Java Joes – The Soul of the Des Moines Court Ave. District

If one place has been the soul of everything that is good about the Court Avenue district in Des Moines, I believe it is Java Joes CoffeeHouse. In a district awash with cheap beer and two dollar Coke and Captains, and a lot of recent bad press about the mobs of drunks,  Java Joes has always stood as a reminder of the original promise and vision that the real estate developers had for the area when it was nothing but porn shops, bail bondsmen, dive bars, and transient hotels — well, at least the porns shops are gone — so that is some progress in you are not into that sort of entertainment.   It seems that Joe and Cyndy Coppolla opened Java Joes sometime around 1992 (that date is also typed in tiny numbers on the street sign). Although I don’t remember the day it opened, I do recall the buzz that immediately followed. Des Moines residents and downtown workers were genuinly excited that a coffee shop had opened in Des Moines.  Keep in mind, this was the same year that Starbucks went public and it would be more than decade more before Des Moines would have its own Starbucks.  So, we were glad to have a place that served coffee that didn’t come from a Bunn drip machine.

If coffee has been roasted recently the first thing you may notice when entering Java Joes is that they roast their own coffee. When I’ve tried their coffee, when either dropping in on a late night visit or before or after a show it was always well prepared. It is hard to rank the coffee served by local establishments as quality can change from bag to bag and roast to roast. The age, source, and handling of the coffee beans and the time since it was roasted are also huge factors. But, like I said, the coffee has been uniformly good.


Java Joes is also one of the main venues for small shows and acts in Des Moines. Most Friday and Saturday nights will find some sort of act. Looking at their current lineup I see local jazz, comedy, and a poetry slam. These acts can be in either the coffee house itself or the 4th Street theater next door. Here is a link to some of the performers who have appeared at Java Joes: List

The ambiance of the place is Bohemian with upholstered chairs, random tables, and a look of studied shabbiness, befitting the coffee culture of the early ’90s.  The nearest comparison that I can think of is Zanzibar’s. They both push the coffee house culture theme, but Zanzibar’s is more of a modern reboot (barely) while Java Joes retains its cred as an original coffee house.

A Java Joe Latte

Monday thru Thursday
6:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Friday thru Saturday
6:30 AM to Midnight
6:30 AM to 10:00 PM
Phone: 515-288-JAVA (5282)
Fax: 515-244-5244

Java Joe's Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon


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