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.
When it comes to downtown coffee shops, there aren’t too many street-level ordering options. For the most part, downtown Des Moines’ cafes are largely comprised of tiny shops inside the skywalk for easy workday convenience. While these options can seem especially essential during the winter months, when it comes to coffee shop coworking, the skywalk isn’t necessarily an ideal environment.
However, if you’re in downtown’s Western Gateway and aren’t a habitual Starbucks sipper, Ritual Cafe is a wonderful, local alternative. Located just east of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the cozy coffee shop focuses on all things vegan, vegetarian, and organic in a bright, inviting atmosphere.
Stepping through the doors of Ritual Cafe, it’s easy to see why this downtown Des Moines mainstay has its avid regulars. The deep red walls are covered with local art and show posters signed by the musicians who have performed on the cafe’s small stage. When there’s not anyone performing, overstuffed couches occupy the raised platform and offer a great place to relax for a bit or host an informal meeting. Colorful flags dangle from the ceiling and potted plants adorn every spare corner or bit of unused counter space.
While the cafe is typically fairly quiet, folk or jazz music is usually playing softly in the background. So unless you’re someone who prefers absolute silence, you won’t need to have your headphones with you to be able to focus here. Overall, the space feels cozy and communal with a constant stream of regulars stopping by to order their usual or just say hello to their favorite barista.
Named Best Vegetarian / Vegan Menu by Cityview magazine, Ritual Cafe offers options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a wide variety of healthy smoothies. If you’re not searching for something to snack on, the coffee shop also offers an extensive list of fair trade coffees and teas. Or treat yourself to one of the cafe’s speciality drinks—my personal favorite is the Mayan Mocha—from the extensive handwritten chalkboard menu behind the counter.
The Work Environment
While Ritual Cafe offers an inviting, cozy interior, it’s not the most ideal environment for regular coffee shop coworking. Seating is fairly plentiful given the cafe’s small space, but when it comes to laptop-friendly tables near outlets, the selection is quite a bit smaller. However, a big plus about Ritual Cafe is that it’s usually fairly quiet. Granted there are exceptions, especially since the coffee shop is in located in the center of the Western Gateway where events like the Des Moines Arts festival and 80/35 music festival completely shut down the streets.
Also, if you’re trying to get things done outside of normal work hours, Ritual Cafe is not the spot for you. The cafe is only open until 5 pm most days (6 pm on Fridays and Saturdays) and is closed on Sundays.
Ritual Cafe also isn’t a place where it’s alright to constantly be on your cell phone. If you really do need to take a call, it’s probably best to step outside (if you’re able), but don’t plan on dialing in for your conference call from the cafe. Instead, focus on tasks that take advantage of the cafe’s other outstanding features by stopping in for a latte to get quick bursts of work done or scheduling a walking meeting from your office with Ritual Cafe as the final destination.
Best Place for: Early Morning or Lunchtime Working
While Ritual Cafe has some great drinks and a relaxed atmosphere, its hours are fairly limited (usually around 7 am until 5 pm) and its seating doesn’t offer quite enough space and comfort to spend all day. However, its central location makes the coffee shop a great place to pop in, grab a coffee, and knock out those emails you’ve been putting off.
Plan to get there right when the cafe opens to kick your productivity into gear first thing. Ritual Cafe is fairly quiet in the morning with lots of people coming and going with to-go orders, but relatively few camped out on their laptops or with books. Take advantage of that by visiting while the shop is quiet and enjoy breakfast (perhaps the $5.75 breakfast plate) alongside your coffee. If you’ve got a side hustle, this is a great place to stop on your way downtown before starting your actual work day. Bonus: Street parking is also free until 8 am, which gives you a full hour to get things done without feeding the meter. Then pop over to Gravitate to focus in for the rest of the day surrounded by your fellow coworkers. Or get out of the office on your lunch break for some caffeine and a quick burst of productivity before heading back to your more permanent desk.
Black Coffee: $1.50
Coffee Quality: 4 / 5
Work atmosphere: 3 / 5
Meeting: 3 / 5
Get to Work
1301 Locust Street, Suite D
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Monday – Thursday: 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
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Photo Credit: Ritual Cafe on Facebook