Ah, coffee. The tastiest of terrible lifestyle choices. This cherished beverage is an integral part of the UNC Charlotte diet — not only because Monday/Wednesday/Friday 8 a.m. classes are a thing now, but because our campus is situated near some of the best coffee shops in the state. Here’s a quick overview of the best cafés (and drinks) to try this semester.
Amélie’s: If you’ve spent five minutes in Charlotte, you’ve already heard about it. This rabbit hole of a café is a favorite of UNC Charlotte students: partly for its relatively inexpensive snacks, partly for its whimsical decor, and most of all, for its 24/7 schedule (only the NoDa location). Though you might have a paper due in thirty minutes, time seems to stop when you’re inside Amélie’s. Last June, the Charlotte Observer reported that the original Amélie’s location would move due to legal disputes with the building’s landlords. Official moving dates have not been revealed yet, but if you’re eager to get the full Charlotte experience, I’d suggest going to the OG Amélie’s before it’s too late. While you’re there, try the salted caramel brownie café mocha. It’s all the flavor of the café’s specialty dessert with enough caffeine to get you through that research paper.
Trade and Lore: Climb the steep set of stairs on the quiet side of North Davidson Street and enter a caffeinated hipster paradise. In addition to a state-of-the-art coffee bar, this shop offers long wooden tables, low cushioned window seats and a beautiful gallery featuring local art. Though it can be busy on weekend afternoons, the ambience is perfect for doing homework, reading the newspaper or just soaking in some good vibes. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the pistachio and rose water latte with oat milk.
Smelly Cat Coffee: If “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” sought out hot beverages instead of the greasiest, cheesiest foods in America, this would be its first stop. Like other Charlotte-based Guy Fieri-approved spots, Smelly Cat is all about taste, craftsmanship, and reggae music. Its reusable straws, variety of nut milks and particularly Instagrammable mural make it a quintessential NoDa hangout spot. I recommend the dirty chai latte. And like all good drinks, get it with crushed ice.
Central Coffee Company: Located next to White Rabbit, the oldest queer bookstore in the Carolinas, Central Coffee Company is a tranquil shop with subtle flavors. It’s the perfect place to sit down and read the newest issue of QNotes. Parking is nearly impossible, but the Central shorty special makes the journey on foot worthwhile. If the zucchini bread is in stock, grab a slice of that, too.
Coco and the Director: Love NoDa, but hate the parking? This sunny parlor off Trade Street is only two blocks from the Charlotte Transportation Center. Its particularly interesting seating arrangements (a couple tables, a couple chairs and then an amphitheatre-style set of risers strewn with cushions and pillows) keep it cozy, but not crowded. This drink is so twee it’d make Wes Anderson’s teeth hurt, but the mocha with hazelnut syrup and coconut milk is to die for. Lounge around on some pillows in your multilevel coffee kingdom. You won’t regret it.