Coffee shops are great places to socialize, study, and try new foods and brews. They transform a person's daily coffee experience into something more worthwhile. The question is: which Manhattan coffee shop is the best?
There's no solid answer to that question. But, to help you make your decision, I decided to visit every coffee shop in Manhattan. While I'm no coffee expert, I noted the atmosphere, proximity to the K-State campus, coffee, food options, and my overall experience at each business.
Ready to find your new favorite coffeehouse? Here's the Wildcat's Guide to Coffee in Manhattan, Kansas!
Atmosphere: The Starbucks on Bluemont is a great place to hang out or study. With lower traffic in the afternoon, Starbucks has a quieter, more mellow atmosphere.
Campus Closeness: With the closest storefront located in Aggieville, Starbucks is pretty close to campus. It's a great way to get off campus and treat yourself without having to catch a ride.
The Joe: I sort of cheated on this one. I wanted to taste-test every business's plain, hot coffee with a touch of whole milk. But my last Starbucks run happened on a 90 degree day, so I sipped on some unsweetened iced coffee.
Starbucks brews a lighter-bodied coffee that's perfect for building flavors in their more complex drinks. On its own, the coffee was a little bitter for my taste.
The Eats: Starbucks offers a wide range of snack options. They make everything from cake pops to breakfast sandwiches, and they also sell some bottled drinks and chips.
Overall: The Starbucks on Bluemont Avenue has everything attractive about a coffee shop, including the trendy pumpkin spice latte.
Radina's Coffeehouse & Roastery
Atmosphere: During weekday mornings at the Staley School of Leadership Studies, the Radina's storefront inside the building caters to caffeine-craving students. With ample space and large windows, Radina's has a sunny, study-friendly atmosphere in the morning. The vibe tends to be more social during the afternoons.
Campus Closeness: With a storefront literally in the middle of campus at the Leadership Studies Building and other campus locations in Fiedler Hall and the Union, Radina's wins the prize for campus proximity. Another one is located in Aggieville, as well as in off Claflin, so students can easily get their coffee fix on the weekends (the LSB storefront is closed Saturday and Sunday).
The Joe: For this guide I sampled the French roast, which is the darkest coffee Radina's offers. It's a heavier-bodied coffee that tastes rich and slightly nutty.
The Eats: All five storefronts in Manhattan serve fresh pastries, smoothies, and grilled sandwiches at lunchtime. My personal go-to snack at Radina's is a peach square, simply sweet and flaky.
Overall: Radina's at the Leadership Studies Building makes a great central spot to meet up with people across campus. It's the place I visit most often because of the convenience and their satisfying cups of coffee.
Cornerstone Coffee & Bakery
Atmosphere: As part of the recently built Wefald Hall, this coffee joint is brand new. With a refined, large space, Cornerstone is very elegant. However, the coffee shop is structurally open to the Kramer Dining Center one floor below, so it tends to be a little noisier during mealtimes.
Campus Closeness: Cornerstone is another commuter-friendly place to get coffee. The on-campus location is found in Wefald, so Kramer complex residents can stop in easily before heading to class. The other branch is not too far from campus, located in the Jardine Plaza.
The Joe: Cornerstone serves coffee roasted by The Roasterie in Kansas City, MO. Their decaf brew is a medium-dark roast that has a hint of earthiness and left almost no aftertaste.
The Eats: The Wefald location has many food choices, including an array of quick lunch options, smoothies, and infamous Call Hall ice cream.
Overall: Cornerstone Coffee at Wefald Hall makes a great place to chill out and study on campus—and get your caffeine fix while you're at it.
Sparrow Specialty Coffee
Atmosphere: The Sparrow Specialty Coffee storefront is cute, small and cozy. It definitely proves its namesake as a slow bar with a mellow crowd and artisan coffee. The staff member I spoke with was very helpful and explained Sparrow's coffee selection and brewing method well.
Campus Closeness: This coffee shop is the farthest away from campus, found at South 4th St. and Pierre. However, it only took me less than ten minutes to drive there from where I live, and it's definitely worth the journey.
The Joe: At Sparrow, coffee is brewed using the pourover method. I had never tried pourover coffee until I visited Sparrow, where I sampled their Brazil roast. That brewing method definitely brought out the smooth, lightly smoky flavor in my cup of coffee.
The Eats: Like many of the other coffee shops in Manhattan, Sparrow offers a few different breakfast and lunch options, including muffins, fresh fruit, and sandwiches.
Arrow Coffee Company
Atmosphere: The ambiance at Arrow Coffee Co. is more upscale and modern. With big windows and an outdoor patio, it's the place to be in good weather.
Campus Closeness: Arrow is located in Wildcat Landing, just across Claflin Road and north of the Kramer complex. It's easy to reach from the rest of campus; it took me about ten minutes to walk there from the Derby complex.
The Joe: This shop sports lots of different brewing methods, but I decided to try their drip coffee. Full-bodied and heavy, my cup of Arrow coffee had a deeper acidic note that reminded me of kombucha.
The Eats: Arrow serves lots of culinary creations, including sandwiches, chips and salsa, and muffins. On the weekend, they serve specialty brunch complete with mimosas and other cocktails.
Overall: The relaxed environment makes a great place to chill out with friends or do some homework. Arrow also rewards loyalty and gives new customers their first drink free, so I felt appreciated and welcome on my first visit.
Atmosphere: If you were to combine a quiet diner and a traditional coffeehouse together, you'd get Bluestem Bistro. The unique atmosphere is complete with bright paint and a private outdoor patio.
The Joe: Even though coffee is not the bistro's main focus, they offer lots of espresso and latte options. My cup of black coffee was dark and mild, a soothing taste that anyone can enjoy.
The Eats: Bluestem prides itself in making all of their baked goods from scratch. Scones, fluffy cinnamon rolls, and savory quiche make great brunch options any day of the week, and the lunch menu includes sandwiches, personal pizzas, and salads.
Overall: This bistro may not be the place to get your everyday, before-class caffeine punch, but Bluestem's lattes and sweet treats are certainly worth trying. It is a prime spot to enjoy lunch with friends or treat yourself with some coffee liqueur.