brews its tea fresh, and often I’ll get one of their energy drinks if I’m not feeling up for too much caffeine. Unlike many energy drinks, theirs are tasteful but not too sweet, giving me enough caffeine to keep going throughout my day but not enough that I feel too jittery. All in all, this cool little café is bound to give you many exciting discoveries of tasteful drinks and food.
Coffee shops are definitely a huge part of Rochester’s culture, creating community and bringing connections to you from across the area. I’ve had many wonderful conversations with strangers that are now part of my network simply by striking up a conversation in a coffee shop. Your environment is what will ultimately affect how you thrive, and finding the right environment for you may include the perfect place for a cup of joe.