Cafe Review: Bespoke Coffee in Wilmington, NC

It’s hard to think of a television show that I never watched that defined my childhood more than Dawson’s Creek. As diehard fans of the show probably already know, the ostensibly idyllic small coastal town the show was filmed in was none other than Wilmington, North Carolina- and for good reason. The small port city boasts a rare combination of historic architecture, a beautiful riverfront, and proximity to some of the East Coast’s best beaches. Think of it as an under-the-radar Charleston or Savannah.

But until recently the town was missing one seminal element: a good coffee shop. In fact, until recently I was quite confident the best cup of coffee in town was a bottle of Slingshot cold brew at Whole Foods. Thankfully, if James Van Der Beek were to visit today, he would be able to get a really great cup of coffee at Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods in Downtown Wilmington.

Located at the corner of Princess and 2nd St., Bespoke is part coffee shop, part design store, though the emphasis is clearly on the former. While many area stores seem to embrace a beach kitsch, the interior at Bespoke, as implied by the name, is refined and elegant. It manages to simultaneously envoke images of a Parisian bistro and a Sailer Jerry tattoo parlor. As one might expect from a quality-focused North Carolina café, all of the coffee at Bespoke is provided by Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee.

The house espresso at Bespoke is Forty-Six, Counter Culture’s darkest blend. As an espresso, I found it had a classic espresso profile: dark chocolate, sorghum, and winter spices. In subsequent visits I also enjoyed it a filter coffee, a cappuccino, and an iced latte. As someone who drinks almost exclusively lighter roasts, it was a refreshing reminder that darker roasts can be tasty when roasted and brewed with care.

Perhaps the best drink I enjoyed at Bespoke was an espresso tonic. This coffee riff on the classic G & T has become a bit of a shibboleth for quality-focused cafes, popping up on summer menus everywhere from Sweden to Kentucky. Bespoke’s take on the drink was served in a slender highball glass and had a great balance of bright citrus and bitter flavors.

Whether you call the Carolinas home or come here for its great beaches, Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods in Wilmington will provide a coffee experience tailored to your needs. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better cup of coffee for miles around.

3 thoughts on “Cafe Review: Bespoke Coffee in Wilmington, NC

  1. While Bespoke is a wonderful shop (I go fairly frequently), to say that it is Wilmington’s first good shop seems short-sighted. It’s the first shop in Wilmington that fits the third wave aesthetic. They beautifully plate your coffee. You can take a photo of your latte art with a lovely succulent in the corner. It’s the most Instagramable shop. For alternatives, Luna cafe serves interesting and varied roasters and, in addition to being a cafe, Zola is now roasting.

    My criticism of Bespoke is that they exclusively serve Counter Culture and typically have only their standard roasts at the bar. It would be nice to see limited quantities of guest roasters and some rarer single origins available on drip.

    Admittedly my criticism comes from the viewpoint of a drip drinker so take that for what it’s worth. Ultimately Bespoke has great espresso drinks, beer on tap and cool merch and is absolutely worth a visit.

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