All summer long, Megan Bannister has been touring cafes and coffee shops around the Des Moines-area seeking the best places for for entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives, and remote workers to get things done. This is our list of the very best. We call it: Coffee Shop Coworking
There’s a lot to love about working from a coffee shop. From cozy corners and steaming handmade mugs to local art on the walls and neighborhood connections, you won’t be hard pressed to find a Des Moines cafe where it’s unpleasant to get at least some aspect of your work done.
But when it comes to coffee shop coworking, we also recognize that your local favorite isn’t always an option. Sometimes you’re across town and in need of some free wifi, or you’re working during the late hours or weekend days your go-to joint is always closed. When that happens we fully understand that you need to take all of the caffeine and free wifi you can get, and head to a coffee shop chain.
While there are pros and cons to each major chain we see in the metro, their common appeal remains the same—predictable hours, consistent offerings, and a general acceptance of patrons who camp out all day long.
When it comes to finding coffee in West Des Moines, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someplace that’s not a chain. So when it comes to setting up shop in a cafe to do a little coworking, you may not be overwhelmed with options.
Enter Mahalo’s Coffee & Mini Donuts. Located in a strip mall off Mills Civic Parkway and buffered by a Quizno’s and a day spa, the small shop may not immediately be a place you would think of to get work done. But Mahalo’s free wifi, comfortable environment, and (let’s be honest) easy access to mini donuts makes it a great place to pop in for some powdered sugar coated productivity.
When it comes to remote working, sometimes it’s important to step outside your normal routine and go in search of a different environment. In Des Moines, that can mean crossing neighborhood boundaries or taking a new interstate exit to visit a different suburban coffee shop.
While the west side neighborhood of Windsor Heights is notorious for its speed traps and home to Senator Chuck Grassley’s favorite Dairy Queen, it’s also a wonderful place to get things done. Nestled between restaurants and residential spaces, the neighborhood branch of the local chain Grounds for Celebration offers a welcoming atmosphere and a great setup to ensure productivity.
When it comes to finding a good place to work remotely, quiet public environments can be few and far between. Despite it’s “punny” name, Cafe Diem is a coffee shop sure to make you seize the day and get things done.
If you’re working from home, around your kids’ schedules or just want to get outside of downtown a bit, Cafe Diem brings a bit of suburban love to our coffee shop coworking series. Located in an Ankeny strip mall alongside a pet store and the deep dish pizza fan favorite Wig and Pen, Cafe Diem is an unassuming locale that dares to surprise you with its plentiful work stations and relaxed environment.
Nestled in the heart of Des Moines’ Sherman Hill neighborhood, Smokey Row is a cozy coffee shop known for its retro diner style and constant stream of customers. The triangle-shaped brick building welcomes coffee-drinkers of all types in droves through its doors for meetings, late night study sessions, or simply a much-needed burst of caffeine. Located just over the interstate from Drake University, this local favorite pulls large crowds of students (both high school and college) and entrepreneurs alike.
With locations in Pella, Pleasantville, and Oskaloosa, Smokey Row has become a central Iowa mainstay for good coffee, friendly service, and an inviting (albeit noisy) atmosphere to get things done.
If you’re in downtown’s Western Gateway and aren’t a habitual Starbucks sipper, Ritual Cafe is a wonderful, local alternative. Located just east of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the cozy coffee shop focuses on all things vegan, vegetarian, and organic in a bright, inviting atmosphere.
If you’re looking to grab coffee at a non-chain shop on Ingersoll, there’s no better place than Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure. Located just far enough from downtown to offer free and plentiful parking, but close enough that you could easily walk or bike, Zanzibar’s is a homey haven from whatever craziness the week may have thrown at you.
Located in one of the neighborhood’s newer buildings, Scenic Route shares the block with two clothing stores (Locally Grown Clothing and Matilda Muse), and a stationary shop (Pink Print Company) with residential space upstairs. With dozens of shops and other restaurants mere blocks away, the coffee shop is almost always bustling with Capitol staffers on their lunch break, friends grabbing a coffee between errands, or students typing away on their laptops. When it comes to East Village essentials, you won’t find a better place than Scenic Route to host a meeting or put the finishing touches on a presentation.
Mars Cafe — Located in the heart of the Drake neighborhood, Mars Cafe has long been a mainstay of students and the city’s creative community alike. A gathering place for student groups, host of art show openings, and even venue for musical performances, Mars Cafe is a hub for all sorts of community activities, which means you’ll be hard pressed to visit during a time when the coffee shop isn’t a bustling flurry of activity, or when you don’t run into someone who you know.