There really is nothing like a good cup of coffee to start your day.
In the Northwest Territories, this can mean a stiff mug of ‘cowboy coffee,’ brewed up over an open flame, at your scenic campsite on the Precambrian Shield, miles away from any other soul. Or that morning cup could be a frothy latté in a cozy lakeside café, as floatplanes take-off from an ice runway right outside your window.
Whether you’re looking for a nice cup of joe on the go or a spectacular view with your morning brew, here’s where to find the best coffee in Northwest Territories.
The capital city’s most interesting neighborhood has no shortage of stellar spots to stop and savour a cup of coffee. The brand new Sundog Trading Post is one place that has seriously great views of Back Bay from its patio. Here, you quickly realize you’re situated near a central Subarctic thoroughfare, as floatplanes, sailboats and ships zip by in all directions, and houseboaters zig-zag in between, on their daily paddle commute to the mainland. The people-watching truly is top-notch.
Sundog Trading Post also offers paninis, salads, sandwiches and homemade ice cream to satisfy your need for a hearty lunch or sweet treat after a full day walking around Old Town or out on the water. No matter what kind of treat you're looking for, Sundog Trading Post is certainly a welcome addition to your tour of Old Town.
While you’re in the area, if you’re interested in a brew of a different kind and some truly amazing food, head to The Garden by fishy people for lake-to-plate dishes and Northern-inspired cuisine. You can walk across the causeway from The Trading Post, but in the summer, you may find yourself inclined to use their dock to pull up for a post-paddle beer and fish taco. Niki, the owner of The Garden, says ‘At Fishy People we focus on Northern food experiences. Sourcing from local fishers, foragers, gatherers, and growers, we create unique and flavourful products. From our line of fish products to catering, and Pop Up events and cold local beer, the Garden is here to showcase what Yellowknife and the North has to offer.
If you’d rather stick to land, Bullocks Bistro—renowned as one of the best fish and chips joints in all of Canada—is also a popular local gathering point for a late-morning or afternoon coffee. This is a great opportunity to take in the rustic ambiance of this famed eatery while the lines aren’t long and to find out what’s happening around town from some of the regulars.
Like all modern cities, Yellowknife has a thriving coffee scene, with a constant debate about where to get the best cup in town. But these arguments are subdued, compared to Yellowknife’s halcyon mining days. Gone is the Miner’s Mess, where Yellowknifers of all stripes would gather to gossip, plot and scheme. Bush pilots dropped in for a quick cup or two between flights to remote Northern outposts. Prospectors would huddle around a table to share rumours of a new find in hushed tones. Workers, new to town, would get hired on the spot for months-long summer bush camp gigs. The Miner’s Mess was where things happened.
Today, Yellowknife’s coffee shops still continue to serve that vital role as unofficial public forums. You’ll still find prospectors speculating, alongside government workers and civil organizations tossing around ideas for new policies, and consultants discussing the next steps for big new construction projects. It still pays to keep your ears perked up, when you drop in for a coffee at Javaroma or the Gourmet Cup, two long-standing coffee shops on Franklin Avenue.
A relative newcomer to the Yellowknife scene is Birchwood Coffee Ko. Along with all of the gourmet beverages you’d expect, it offers a variety of local breakfast and lunch options, including its famous Bannock ‘N Egger sandwich. It’s the perfect place to grab coffees, sandwiches and homemade cinnamon buns to go before an Ingraham Trail day-hike at Ranney Hill, Big Hill Lake or Cameron Falls.
Another new addition downtown is Barren Ground Coffee, which opened its sit-down location on 52nd street in 2019. With weekend hours, you can stop by and grab a cup on the run (or sit down when it’s not COVID times). Barren Ground, family-run and founded by a couple of outdoor and paddling enthusiasts, also sells bags of locally roasted coffee that they will be happy knowing you brew it up in the beautiful NWT backcountry.
Yellowknife isn’t the only place with top-notch coffee spots. In fact, in most regional hubs and larger centres, the coffee shop is probably the best place to get acquainted with what’s happening in town.
NSIXTY Trading Company in Fort Smith is a popular spot to pick up specialty coffee grounds, delightful teas, delicious confectionary, and scrumptious jams for anyone looking to start their day off right. Get yourself all set for your stay in town with a perfect cup of coffee and breakfast goods, or maybe an evening caffeinated treat and delectable chocolates.
In Fort Simpson, the Nahanni Inn serves a great cup of coffee at its restaurant. If you’re here visiting, this hotel is near the confluence of the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers in downtown Fort Simpson. So, you can grab your cup of coffee and take in some waterfront views and meet some of the village’s bigger personalities.
In Hay River, the Big Lake Eatery and Café is a restaurant and coffee shop - as well as an art space and library. The coffee here is all organic and fair-trade, plus there’s an array of baked treats to go with it. We suggest grabbing a brew and enjoying the art on display, or take it to go and enjoy it at one of the nearby walking trails.