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Local coffee shops offer study space opportunities


Photo by Laura Wittren, staff photographer

Java Joe’s

Java Joe’s on Fourth Street in downtown is a cool place. It’s deceivingly small looking from outside, but actually quite spacious inside. There is plenty of seating, table space and light. However, the atmosphere doesn’t seem quite right for studying. Most of the patrons go to catch up with friends, play games or attend live jazz and musical shows. If you try to study during one of these shows, you might find the music to be a distraction. However, the coffee there is great.


Located on Ingersoll, not a far walk from Drake, Zanzibar’s is a locally owned coffee shop. The full name is Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure, which is due to the fact that you can experience a wide variety of premium coffees from all over the world. Zanzibar’s has a large variety of drinks available from lattes to tea to just a plain cup of joe. It also has a snack menu and a breakfast menu. The downside to Zanzibar’s is the lack of seating and Wi-Fi, not to mention the dim lighting can be a strain on the eyes if you’re reading a textbook.

Gong Fu Tea

Even though tea is in the title, East Village’s Gong Fu has more than just that. They have coffee and snacks, although the tea is still the bragging point. While this is a great place for breaking out of Lipton Tea, it’s not exactly a prime spot for studying. The lighting is kind of dim, and there aren’t a plethora of tables. This is a cool spot for hanging out with friends, especially the back area with “Japanese-style” floor sitting, but it’s not suggested for studying.

West End Coffee and Salvage

If you’ve never heard of this place, that’s no surprise. It’s off the beaten path. Located between Ninth Street and Cherry Street and just at the cusp of downtown Des Moines, it has a slightly sketchy look to it. But once inside, you’ll be amazed. In addition to selling coffee, it also features a wide variety of salvageable goods, such as recycled necklaces and old typewriters. The place is huge, and even has multiple levels. Due to the fact that it’s not well known, it’s relatively quiet, and finding a seat is a cinch.  The only downside is the distance from campus.


This is a Des Moines local business that not only has your usual espressos and coffees, but also whole bean coffee and espresso to buy and take home — perfect for those late night cram sessions in your dorm. The closest Friedrichs is on 42nd Street and University Avenue next to the small Hy-Vee and Campbell’s Nutrition store. Studying at the actual shop could be problematic as the tables are too small to sprawl out your books and notebooks.

Smokey Row

This is a common study spot and at any given time you’ll probably see some fellow students — especially during finals week. What’s the draw? While Smokey Row can get really busy (especially for lunch), there are a lot of tables, so finding a spot usually isn’t a problem. It’s littered with outlets  — perfect for computer work. And of course, there’s a great coffee and tea selection as well as ice cream, snacks and meals. The downside, in addition to being crowded, is it can be loud, but that’s nothing a set of ear buds can’t fix.

Mars Café

Being a Drake classic, many already use this as their study spot. What’s not to love? It’s within walking distance to Drake, locally owned and the baristas make killer drinks that put chain coffee shops to shame. Seating is prime real estate, especially space close to an outlet. But otherwise, it’s great for cramming for that exam.

Village Beans, Co.

Another East Village spot, this coffee shop isn’t too shabby for study space. It has a few tables to sit at in the front and further back. It has a good selection of beverages to help you charge while you’re cranking out homework. And, best of all, it’s not crowded. However, East Village isn’t exactly a quick walk from campus, so if you’re looking for a closer spot, Village Bean isn’t for you.

Ritual Cafe

This is located in downtown Des Moines just down the street from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The shop is space with a good number of tables as well as a comfortable couch. If you don’t mind the drive (or really long walk) to downtown, this could be a good study spot for you. They have a great selection of coffees and teas to help ease your study woes.


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