Though their name exudes Midwestern humility—and a taste of tongue-in-cheek wit—Second Best Coffee was created with the best intentions: To bring excellent coffee to South Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood and contribute to its growth.
Since its opening in early 2014, Second Best has evolved from a multi roaster into an espresso-centric shop offering its own coffee as well. “We wanted to offer a variety of excellent espressos on a rotating basis,” co-owner Leia Anderson said, “and we still bring on a different roaster to showcase from outside the Kansas City area on a monthly basis.”
While many gourmet coffee shops seem to require a secret handshake as you order, Leia and her husband, Nathan, strive to be as friendly and approachable as possible. “We want to put out an excellent product,” Leia explains, “but also want people to feel welcome and as if they can ask any questions while they are here.”
That inviting nature extends particularly to fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Leia is an avid trail runner, and Nathan’s love of cycling is evident by the indoor bike parking at their shop. Located near the Trolley Track Trail, it’s the perfect basecamp for runners and cyclists looking to gather beforehand, recharge midway or replenish afterward. This summer, they plan to host group runs and rides staged from Second Best. And participants will have quite the treat waiting for them afterward. Second Best’s breakfast burritos are made in-house with sausage from local butcher The Local Pig then pressed on a panini grill.
Tom Brantman and Andy Olson, co-owners of KC-based cycling startup Townie Syndicate and regular visitors to Second Best, reinforced how successfully Leia and Nathan Anderson have executed their vision.
"Second Best Coffee is a gem,” Olson said. “The first time I walked into the shop, I was blown away by the coffee (and the breakfast burritos). I've incorporated Second Best into my morning bike loop as well. It’s one of the only shops in town where I can hang my road bike up inside and talk bikes with one of the friendliest baristas in KC.”
Brantman agrees. “It’s in the name,” he says. “Simply the most non-pretentious coffee shop I've even been in, that just happens to make the best cup of coffee and know more about it than anyone else. Second Best lets me bring my cycling into their space. I can stop mid-ride, grab an espresso and a tasty portable snack without leaving my expensive bike on the curb. I can hang my bike on the wall like a piece of art. What's not to like? Great coffee, knowledgeable staff, coolest cycling based interior you will ever find and it all feels welcoming.”
When they’re not fueling others’ activities—or juggling the to-do list that comes with being new parents—Leia and Nathan enjoy the hiking trails located throughout the city, such as at Swope Park and the Blue River Parkway Trail, as well as the parks and outdoor spaces such as the Liberty Memorial and the Nelson Atkins Art Museum lawn.
Inspiration for the name? “We chose the name because we are always striving to improve,” Leia explains. “We hope that what we provide you today will be second best to what we can provide tomorrow.”
Then a brief pause. “Also, we think it's funny.”