Coffee Shop Coworking is a series that highlights cafes and coffee shops in and around the Des Moines metro perfect for entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives, and remote workers to get things done. Each installment will highlight what a particular location is best for, what you can expect from its work environment, and what sets it apart from other local alternatives.
Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure
If you’re looking to grab coffee at a non-chain shop on Ingersoll, there’s no better place than Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure. Located just far enough from downtown to offer free and plentiful parking, but close enough that you could easily walk or bike, Zanzibar’s is a homey haven from whatever craziness the week may have thrown at you.
Stepping inside the door of Zanzibar’s is a treat for the senses. With worn hardwood floors and a gilded tin ceiling you’ll find yourself getting lost in, the tiny coffee shop is the definition of cozy. Local art hangs on the walls and steaming lattes are served in ceramic bowls that require two hands to enjoy. After spending only a few moments inside, it’s easy to see why this Ingersoll mainstay is always a bustling hub of chattering regulars and solo customers engrossed in their book.
Not only does Zanzibar’s offer assorted coffee beverages, pastries and breads, but you’ll also find fresh fruit and a limited breakfast menu including Eggs Espresso ($5.95)—toast and eggs cooked using the espresso machine milk steamer—and the Linda Special ($4.50), a hearty slice of potato rosemary bread topped with chives and cream cheese melted into a gooey, golden top layer. The shop also stocks a wide variety of coffee accessories and whole beans for your home or office brewing needs. You can also bring your own mug to be filled or return your foam coffee cups to Zanzibar’s recycling area on your next trip.
Burlap sacks of unroasted coffee beans are piled high upon the floor behind the counter, and if you happen to visit on a roasting day, the smell of browning beans will waft after you down the street like a phantom beckoning fellow caffeine seekers inside. Saddle up to the bar or grab a small table to enjoy your coffee or chat with a friend. And there’s almost always a copy of the day’s newspaper on the bar in case you’re like me and want to skim through your favorite section of The New York Times while you wait for your coffee.
In case you only carry plastic, it’s also important to know that the coffee shop has a $5 credit card minimum. But if you’re not carrying cash and don’t want to treat yourself to a banana or baked good from the case to push you over the limit, Zanzibar’s also has a wonderful punch card system that allows you to prepay for your future drinks. Always sipping on an iced coffee? Prepay so your next 10 drinks are hassle-free.
The Work Environment
On any given day, Zanzibar’s is decently loud with lively music, the crackle and pop of coffee roasting, clattering dishes, and the hiss of the espresso machine. This means if you’re someone who values silence while you work, you’re likely going to be easily distracted in this venue. If you’re looking for a bit of a reprieve, head out the back door, you’ll also discover a hidden back patio perfect for soaking up some sunshine and enjoying a little quiet time.
Back indoors, be advised that Zanzibar’s circular tables are small and fairly close together so there won’t be much room for you to spread out. If you don’t opt for a stool at the bar, this also means that you should be prepared to make friends with the diners and coffee sippers next to you. If you do need a little more space, snag a spot at the coveted triangle island at the end of the coffee bar near the front of the shop. Personally, my favorite is the small circular one just to the left of the front doors, tucked under the leaves of a broad-leafed potted tree.
On an average day, the small coffee shop is busy with customers coming and going at pretty high frequency. You won’t spot many workers camped out for large chunks of the day with their laptops open or headphones in. Instead, Zanzibar’s is filled with readers, duos during coffee meetings, and neighborhood regulars.
Best Place to: Unplug
Depending on what type of work you do, the best (or worst) part about Zanzibar’s is that there’s no wifi. For me, that means it’s a great place to get writing, editing, or reading done when I find myself getting distracted or aimlessly browsing the Internet. It also means it’s a wonderful place to host a brainstorming meeting or catch up with an old friend.
Granted, if you do work that is entirely dependent on you having access to the Internet (or if you prefer a quiet workspace), this may not be the spot for you. Sure, you can use a hotspot or slip on some giant headphones, but that’s not really the vibe of Zanzibar’s and you might feel a tiny bit out of place.
Instead, take this time to unplug and connect with someone, whether that’s your 2 pm meeting or a total stranger who set up camp next to you. And above all else, don’t be afraid to ask them what they’re working on—this has happened to me multiple times at Zanzibar’s and aside from some interesting conversations, it’s also led to a few business leads.
After you’ve spent the morning recharging, head east to Gravitate to hop on the high-speed Internet and get to work on all of the new ideas you scribbled down.
Black Coffee: $1.95
Coffee Quality: 4.5 / 5
Work atmosphere: 2.5 / 5
Meeting: 4.5 / 5
Get to Work
2723 Ingersoll Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312
Monday – Saturday: 6:30 am – 8:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
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