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9 Coffee Shops That Perfectly Capture the Many Different Sides of the Northwoods


To the uninitiated, the Northwoods might appear to be a lovely but homogenous expanse of forests and lakes. But those of us who have been lucky to spend more time here know that the Northwoods contain a multitude of personalities, aesthetics, and unique treasures. We’ve found that this diversity is mirrored in the cherished coffee shops that dot the region’s downtown Main Streets and country highways. Here are eight such cafes that capture some quintessential qualities of the Northwoods.

The Hunter and Fisher’s Playground

Red Canoe – Saint Germain

A stone’s throw away from the West Bay of Little Saint Germain Lake and the Saint Germain Bike & Hike Trail is this rustic and wonderful coffee shop that will remind you of the cabin you were staying in when you first fell in love with the Northwoods. The organic and fair trade coffee will set you up for a successful fishing or biking outing, but we suggest lingering a little longer to devour a Red Canoe grilled cheese sandwich before you go. After all, who could say no to fire-roasted tomatoes and crisp bacon?

Cozy and Comforting After a Long Bike Ride

Great Northern Coffee Traders – Minocqua

The homey wood walls and floor, the scent of breakfast cooking and coffee brewing, and the jovial din of friends and families gathered around the table at Great Northern Coffee Traders will warm your soul and your chilly fingers after a long walk or bike ride on the nearby Bearskin State Trail. We recommend pairing your gourmet organic cuppa joe with a delicious pastry or breakfast sandwich.

A Luxury Lakehouse

Dixie’s Coffee House – Manitowish Waters

At Dixie’s Coffee House, the atmosphere is as warm and inviting as the food and beverages they serve. Pull up a chair to one of their many laptop-friendly tables near the windows, relax in a plush leather chair or sofa, or head out to the deck to get some fresh air. Enjoy a cup of soup, a panini, or freshly baked good along with your favorite coffee or tea while taking in the serene view of Vance Lake.

Midwest Nice

Briar House – Rhinelander

Aren’t Midwesterners the best? Sweet, down to earth, genuinely kind souls who like to unwind by laughing with friends with beverages—and maybe a brownie or two—in hand on the patio, or by taking a quick shopping trip at a new boutiquey store in town. Briar House offers opportunities for both pastimes! With a menu of tempting drinks (we think we’ll order the Snickers drink special as soon as humanly possible), the array of chic clothing and accessories, and the cute-as-a-button cottage aesthetic, Briar House is a go-to place for an outing with your best Midwest-nice friends.

The Artist’s Atelier

Potter’s Shed Cafe – Shell Lake

The Northwoods nourish creative souls. The region provides artists with solitude in nature for deep reflection and long winters for honing their craft (and for provoking a little bit of the necessary struggle to fuel the creative fire). It should be no great surprise, then, that someplace like the Potter’s Shed Cafe exists in Shell Lake. But the expansive gardens and waterfalls outside, the old-world rustic decor and gallery of more than 200 artists’ works inside, and the well-crafted food and beverages to boot are simply remarkable. Whether you come to sip a simple French press of coffee, to eat a hearty sandwich (we especially recommend the twisted laker), or even to create your own work of art in the Creative Zone, a visit to the Potter’s Shed Cafe will inspire your inner artist.

Digital Nomad Takes to the Great Outdoors

Little Creek Coffee Co. – Woodruff

Remote workers, it’s a no-brainer why you’d want to come to the Northwoods. Silencing the city’s distracting hum and reconnecting with nature—for a day, for a week, forever—will help you concentrate on the work you’re passionate about. After allowing yourself some time to decompress, you can also reconnect to Wi-Fi and tackle your workload in a comforting, log-cabin-like coffee shop called Little Creek Coffee Co. You can plunk down your laptop at a cafe table or even rent out a private office or meeting room for a few hours. Type or code away while enjoying Little Creek Coffee Co.’s brain-nourishing fare like the super healthy hummus wrap. Or reward yourself after a productive afternoon with something a little more indulgent, like the chai shake.

Deep Scandinavian Roots

Fika Bakery & Coffee – Three Lakes

From its architecture to its town names, it is clear that northern Wisconsin has strong Scandinavian roots. In the small town of Three Lakes, you’ll find Fika, a family-owned traditional Swedish bakery that encapsulates this Scandinavian influence beautifully. Fika is a Swedish word for coffee break. But this coffee break is not the quick sip of luke-warm coffee you take between tasks in the middle of a workday but, much better, the coffee break during which you share sweet treats and conversations with good friends. So grab your friends and head to Fika Bakery & Coffee on a slow-paced Saturday to enjoy a few laughs over your lattes and kardemummakaka.

Small-Town Charm in America’s Dairyland

What’s Brewin’? – Tomahawk

Tomahawk is uniquely situated, with one foot firmly planted in the Northwoods and the other foot pointing slightly south, toward the more open farmlands of central Wisconsin. And so Tomahawk is the perfect place for What’s Brewin’?, a downtown coffee shop with a country-farmhouse-chic-meets-Northwoods-rustic vibe. 

Downtown Revitalization Initiatives

Tilly’s – Rhinelander

Tilly’s is the new kid on the block in downtown Rhinelander, bringing new life to a 132-year-old building at the corner of Brown and Rives streets. Its attractive, modern interior; its locally roasted coffee and gourmet Rishi tea; its delicious baked goods made with fresh and natural ingredients; and its intention to offer a lunch menu of an equally high caliber in the near future (we can’t wait!) bode well for its success. Such qualities also mirror the impetus of many Northwoods downtowns to refresh and reinvent to embrace the changing face of industry and tourism impacting the region.

What are your favorite qualities of the Northwoods? Is there a Northwoods coffee shop that encapsulates these qualities for you?

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