Starbucks Compared to Three Rival Independent Cafés



Ayla Daoud and Giuliana Haury


I don’t know about you, but winter exams stressed me out. I buckled down and made a routine of retiring to my desk every day in December. And now, the burnout has made me crave a different study environment. I may not be a big coffee drinker, but I do love a good Pink Drink from Starbucks.

Obviously, those prices add up over time as you don’t get a lot of bang for your buck, and I am tired of the loud environment. Lately, it seems that cafes are the place for me when I want to really focus on one of Mr. Larsen’s math tests or Mme. Hecker’s French quizzes. Read on if you are looking for a new vibe for your studies as we move through these long winter days.

My first choice for café studying is most definitely The Coffee Emporium. The second floor is a student’s white noise paradise.

In warmer months, I prefer to sit in the canopied back patio. But at this time of year, nothing beats the lighting and warmth of the Coffee Emporium’s second floor for focus and concentration.

My second destination is a newer café located in Madisonville called Mom ‘n ’em. Despite the odd name, this place makes you feel at home with their comfy sofas and plenty of space. I am also a huge fan of their avocado toast. As for local cafés, this one is only practical for weekend studying since it closes by 3 pm.

My final and perhaps favorite café is La Grassa right in Madeira. The vibe could be compared to a country cottage on the outside but a relaxed rustic environment on the inside.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a spot in one of the booths or even at the coffee bar and load up on a coffee beverage and homemade gelato.

But in warmer months, the outside patio is made for a study session in the fresh air and shade. Nothing beats this place with its late evening hours as it is usually open until 9 or 10 daily.

Order Recommendations:

*ratings out of 10 on taste, vibe, and quickness in preparation*

Coffee Emporium $$-

Iced Tea (choose flavor and add lemon and honey)- 9.5/10

Flying Piggie (lime syrup and pomegranate tea blended with ice)- 8/10

Bumble Bee Steamer (warm vanilla milk and frothy cream)- 9/10

Mom n Em $$$-

Avo Toast (cilantro, garlic, you know the drill)- 10/10

Chai Tea (milk choice and chai flavor)- 8.5/10

Hot Chocolate (milk choice and creamy)- 8/10

La Grassa $$$-

Hot Chocolate (Valrhona dark chocolate and milk choice)- 10/10

Tea (your choice and add honey)- 8.5/10

Crème Brulee Ice Cream (classic French dessert but ice cream style)- 1000/10


I’m here to tell you about some of the best coffee shops in the Cincinnati area to study, hang out, or grab a snack. They all boast cozy environments conducive to catching up on some homework or working on a project with friends and quality food and drinks. I feel a great way to regain focus while studying is changing up the scenery!

My mom is a bit obsessive about her coffee and seeking out the best cappuccino, so she frequently drives us around town in hopes of finding that perfect froth-to-espresso combination served up in the perfect cup decorated with delicate latte art.

I do find it interesting to see the different coffee shop’s atmospheres while sampling new drinks and food. All these caffeinated adventures of my mom’s have given me a good understanding of the many coffee shops around the area especially since I live very close to a lot of them – Coffee Emporium, Mom ’n ’em, Carabello, Madison Place, Proud Hound, Urbana, and many more! I’ll now fill you in on two of my favorites, Proud Hound and Madison Place.

The first cafe is Proud Hound! This coffee shop is located on Montgomery Road in the up-and-coming eclectic neighborhood of Silverton.

They have a variety of sitting arrangements from large community tables to small booths or sitting at the bar with floor-to-ceiling windows so you can keep an eye on traffic on Montgomery Road if you need a little distraction.

Word on the street is that they will also be having an outdoor dining area later this Spring.

No matter what time of day, Proud Hound has got you covered! In the morning you can enjoy a nice cappuccino, coffee, or seasonal drink expertly crafted by a talented and friendly barista as well as choose from their seasonal food menus that utilize local farms and fresh ingredients.

They have a wide selection of creative combinations of hearty bowls and sandwiches as well as some traditional breakfast items with a twist such as grit tots! Proud Hound does a great job with side sauces as well, my favorite is the Maple Ketchup which pairs amazingly with the smashed fried potatoes.

Like the food, the drinks are made with many flavorful combinations that you wouldn’t expect to work together. Additionally, Proud Hound has launched Late Nights, where they offer amazing burgers, sandwiches, and fries. No matter what menu you order from they always manage to elevate flavors and bring a great atmosphere to their customers.

Check out their Instagram (@proudhoundcoffee) to view new menu updates and lots of coffee blends and pics! The friendly and cheerful baristas, neighborhood vibe, bright lighting, and furniture accompanied by delicious, caffeinated cups and food make this a solid place to study!

The second location is Madison Place. This quaint coffee shop is located in Madisonville.

This is by far the coziest and homiest coffee shop you’ll find in the Queen City. Madison Place is just north of Mariemont on Plainville Rd with an amazing atmosphere including a full wall bookshelf stocked with different board games and classic novels as well as a huge fireplace, comfy couches, cozy chairs or larger tables and a reservable conference room. It definitely has the community neighborhood vibe of a college campus library.

During warmer weather, you can enjoy studying outside on the large patio! I highly recommend trying out their seasonal drinks such as toasted marshmallow or a classic cappuccino, both served in a lovely ceramic mug and accompanied by a sweet treat of locally crafted raw chocolate by Ilan’s all of which taste amazing.

The kitchen closes at 3pm but offers a full menu of amazing-tasting sandwiches, salads, soups, hashbrowns, and more! My personal favorite is the BLT made with their house-made basil mayo to finish. Add an avocado to make it even a little more tasty and filling.

Madison Place is one of my favorite spots to hang out with friends and family while enjoying a nice drink and food in a cozy, welcoming environment for hours! Check out their Instagram page @the_madisonplace for pictures, menu updates, giveaways, and more.