Cary, NC — As an occasional barista, I am quite familiar with the delight and appreciation felt for a great cup of coffee or espresso. Apart from providing just this, many Cary coffee shops also offer organic or fair trade products, homemade goods, and cozy atmospheres. Find your complete guide below.
Independent Coffee Shops
Cary is jam-packed with some of the best kinds of coffee venues–independent and family-owned endeavors. These unique cafes are spaced throughout town, making their special touches both convenient and enjoyable.
Bakery and Espresso Bar
1983 High House Road, Cary, NC 27519
Crema is not your ordinary, everyday coffee shop–all of the beans used by the store are roasted in-house using a vintage Probat made of cast iron. The premier beans are used to make coffee and espresso beverages, and they are also available for purchase.
Crema features new coffees every 3 months. The beans are meticulously selected through a special process–the staff buys small batches of beans from leading sellers and roasts, brews, and tastes each sample before selecting the most flavorsome options. Delicious beverages result from this technique, including classics (like the Cold Press or Americano) and specialties, like the Cinnamon Roll latte.
The shop also carries a wide selection of Korean-style baked goods. Among these are mocha buns, green pea buns, and sweet potato buns. All items are freshly made in the store. In case those creations don’t satisfy your sweet tooth, Crema also offers smoothies, bubble teas, and lattes in a large variety of flavors.
Crema is bright and inviting, and seating is available indoors or outdoors. Despite the store’s popularity, noise level or finding a seat or work space should not be a problem. This is definitely a great place to find high-quality coffee and unique food and beverage options.
Cafe and Gelato
302 Colonades Way, Cary, NC 27518
Fresca is unique in that guests can enjoy coffee, dessert, or meals anytime of the day. Located in the re-vamped Waverly Place shopping center, Fresca is meant to have an “Escape to Europe” feel. The store serves French-style pastries, crepes, and gelato–all handmade in the store.
The salads, soups, sandwiches, and crepes–both sweet and savory–are served all day. Fresca is a peaceful spot in which to grab a breakfast crepe and an Americano, latte, mocha or tea, and it also doubles as a romantic nighttime destination where guests can dine outside with a glass of wine or beer. Fresca is open late–until 10–making it the perfect coffee shop for a date night.
Fresca is an elegantly decorated cafe that features spacious seating both indoors and out. The space is a great place to meet a friend, and many boutiques and shops are within walking distance. Be sure to take advantage of Fresca’s earlier or later hours if you plan to work quietly while you sip coffee, as the store’s delicious lunch offerings can make for a busy cafe around noon.
Coffees, Juices, Milkshakes, and More
2425 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, NC 27518
What stands out to me the most about Java Jive? The setting. This location is probably one of the coziest coffee shops in town, as its nooks and crannies are perfect for bookworms or crossword puzzle junkies. Java Jive is family owned; in fact, all the coffee beans used in-house are selected and roasted by the owner’s brother. The company, Larry’s Beans, places a special focus on slow-roasting techniques, sustainability, partnership with farmers, and community involvement.
The delicious coffee sold at Java Jive is only a part of the picture. The store has become quite popular for its smoothies, milkshakes, sodas, and new juice bar. At Java Jive, the blender always seems to be whirring up a tasty new concoction. Of course, classic coffee and espresso drinks are always available.
Art also adds to the environment at Java Jive. Canvases by children and adults alike line the walls alongside unique murals.
Depending on the weather, customers can relax at one of the location’s many outdoor tables. The space in the coffee shop is small, so be sure to arrive ahead of time if you plan to scope out one of the indoor booths.
Belle at the Jones House
Farm-fresh Restaurant and Bakery
324 South Academy Street, Cary, NC 27511
Belle, a restaurant and bakery, is an incredibly special project taken on in Downtown Cary’s historic Jones House. Belle at the Jones House features dishes made with ingredients sourced from local farmers. At the house, guests are able to enjoy dining both in the house and on its beautiful front porch.
Every bakery item sold at Belle is homemade by the owner herself. I tried a delicious maple bacon biscuit and was also pointed in the direction of a buttermilk pie, a baked french toast, and several varieties of quiche.
To accompany these goods, guests can enjoy local coffee from Carrboro Coffee Roasters. Although coffee is served all day, Belle features special hours for certain dishes. Guests can stop by to relax in the beautifully renovated house or grab coffee on their way to work from 7 a.m.-11. At 11, lunch is served. The restaurant then closes from 2-5 so that the staff can prepare for dinner.
Dining at Belle is a great way to support Cary’s unique businesses and to embrace some of the many special touches offered in our town.
Coffee, Crepes, and More
2000 Boulderstone Way, Cary, NC 27519
Daily Grind in Cary has been open for only two months, but the clientele is already strong. I visited Daily Grind around lunchtime, and it was packed. This coffee shop, like many others that I have mentioned, offers customers a full menu of food items in addition to their coffee and espresso beverages.
Check out the Daily Grind menu, and you will see that the shop offers crepes, melts, wraps, and even salads. The owner informed me that the store’s “California Crepe” is the most popular purchase–it is filled with egg, cheese, turkey sausage, avocado, and creamy pesto sauce. In terms of drinks, the cafe also offers unique spins on classic coffee beverages. The “Funky Monkey,” a drink blended with peanut butter, dark chocolate, and banana, does, in fact, contain coffee.
Of course, Daily Grind is still a coffee shop. The store offers bold, delicious roasts in both classic blends and in a variety of flavors. The bakery items made to accompany these drinks are freshly made alongside the other food. The Daily Grind environment is fairly large, with plenty of tables available both inside and outside. This is a great place to go for lunch or coffee–or both!
Boutique and Coffee Shop
111 West Chatham Street, Cary, NC 27511
Gather is a local gem that is relatively new to Downtown Cary. The store opened a year ago as a hybrid space where individuals can take fun classes, shop for locally made treasures, and, of course, relax with a cup of coffee or tea.
Gather uses local beans from Bethesda Roasting Company of Durham and from Joe Van Gogh of Hillsborough, NC in their drinks. These beans are available for purchase along with a variety of decorative items, clothing, mugs, art, and local fare.
Customers can stop by Tuesday through Sunday to shop or enjoy a beverage and one of Gather’s locally made chocolates. A wide variety of loose leaf teas and classic coffee beverages are offered. Gather makes for a great work space, as the environment is quiet and peaceful. Although the space is small, several tables are set out for the use of guests.
A visit to Gather is a great way to support local businesses and artisans, and there are many fun events in which to participate. Some classes held by Gather include lessons in gardening, crafting, writing, and more. Be sure to stop by the last Thursday of every month for live music and a Poet’s Cafe session.
National Brand Coffee Shops
Despite the plethora of unique and independent coffee shops in our town, the convenience and familiarity of these coffee houses are often sought after.
109 SW Maynard Road, Cary, NC 27511
North Carolina is one of only a few states to have Caribou Coffee stores. In this case, geography is in our favor. Caribou is not just delicious; additionally, all their espresso and coffee beans are also 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified.
This certification ensures that coffee farmers and their families earn respectable wages, access to healthcare, and good working conditions. The title is pretty impressive, especially since Caribou Coffee is reasonably priced and available for purchase in many grocery stores.
Caribou offers drinks to satisfy any craving–they serve both classic drinks and sweet, specialty concoctions. The Campfire Mocha, for example, is an espresso beverage that combines marshmallow syrup, chocolate, and steamed milk. Each time guests order a chocolate-based beverage they get their choice of dark, white, or milk chocolate.The store also offers a variety of bakery items, pre-made sandwiches, and delicious teas and tea lattes.
The Caribou on Maynard offers a delightfully cozy atmosphere for working, reading, or meeting a friend. Just be sure to visit during a slower time if you want a seat–the store is popular and fills up quickly.
Multiple locations in Cary
Type “Starbucks” into your phone’s GPS, and you will find at least six Cary locations. Based in Seattle, Washington, this grandfather of coffee chains provides customers with quick and convenient access to quality coffee.
Starbucks serves a variety of coffee and espresso beverages, but it is their specialty drinks that make them stand out. In fact, Starbucks just released one of their most popular seasonal trends into stores–pumpkin. I have to admit that the pumpkin spice latte is something I look forward to every year.
Starbucks also offers a large selection of baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, teas, and tea lattes. My personal favorite is the blended green tea latte–it’s the perfect treat on a hot day. Although each Starbucks has an identical menu to its siblings, seating and atmosphere vary upon location. For example, the location at the Arboretum on the corner of Harrison and Cary Parkway has limited indoor seating but ample outdoor seating. In contrast, the Starbucks on Kildaire Farm Road features spacious indoor seating with several couches and chairs.
Other Notable Spots
Once in a Blue Moon
Bakery and Cafe
115-G West Chatham Street, Cary, NC 27511
Located in the heart of Ashworth Village, Once in a Blue Moon has much to offer. The store has been a locally owned bakery for over 20 years, and they serve a large number of customers each day through their lunch service and local coffee offerings. Blue Moon is also known for their baked goods–customers can place orders for customized cakes made and decorated in-house, or they can simply stop by for one tasty item.
Since Once in a Blue Moon is primarily a bakery, the environment mimics a restaurant more than it does a coffee shop–keep that in mind when selecting a space in which to work or read while sipping coffee.
Gloria Jeans (at Cary Towne Center)
1105 Walnut Street, Cary, NC 27511
The Gloria Jeans at Cary Towne is a great place to grab a pick-me-up while shopping, and it is also a great spot to people watch. The coffee shop is near the food court, and I enjoy sitting at the tables right outside Gloria Jeans to enjoy a blended coffee drink and watch shoppers pass by. Do keep in mind that this location doesn’t feature space to set up a work space or relax for hours, since it is in a mall.
Coffee and Crepes
315 Crossroads Boulevard, Cary, NC, 27518
This is yet another spot where you can find delicious food and coffee. Located in Crossroads Plaza, Coffee and Crepes is a great place to grab lunch while you are out shopping. The store features a selection of homemade crepes–sweet, savory, light, or indulgent varieties are all offered. Like Java Jive, this location uses Larry’s Beans in their coffee beverages to create local and delightful drinks that cover a wide spectrum of preferences.
2234 Walnut Street or 1065 Darrington Drive, Cary, NC
(919) 233-2221 or (919) 469-6696
Panera brews fresh coffee throughout the day for customers–light roast, dark roast, decaf, and hazelnut blends are always available. Panera is a great place to settle into a cozy corner with a bagel and cream cheese, bakery item, and coffee. They also feature a full lunch menu that contains a large variety of sandwiches, salads, and soups.
Cafe Carolina & Bakery
137 Weston Parkway, Cary, NC 27513
Stop by Cafe Carolina to try their classic Carolina Blue cupcake or another one of their baked goods. My personal favorite? The blueberry crunch bagel. Like Panera, the Cafe also offers a full lunch menu and breakfast or brunch plates. The store features many cozy booths and a small selection of coffee offerings.
Story by Jessica Patrick. Lead photo by Giulia Mulè. Additional photos by Jessica Patrick.