Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

You know you’re a real grad student when all the baristas at Pinewood know your name, your subject area, what chapter your currently working on, and you don’t even have to ask them to refill your bottomless single-origin coffee. Like, if you’re not working on your dissertation in a coffee shop at least one day a week, are you even going to grad school?

We jest, but only slightly.

Okay, so there are a LOT of coffee shops in Waco, and we would never presume to tell you which one is the best, so we’re going to go through the pros and cons of all the coffee shops in Waco. And if we forgot one, let us know, so we can add it to the list. But coffee shops are a grad student vibe, and you need to find which vibe works for you. So here we go, in no particular order.

  • Pinewood Coffee Bar: 2223B Austin Ave
    • Pros: The aesthetic at Pinewood can’t be beat. From the gorgeous wood tones everywhere, to the vinyl playing on the turntable in the background, you can’t surpass the looks of this place. The coffee itself is good too, if you like lighter roasts. The baristas are amiable, there’s a good rewards program, and if you stay too late in the day, you can amble across the courtyard to their pub side and have a beer to wrap up your day of writing.
    • Cons: It can get busy here. Pinewood is popular, which means finding a seat can be a challenge if you aren’t an early riser. So keep that in mind. Also, parking had recently gotten more challenging, as the owner of the vacant lot next door has decided to make life difficult for the coffee shop and no longer allows parking. So you’ll need to park along the street, which isn’t the worst, but we think you should know! Also, if you like darker, roastier coffees, you may not love the taste of Pinewood; their style is third-wave, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea… or coffee.
  • One Day Bar: 618 Columbus Ave, Suite B
    • Pros: The patio area at One Day is the best. On a nice day, there are few things better than sitting outside working on an article while the warm Texas wind plays with your hair. The patio is large, making it an ideal spot for a writing group to work as well. Inside, the vibe is moody and eclectic, with a vintage twist. One Day uses Native Sons coffee, so the coffee is similar to what you’ll experience at Common Grounds. Again, like Pinewood, if day turns into night, you can transition from coffee or tea to their phenomenal cocktails. Finally, the Yaki food truck is parked outside, so if you get the noms, One Day’s got your back.
    • Cons: The outlet situation at One Day is sad. There are very few accessible outlets inside, so plan on bringing your laptop fully charged, or bring a backup battery. The inside area is also a bit dark and the tables are small, so a project that requires the ol’ academic sprawl will not work well at One Day.
  • Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits: 508 Austin Ave
    • Pros: If you want to get out of the Baylor Bubble, but don’t want to be too far outside the bubble, Dichotomy is centrally located downtown on Austin Avenue. They have a nice, quiet rooftop patio with a great view, or there’s plenty of indoor seating beyond the bar. The vintage feel and exposed brick is clean and cozy. Dichotomy has some staple drinks as well as a rotating seasonal menu. And since we seem to have a running theme so far, you can stick around and enjoy their prohibition era-inspired cocktail menu after the work day is done.
    • Cons: You are welcome to fight us on this, but the actual coffee served here is just okay. There are better roasts in town. Dichotomy is more about wowing you with the cocktails than with the coffee, in our opinion. Inside can be a bit dim as well, so if you like a bright work environment, Dichotomy might not be for you. *** Since this post was originally published, we have received feedback from a member of our readership that this criticism is unfair. See our interview with Ryan Ramsey here to hear his defense of Dichotomy.
  • Common Grounds Waco: 1123 S 8th St
    • Pros: It’s super close to campus. If you only have an hour and need to get some work done, accompanied by a caffeine hit, Common Grounds Waco is your spot. Housed in a former craftsman bungalow, the feel is homey, with lots of reclaimed wood and upcycled antique furniture. And if you aren’t a black coffee person, you may just fall in love with the Cowboy Coffee. Common Grounds literally has the secret sauce.
    • Cons: UNDERGRADS. Millions of them. You may not want to write your papers surrounded by 18-22 year olds who will mostly talk about Sing, rushing Pi Phi, and their amaaaaaaazing summer as a camp counsellor at Pine Cove. Just a guess.
  • Common Grounds Woodway: 7608 Woodway Dr
    • Pros: No (or at least way fewer) undergrads! Common Grounds Woodway was blessedly constructed to offer a Common Grounds to actual Waco residents. You can enjoy your coffee without overhearing dorm drama stories. Common Grounds Woodway also shares space with Slow Rise Slice House, which serves up delicious pizza, so that’s a HUGE pro. The environment is chic and calm, with just enough buzz to keep you focused, but not so much noise that you can’t drown it out.
    • Cons: It’s more of a drive. For some, getting away from town is a pro, but if transportation or easy access matters to you, CG Woodway won’t be your best option. Additionally, since people come in for meals at the Slow Rise, it can get very busy and noisy around lunch and dinner time, so focus and even finding a seat can be tricky. Also, don’t order the pour-overs; no good.
  • Lalo’s Coffee and Pastries: 1500 Colcord Ave
    • Pros: Do you get tired of the same ol’, same ol’ with coffee? You should try Lalo’s. Serving up traditional Mexican coffee specialties like Café De Olla and Atole, you’re sure to find something delicious and unexpected. You can also get scrummy Mexican pastries for really cheap. Tucked away in North Waco (which, directionally, is West Waco, but don’t get us started on the nonsense that is Waco neighborhood labelling), Lalo’s offers a quiet place to study, surrounded by paintings of Frida Kahlo and churros.
    • Cons: Lalo’s is small, so there’s not tons of parking or seats, but it usually isn’t super crowded so this isn’t a major issue. Another con might be if you aren’t super adventuresome with your coffee, this also might not be the place for you. Honestly, we can’t think of too many cons!
  • Bitty & Beau’s: 110 Franklin Ave
    • Pros: Bitty and Beau’s is a perfect space for writing groups to meet, as they have a conference room you can reserve for groups. Bitty and Beau’s offers employment opportunities to differently-abled individuals, which is a mission we think is wonderful to support. The employees are sure to make you smile. They have classic coffees, teas, smoothies, and some pastries, so you can hunker down for a long morning of writing here. There’s plenty of seating, so pull up a chair!
    • Cons: Bitty and Beau’s has quickly become a popular watering hole since opening at the end of 2021, so come early if you want a seat! If noise is an issue for you, either reserve the conference room, or avoid the hours between 10am and noon.
  • Nightlight Donuts and Coffee: 6500 Woodway Dr
    • Pros: CROISSANT DONUTS. We think that’s all the pro you need. Offering up the best donuts in town, Nightlight will meet all your study snack needs. They also serve Intelligentsia Coffee, one of the largest and best third-wave coffee roasters in the nation, so you’re sure to get an excellent cup of coffee. Nightlight’s seating area is open, clean, and well-lit; it’s usually not too busy inside, making it a perfect place to plow through items on your to-do list.
    • Cons: It’s a bit of a drive from Baylor, and the plaza it’s located in can be a bit annoying to navigate. Nightlight has massive windows, so even with the shades pulled, it can get very bright and toasty inside by the afternoon. Also, if you’re on any kind of diet, stay away; you will break all your rules here. No one can resist those flaky, buttery donuts.
  • Lighthouse Coffee and Wine: 624 Washington Ave
    • Pros: As far as quality of coffee goes, Lighthouse is actually the best in town. Serving up Olympia Coffee, the baristas here really know what they’re doing and use top-shelf ingredients. So if you’re a coffee snob (we all either know one or are one), Lighthouse is for you. At the same time, they are unwilling to alienate those who like a sweeter pick-me-up beverage, so don’t fear if you are a Frappuccino sort. Lighthouse’s lavender latte is a winner too.
    • Cons: Lighthouse has become a popular undergrad spot and there’s not tons of seating (at least on a chilly or hot day when the patio becomes no longer an option). Get there early and hunker down or you may just miss your opportunity.
  • Cafe Cappuccino: 100 N 6th St #101
    • Pros: Cafe Capp is a Waco staple, not only serving up coffee, but a whole brunch menu as well. Conveniently located downtown and throwing out its glam diner vibes, Cafe Cappuccino is a great location to spend your day writing.
    • Cons: It is primarily a breakfast and lunch place, so you may not want to write your thesis chapter to the delicious smells of Belgian waffles and omelets or the distracting noises of chewing and brunch catch-ups.
  • Magnolia Press Coffee Co.: 418 S 8th St
    • Pros: You can tell your Fixer Upper-obsessed aunt that you wrote your dissertation in Joanna Gaines’s coffee shop. That alone is worth its weight in gold. Magnolia Press has impeccable aesthetics. Cognac leather couch? Check. Brass fixtures? Check. Art Deco marble tiling? Check. If you want a classy place to work, you just found your home away from home.
    • Cons: The coffee here is terrible. There’s that. No amount of steamed oat milk can cover up beans this bad. Also, you will have to deal with tourists. Lots of them. During the middle of the week it’s not so bad but be prepared.

We do also want to mention for those of you who don’t actually like coffee but do enjoy ice cream, Waco also has a Starbucks and a Dutch Bros. 😜

Happy writing and latte-drinking!

Anna E. Beaudry is a second-year English PhD student studying 19th-century American literature. Her primary area of research focuses on female writers in the New England regionalist movement and material feminisms. She earned her Master’s at Baylor University in May 2020. Anna is Baylor’s Graduate Writing Center coordinator and president of the English Graduate Student Association. She is also BearTracks blog editor for the Graduate School.