APPLETON – If you’re looking for a quiet place to read a book while drinking expresso, or for the best vegan sandwich option while you people watch, there’s likely a coffee shop in downtown Appleton that has the vibe you’re going for.
According to the Appleton Downtown Inc.’s website, there are seven local cafes or coffee shops within a two-mile radius in downtown.
So, where to start? The Appleton Post-Crescent has compiled a guide to help. We interviewed the owner or manager of each business and asked about its aesthetic, its most popular or interesting food and beverage options and, most importantly, what makes each cafe unique.
Please note that there are a lot of coffee options downtown. We’ve chosen to highlight only local businesses whose main focus is serving coffee. Large corporations and businesses who serve coffee in addition to another more prominent service have been excluded from this list.
ACOCA Coffee and Cafe
WHAT TO EXPECT: ACOCA Coffee and Cafe has an open and spacious interior with red, green and cream walls. Owner Bill Wetzel said the space is set up to seat 60 people when there is a capacity of nearly 100, giving customers room to relax. To add to that environment, the building is divided into two sections: The front, where customers can order, has plenty of seating for that hustle-and-bustle feeling, while the back houses the coffee roaster (trained staff members roast all ACOCA’s coffee onsite) and some couches and seating for a calmer environment for studying, reading or quietly chatting. The business also offers boxes of toys, board games and coloring books designed to keep kids entertained.
“We wanted to have a space that kind of gave people their place and what they wanted to do at that moment.,” Wetzel said. “We want to try and be where our customers are at, any moment of any time.”
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The ACOCA drink menu includes brewed coffee, espresso drinks, blended drinks, and non-coffee drinks including chai tea lattes, hot chocolate and Italian soda, while the food menu includes starters (like French fries), breakfast options, sandwiches and salads. Wetzel said the most popular items are the nitro cold brew and lattes, and customers love the bagel sandwich.
WHAT MAKES ACOCA SPECIAL: “I think it’s our very, very welcoming and positive team. Our people make people feel good and accepted and comfortable,” Wetzel said. “Anytime you start an experience off with a warm smile, and a nice comment, then everything else will fall into place.”
ADDRESS: 500 W. College Ave., Appleton
HOURS: ACOCA is open from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday thru Saturday. The cafe is closed on Tuesday.
CONTACT: www.acocacoffee.com or 920-993-1458
All Tied Up Floral Cafe
WHAT TO EXPECT: All Tied Up Floral Cafe is a blend of businesses with the focus on coffee and food, but a full-service florist has also been incorporated, hence the name. All Tied Up also sells home goods and gift items like bath and body products. The building has a modern look with dark walls, wood tables and lots of greenery. Owner Aaron Phillipson said customers often say the space has a “bigger city vibe.” All Tied Up is in a new construction building — the street level of the 320 East apartment building. Additionally, because the building is so close to Lawrence University, Phillipson said many of his customers are students and is often “incredibly busy.” Recently, Phillipson added a reservation-only evening dining experience for customers to come in and enjoy beer or wine, appetizers, flatbreads and charcuterie boards.
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The All Tied Up drink menu includes hot drinks ranging from lattes to hot chocolate, cold drinks including smoothies, blended drinks, cold brew and seasonal beverages. The food menu includes baked goods, made from scratch daily, as well as paninis, breakfast sandwiches, salads, soups and macaroni and cheese. Phillipson said the most popular menu items are the cookies and the bourbon vanilla brulee latte.
WHAT MAKES ALL TIED UP SPECIAL: “We have a pretty chill environment,” Phillipson said. “It’s definitely a lot more modern and updated, because we’re in a brand new building. You know, everything was built exactly how we wanted it.”
ADDRESS: 324 E. College Ave., Appleton
HOURS: All Tied Up is open Monday thru Saturday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. and is closed on Sunday.
CONTACT: alltiedupfloralcafe.com or 920-257-4067
WHAT TO EXPECT: Brewed Awakenings was remodeled during the pandemic to create a calmer environment. Owner Nora Asplund said the building used to feature bright orange walls. Now, it is painted in calm neutral colors and booths have been added as a seating option. There is also a dog-friendly patio with seating on the back of the building. She added that the shop gets a lot families with children, students who are there to study and professionals host small meetings. Asplund said the business tends to be busier in the morning.
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The Brewed Awakenings drink menu includes tea, smoothies, non-coffee options like lemonade and hot chocolate, fresh brew, frappes and expresso drinks. The food menu includes bowls, salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers, baked goods and breakfast items. Seasonal lattes and floral drinks, like the lavender latte, are popular, Asplund said. Customers also gravitate to the business’s vegan options, breakfast sandwiches and curry bowls.
WHAT MAKES BREWED AWAKENINGS SPECIAL: “Probably our biggest comment from customers is how we feel like a family to them,” Asplund said. “A lot of our customers are regulars. Even if you’re new to the area, we want you to feel welcome and like it’s just a big family.” She added that customers have compared the cafe to the 1980s sitcom “Cheers.”
ADDRESS: 107 E. College Ave., Appleton
HOURS: Brewed Awakenings is open from Monday thru Friday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
CONTACT: Brewed Awakenings Facebook page or 920-882-9336
Copper Rock Coffee Company
WHAT TO EXPECT: Copper Rock Coffee Company has maintained its red and cream walls, exposed brick and copper-topped tables for the 20 years it has been in business. While the space has had renovations and updates, like the addition of a side gallery-room, the goal is to keep the space familiar when customers return. Graper said the cafe has two distinct atmospheres. The main cafe is often buzzing with chatter as customers order and gather for meetings. The attached gallery space is typically quieter, with larger tables spread out for studying and small meetings. Graper said the room is also rented for parties or larger gatherings and is sometimes used for live music.
“(Copper Rock is) meant to be like a time capsule where you can come back in here and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is this is where I sat for this meeting,’ or ‘I met this person here,'” Graper said.
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The Copper Rock drink menu includes blended ice frappes, signature drinks like an ivory mocha and caramel creme latte as well as gourmet hot chocolate, lemonade and fruit smoothies. Its food menu includes baked goods, sandwiches, breakfast, salads and soups. Graper said popular items include the caramel rockiato (a play on macchiato) and the southwest chipotle turkey egg sandwich.
WHAT MAKES COPPER ROCK SPECIAL: “We’ve been around for over 20 years, we kind of have like a legacy name, or a lot of people know what Copper Rock is,” Graper said. “I think we’re known for our size, just because of the seating capacity, and the customer service side of things. We try to get to know all of our customers. We strive to know them by their name, but we for sure know them by their drink.”
ADDRESS: 210 W. College Ave., Appleton
HOURS: Copper Rock is open Monday thru Friday from 6:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., on Saturday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.
CONTACT: copperrockcoffee.com or 920-882-9462
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Lawlss Coffee building used to house Lou’s Brew, which closed in October 2021, but Stephan Witchell, Lawlss’s owner, completely transformed the space after taking over. The building used to have a dark, industrial aesthetic, but is now much lighter. Witchell said his goal was to make the space feel bright and clean. He incorporated pops of color with the furniture in the space, like the bright green chairs used on the main floor. Witchell said there are three main spaces within the cafe for customers to gather: the main floor, which seats about 20 people at small tables arranged around the space; a mezzanine that overlooks the main floor and seats 20 people; and third floor that seats about 12 people. He said the seating at Lawlss fills up fast, often with students and local professionals, but the cafe is connected to the Commodore Club, a cocktail bar, and customers are able to use its seating during the day.
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The Lawlss drink menu includes signature drinks like a smoked mocha, seasonal beverages, not-coffee drinks including a chai latte, and smoothies and a “usual” a section for espresso, cold brew and other typical coffee options. The food menu has lunch and breakfast options including salads, sandwiches, avocado toast and breakfast bowls. Witchell said popular items include their featured seasonal drinks and the biscuit sandwich.
WHAT MAKES LAWLSS SPECIAL: “We really do want to connect with our community, and we want to do that through making beverage and food as best as we can,” Witchell said. “Not just as best as we can, but with intention to make a connection with our customers over that food, over that beverage.”
ADDRESS: 233 E. College Ave., Appleton
HOURS: Lawlss is open Monday thru Sunday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.
CONTACT: lawlsscoffee.com or 920-939-2200
Seth’s Coffee Drive-Thru
WHAT TO EXPECT: Seth’s Coffee is a drive-thru and walk-up only coffee house downtown. The business is in a former bank drive-thru building and is meant to allow customers a fast way to grab coffee and pastries before work or school. Owner Seth Lenz said the business gets a lot of families. He said customers often get their drinks and sit on the curb, or a bench near the business in warm weather, but he is unable to add seating because the building does not have a customer-accessible bathroom.
“So there’s a bench that somebody just like brought there one day and left it so people can sit on it,” Lenz said. “I just can’t say that’s my bench.”
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The drink menu includes espresso, espresso-based drinks like lattes, hot chocolate and smoothies as well as pour-over coffee, nitro cold brew or frappes. Seth’s Coffee Drive-Thru also serves fresh-daily bakery items. Lenz said its most popular items are the traditional cappuccino and scones.
WHAT MAKES SETH’S COFFEE SPECIAL: “One of our top priorities as a business is to be an approachable establishment,” Lenz said. “I have a lot of very geeky coffee geeks working for me that are obsessed with the craft, but anybody who wants even a hot chocolate, or a steamer or a super froofy, sweet espresso drink can come in and my staff are just really approachable, kind humble people.”
ADDRESS: 323 E. Washington St., Appleton
HOURS: Seth’s is open Monday thru Friday from 6:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.
CONTACT: sethscoffee.com or 920-221 3310
Tempest Coffee Collective
WHAT TO EXPECT: Tempest Coffee Collective is designed to feel relaxing, despite being named after a storm. The building is painted neutral colors and the floors, exposed concrete, add to the light feel of the space. Owner Tyler Lonadier said despite the calming decor, the inside often feels fast-paced and bustling. He said the inside of the shop has limited seating to make it easier for customers to move throughout the space. However, Lonadier takes advantage of the river and walking trails nearby with an outdoor patio.
POPULAR DRINKS AND MENU ITEMS: The Tempest drink menu includes seasonal beverages, signature drinks like its lava salt latte, tea, classic drinks including a latte or espresso, smoothies and Italian soda. The Tempest food menu includes breakfast staples like waffles, avocado toast and a breakfast burrito, sandwiches and salads. Lonadier said popular menu items include the lava salt latte and avocado toast.
WHAT MAKES TEMPEST COFFEE SPECIAL: “One thing that probably makes us special is our staff; I was really young when the shop started and we’ve maintained a young staff,” Lonadier said. “I always wanted (Tempest) to be really fun and as laid back (an) atmosphere as possible, and I think that gives our cafe a lot of personality.”
ADDRESS: 181 S. Riverheath Way, Suite 1100, Appleton
HOURS: Tempest is open 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday thru Sunday.
CONTACT: tempestcoffeecollective.com or 920-939-2153
Alexandria Bursiek Kloehn is a business reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent. You can reach her at email@example.com or view her Twitter profile at @bursiekkloehn.