10 of the best stops on Columbus, Ohio’s coffee trail
In 2014, on National Coffee Day, Experience Columbus launched the Columbus Coffee Trail – the first coffee trail in the United States. In 2019, the trail expanded to include 17 different coffee shops, with a total of 25 options (some coffee shops have multiple locations). At each shop, you get a stamp for your trail card, which can earn you items like a free T-shirt or mug.
A few shops are non-profit coffee houses which aim to give back to the community. Some run in-house micro roasteries, and a few others bake delectable confections and pastries that complement the coffee drinks.
In order for a coffee shop to partake in the trail, they must sell ethically sourced beans, be independently owned (sorry, Starbucks), must have a storefront that operates at least five days a week, be located within Interstate 270 and proffer a full menu of coffee beverages.
Most of the shops offer some kind of third wave coffee drinks: pour overs, cold brew on draft, Chemex and excellent milks provided by Ohio dairies Snowville Creamery and Hartzler. Here are 10 stops on the trail where you should definitely get your trail card stamped.
Brioso Roastery and Coffee Bar
Brioso’s coffee beans are brewed into pour overs and specialty seasonal drinks — Photo courtesy of SK Kim
Brioso has two locations: downtown and Discovery District (only downtown is on the trail, but the shops are less than a mile from one another). They roast their own coffee beans and offer single-origins and blends. The café offers nitro cold brew, hot bloom cold brew (a method involving both hot and room temperature water) and pour overs.
They also offer seasonal drinks like the Jam Session (sparkling green iced tea with hibiscus, lime and a strawberry shrub) and E-V-I-L: espresso mixed with sparkling lemonade. During happy hour, try their “dollar dripz” and “dollar shotz” specials. While you’re there, you might as well take a minute’s walk to The Roosevelt Coffeehouse (see below).
Fox in the Snow Café
Fox in the Snow Cafe has three locations that offer hand-crafted coffee drinks and a popular egg soufflé sandwich — Photo courtesy of Wendy Pramik
With its three locations in Columbus – Italian Village, German Village, New Albany – Fox in the Snow has made a huge dent in the Columbus food and java scene. They use Maine’s Tandem Coffee Roasters in their hand-poured coffee and New Orleans-style iced coffee.
However, the cafes are famous for their souffléd egg sandwich (candied bacon, Swiss cheese, arugula and dijon cream on toasted ciabatta) and weekend-only egg tart. The breakfast dishes are so popular, they’re known to generate lines that run out of the door.
In 2019, Crimson Cup launched cold brew in cans — Photo courtesy of Gravity Bandit
Crimson, which started roasting in the capital city in 1991, is the second oldest roaster in town. They currently have two locations in Columbus and one in Tallmadge, Ohio. Their coffee beans can be found in more than 300 coffee shops, bakeries, cafés and specialty food markets nationwide, though.
In Columbus, stop into either Clintonville or suburban Upper Arlington (both locations are on the trail; Upper Arlington’s location is based less than two miles from Ohio State University) for nitro coffee on tap, thai iced coffee (condensed milk, milk, cardamom syrup), cold brew cans and frozen beverages.
Located around 10 miles from the shops, Crimson’s Innovation Lab teaches coffee education classes to the public. You must visit one of their shops to get a trail stamp, but keep an eye out for their coffee truck.
Stauf’s has a total of five locations – German Village, Grandview Heights, North Market, Franklinton and Discovery District – on the trail, so you will need a good excuse for not stopping at one. They’ve been roasting small batches of coffee since 1988, which makes them the first and oldest micro roaster in Columbus.
A couple of their locations have food menus that include pastries, espresso fudge brownies, scones, pound cakes, house-made dog treats (for pooches, of course) and cheesecakes. The Grandview Heights location offers bagels, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, avocado toasts and waffles. In terms of coffee, order Stauf’s coffee in pour overs, drip coffee, specialty and seasonal drinks.
The Roosevelt Coffeehouse
Roosevelt Coffee acts as a non-profit to help organizations combat hunger, human trafficking and unclean water — Photo courtesy of Shannon Williams Photography & Design
Profits from Roosevelt – a downtown-based non-profit whose motto is “love-justice-coffee” – benefit global initiatives that support eradicating hunger and human trafficking. Roosevelt roasts their own beans and uses them in Hario V60, Black Medicine Cold Brew, a black tonic, Pineapple Cooler (pineapple juice and coffee) and Vietnamese coffee.
If you’re hungry, sample locally made bagels and donuts. You can also find their coffee inside Olentangy River Brewery and in the Franklinton neighborhood at their second location, which opened in 2019 and features creative murals.
One Line Coffee
One Line Coffee’s specialty includes slow drip iced coffee — Photo courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake
The first thing you might notice when you walk into One Line are the hourglass-esque coffee towers a.k.a. Yamas. They create a type of slow drip or Kyoto-style iced coffee. One Line roasts their own beans and serves them up in bottles of slow drip, Hario V60, French Press, Chemex, batch-brew, and espresso and tonic (surprisingly good).
They also have seasonal drinks like The Super Smash – house-made blueberry syrup smashed with lemon and shaken with earl grey and mint tea. Pair some coffee with treats from Mmelo Boutique Confections or other rotating pastries. One Line is located in the hip Short North neighborhood and also downtown, in Huntington Center Building’s lobby.
Third Way Café
Located in the Hilltop neighborhood, community center/coffee shop Third Way uses a membership platform in which guests pay a small fee for coffee from local roasters like Mission Coffee, Roaming Goat (on the trail) and Florin Coffee.
The café employs baristas through Coffee Crafters Academy, an organization that aides incarcerated people in obtaining workforce skills. A bookstore is a part of the cafe, and for every two books purchased, Third Way donates one to a prison.
Order a cold brew and check out live music, in addition to other weekly and monthly events.
Bexley Coffee Shop and Kittie’s Cakes Café
The town of Bexley is home to two coffee shops on the trail: Bexley Coffee Shop and Kittie’s Cakes Café; they’re situated less than two miles apart. At Bexley Coffee Shop, order sparkling espresso, frozen hot chocolate, frozen chai (house-made chai), smoothies, cold brew and seasonal iced drinks.
Owner Maria Schlegel sources from local micro roaster Thunderkiss. Baked goods are made in-house, such as coffee bombs (a muffin with espresso and nutmeg batter that’s rolled in cinnamon and brown sugar), quiche, blueberry coffee cake and cinnamon rolls. On Sundays, they sell various baked goods for an affordable $1.
Kittie’s connects to Gramercy Books and uses Stumptown Coffee from Portland, Oregon. Akin to Bexley Coffee, they also vend a mixture of pastries and breakfast items.
MMELO Boutique Confections
Pronounced “mellow,” the confectionery/coffee shop invented almost-too-pretty-to-eat candies like Marshmmelos – flavored, fancy marshmallows. They come in flavors like dark chocolate drizzle and rose and saffron.
Coffee-wise, MMELO is known for their charcoal honey lavender latte (don’t let the gray color scare you) and cardamom milk infusion, using coffee from local roaster Java Central Coffee Roasters. For coffee drink add-ons, they offer Marshmmelos and freeze-dried raspberries, and they make many of their syrups from scratch.
Bottoms Up Coffee
Rainy Day Coffee features a cloud of cotton candy — Photo courtesy of Bottoms Up
It’s hard to miss this Franklinton-based storefront – the Bottoms Up signage is hung upside down. The cafe is part coffee shop and part co-working space (Cova Cowork). While working or chilling out, drink a pink-hued beet latte (hot or cold), cold brew, Canary Island (coffee and condensed milk) or grasshopper latte (made with matcha and peppermint).
Or try the Rainy Day Coffee, their signature drink, in which a cloud-like puff of cotton candy is suspended over a steaming cup of coffee. The candy slowly melts and drips into the cup, hence a rainy day.
Bottoms Up offers a small food menu: baked goods, chickpea salad sliders, empanadas and breakfast foods. Like Roosevelt and Third Way, they have a charitable mission. They donate diapers to the neighborhood and so far have distributed more than 24,000 of them.