I work from home, but I use the term “home” very loosely. I actually work from my bedroom, my living room, my shed, a shared workspace, parks, and a hand full of coffee shops around the Birmingham, AL area. It just depends on how I feel on a particular day. My favorite thing to do though is spend a few hours a day at one of my favorite local coffee shops that essentially provide me an escape from the wearisome humdrum of being hidden away in a bedroom or home office.
Now consider, I am a very introverted person, meaning I can only take so much “people time.” In fact, I’m an INFJ, which makes me the strangest of creatures, so one might think being hidden away in a bedroom is heavenly, however that’s just not true. Actually, I can stay hidden away in my own mind right in the midst of other people. The truth is I love people, I love diversity, and I love getting out and just being around people of all varieties. The difference is my battery crashes really quickly when I’m around people, then recharges really slowly when I’m alone, which is why I spend so much time alone.
It is interesting though, that often when I’m working from a coffee shop I have no interaction with people. That’s the great thing about coffee shops. If you want to have interaction, you can have it to a certain degree, but if you want to wrap yourself in your introverted shell, you can certainly get into a zone and just stay in your own world. Headphones are a great indicator that I don’t want to talk to anyone. Anyway, coffee shops are the places where I’m able to get a lot of left-brained (logical) work done while at the same time switching to the right-brain (creative) when I need to. It can be a wonderful thing.
So as to not bore you with more useless info about my mundane weekday routine, on to the reason I’m writing this article. My friend and co-worker Jamie suggested I write about the coffee shops I’m always working from and I thought it was an excellent idea. So, I want to focus on the coffee shops that I frequent, not creating a comparison between the coffee shops and not ranking the coffee shops, but rather focusing on the top three things (of the five categories I’ve fabricated) that I like about each place. I like to stay positive, so any negative thoughts will just remain suppressed.
As a side note, I didn’t list “service” as a category because the service, or “all stars” as I call them, at each of these places is phenomenal! It’s been so awesome to meet new folks, see them battle through chaotic moments, see them breathe when work slows down, and enjoy laughs with them. It’s been a blessing for me.
- atmosphere – things like the mood, vibe, or even the lighting in a place
- location – things like ease of access, area of town, walkability, or nearby amenities
- victuals – essentially coffee and food
- visuals – things like aesthetics, architecture, and diversity
- workability – things like noise level, power outlets, and comfort
The Coffee Shops
So, without further ado below are my favorite coffee shops, in no particular order. Each one is unique and I enjoy being at each one for different reasons. There are other coffee shops I have worked from, but these are the ones I love the most.
- Urban Standard ( atmosphere, victuals, visuals )
- Seeds Coffee Co. ( atmosphere, location, workability )
- The Red Cat @ Pepper Place ( location, victuals, workability )
- The Red Cat @ Railroad Park ( location, victuals, visuals )
- Satellite Coffee ( atmosphere, visuals, workability )
Urban Standard 2320 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Urban Standard is simply amazing! I can never begin to express the greatness of this place. It’s a short 12 minute drive from my home into downtown Birmingham and I can always find free parking a block away. My favorite things about Urban Standard are the atmosphere, victuals, and visuals.
You can’t speak about Urban Standard without first mentioning the staff. They’re all so incredibly nice and welcoming. They are all so genuine and devoted to making everything run smoothly and making you feel welcome and comfortable. These guys and gals are just amazing! There is always good music playing, but it’s never too loud. The noise level never seems to get too high there either, which is great for those times when I’m on a work-related call. If you’re always cold like I am, just make sure you bring a light jacket or something to keep you warm because it does get a bit chilly, but I like that. It relaxes me. The lighting is always perfect too, which makes more of a difference than people realize.
Everything I’ve tried at Urban Standard is really good. I especially like the grilled cheese sandwich. Couple that with a side of ginger + soy quinoa salad and you’re set for a great little lunch! If you’re in the mood for breakfast, you must try the biscuits and redeye gravy! I’m pretty sure you’ve never had anything quite like it. The coffee is also really good. They’re very accommodating and will usually make whatever you want if you don’t see it on the menu.
I love the diverse crowd at Urban Standard. Although, I’m often heads down on my work, I love looking up and seeing a few people in line who look nothing alike, come from different places, dress differently, but are all welcome just the same. It warms my soul! The rigid interior design is very hip and nicely compliments the old brick walls. There are plenty of tables and if you don’t like sitting at tables they also have a few old auditorium style chairs as well as a couch or two. You can also sit outside and enjoy the 2nd Ave N traffic and downtown architecture.
Seeds Coffee Co. 174 Oxmoor Rd, Birmingham, AL 35209
I know I said this article wouldn’t be a comparison of sorts, but I have to be upfront about the coffee at Seeds Coffee Co. It is by the far the best coffee I have ever had anywhere! Seeds partners with coffee farmers around the world to improve their livelihood and communities. Seeds also partners with a variety of local non-profits that focus on community improvement and compassionate missions. For this, I love and respect them! My favorite things about Seeds Coffee are the atmosphere, location, and workability.
Everyone at Seeds is so welcoming and kind. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of them over the past few years and I’ve been blessed because of them. They really do have a place in my heart, so much so that it’s hard to even write this section of the article without shedding a tear. The mood at Seeds is very relaxed if not family oriented. I love being at Seeds at night time too. They are open until 10:00 pm, so it’s a great place for locals and college students alike to hang out, study, or grab a beer.
I consider Seeds my “home coffee shop” not only because I love the people so much, but because it’s literally less than a 3 minute walk from my home. In the heart of West Homewood, Seeds is located on Oxmoor Road and is very accessible. It’s close to a major park and plenty of restaurants. It’s also about 5 minutes from downtown Birmingham.
Seeds Coffee Co. is a great place to spend your day working. The seating is comfortable and there are plenty of power outlets. You can also sit outside under a covered area that also has plenty of power outlets. I worked from Seeds everyday for about 3 months when we first moved to West Homewood before we had internet connectivity. To make things even better, located adjacent to Seeds is a shared work space called The Hub. You can choose from a variety of packages starting at $100/month, one of which includes free coffee and tea.
The Red Cat @ Pepper Place 2901 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233
The Red Cat @ Pepper Place is where I go to get myself focused. This is where I usually have my “out-of-body how-did-I-get-here” moments. It’s very busy at times and very slow at other times like with any other coffee shop, but often I don’t even notice. I just feel really relaxed at The Red Cat and I get a lot of work done there. My favorite things about The Red Cat @ Pepper Place are the location, victuals, and workability.
The Red Cat @ Pepper Place is about 13 minutes from my home and is a relatively easy drive, even during heavy morning traffic going into downtown Birmingham. Pepper Place is a complex of renovated century-old brick buildings, including a former Dr. Pepper bottling plant, so it’s full of character. Included in its list of neighbors is the ever popular Hop City Beer, Cantina Tortilla Grill, and The Collective Hair Salon.
I absolutely look forward to getting my Havana Brown latte and blueberry muffin each morning that I visit The Red Cat. They have a series of signature lattes, all of which are incredible. They also have gluten free muffins, all of which are very tasty. The wraps, soups, sandwiches, and salads are all good for lunch and you can order breakfast all day. I especially love the organic grits with gouda cheese!
As I mentioned, The Red Cat is where I get into my zone. Whether I’m using my right-brain for creativity or my left-brain for more logical tasks, I’m always comfortable there. There are plenty of high tables and low tables and there are also two couches and lounge chairs, so whatever type of seating you are looking for you will find it.
The Red Cat @ Railroad Park 1701 1st Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233
Located in the heart of downtown Birmingham, this Red Cat location offers quick access to a variety of restaurants and social life, including a giant park called Railroad Park, right across the street. You’re a 2 minute walk away from Regions Field, home of the MILB AA Birmingham Barons, as well as Good People Brewing Company. You’re also almost equal distance away from quite a few restaurants as well as the downtown Publix shopping center.
As I mentioned, the menu is essentially the same as The Red Cat @ Pepper Place, so you know how I feel about the food and coffee. It’s excellent! Oh, and don’t forget the Martin Biscuit, which is a meal unto itself.
One of the reasons I love working from The Red Cat @ Railroad Park is the diversity of people that pass by, either heading to a meeting, walking their dogs, exercising, or just hanging out at the park. One morning there was even a company doing team building exercises at the park. I’ve also noticed the people in the area are fairly diverse in age as well as ethnicity. The interior design is cozy, if not rigid. There is a couch and lounge chairs, along with some seating inside and outside. All of the condos in the area offer a modern feel and the park offers a great flash of greenery. It’s beautiful!
Satellite Coffee 200 41st St S, Birmingham, AL 35222
Satellite has a very fun atmosphere. The staff is extremely welcoming and laid back and as I mentioned there are video games everywhere. They also have a large collection of board games in addition to pinball machines and arcade games. There are also TVs that will commonly show classics like the original Batman TV Series. I love the atmosphere at Satellite. It’s just a fun place!
Although it radiates a more polished aesthetic, Satellite does maintain some level of rigidity like all of my other favorite coffee shops listed in this article. The decor screams “nerd” with it’s circuit board lined walls, rocket shaped garbage cans, and rocket booster theme, making me feel at home, however the clientele is quite diverse in all facets of the word. As a programmer of 18+ years, I am a nerd, so it’s what I’m used to.
I love the setup at Satellite. There is a bar with plenty of seating and plenty of power outlets, as well as a couch and lounge chairs. There is also seating outside. Similar to The Red Cat @ Pepper Place, I always seem to get really focused and get a ton of work done here. It’s a great place!
In addition to the coffee shops I listed above, there are other great coffee shops in the Birmingham area, with a few listed below, but the ones highlighted in this article are the ones I enjoy visiting the most. The atmosphere, location, victuals, visuals, and workability all factor in differently at each place, and while this introvert generally prefers to just work from home, I love getting out, seeing people, visiting places, trying new foods and drinks, and going back home after about 4 hours.
A few other coffee shops that I enjoy visiting from time to time include:
- Octane Coffee Bar @ Homewood – 2821 Central Ave, Homewood, AL 35209
- Woodlawn Cycle Cafe – 5530 1st Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35212
- Octane Coffee Bar @ Uptown -2221 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N, Birmingham, AL 35203
- O’Henry’s Coffee @ Brookwood – 569 Brookwood Vlg #101, Birmingham, AL 35209