We went on a road trip to Chicago for my sister-in-law's wedding (which I was photographing). My wife was extremely kind and researched all of the best coffee places along the route on CoffeeGeek and Barista Exchange, so I actually had good coffee in almost every city we spent any time. The notable exception was Kentucky, there was just not much there (apologies to any Kentuckians).
I did have one Starbucks latte (in Kentucky). It was wretched. I actually didn't drink it. Anyway... here are the places I went:
The Coffee Roastery, on Pearl St., Jackson, MS: I had to send my wife in because it was on a downtown corner and there was little parking to be found (and we had 3 kids in the car, of course). Got a latte, it was bad, I hardly drank it. Bleh.
Wired Espresso Cafe, on N. State St., Jackson, MS: Pretty good! Not a great latte, but far better than sbux or the one I got at Coffee Roastery. No art, though. I drank this one.
Kaldi's, on De Mun Ave, St. Louis, MO: Pretty good. Got a couple lattes for the road, they were good, not great. Better than anything I got in Jackson. No art, though.
Intelligentsia, on Jackson St., Chicago, IL: This is a weekday-only source of caffeination for Chicago folks, but it was closer to our hotel than the Randolph location (my favorite). Intelligentsia, of course, rocks. They're brewing on a 3-group Synesso, they have great coffee, etc. At this location, the temperature of my latte was a little hot, IMO, maybe 10 degrees hot. But excellent, as always, and good art. Blew away everything I'd had up to this point, of course.
Intelligentsia, on Randolph St., Chicago, IL: Ahhh... Saturday came and forced me to hop on the El to get over to the Randolph location, but I was rewarded with a perfect latte, beautiful latte art, and a ginger scone. It doesn't get better than this, really. I had maybe five lattes here over the course of our stay in Chicago, and they were all perfect. How anyone in Chicago can set foot in sbux, I don't know. Had a single-origin capp which was also excellent, though the latte is where my heart is. Also had a Clover of something that I don't recall now. Sad to leave!
Starbucks, Florence, KY: Worst latte ever. Except possibly one I had at Inversion back in Houston. Ugh. DID. NOT. DRINK.
Ray's Monkey House, on Bardstown, Louisville, KY: Decent latte. So much potential not being fulfilled! They roast their own, have decent equipment, with a little proper training they could make great coffee. It frustrates me when I find indie places like this that could be great but just aren't. Better than sbux, though. Side note: the whole time I couldn't help but laugh to myself about those "monkey-fighting snakes" in the edited-for-TV version of Snakes on a Plane (which I didn't see, but heard about, and with the name of the coffee shop, and, well, anyway...).
Crema, on 1st St. South, Nashville, TN: Great! We were debating which place to hit in Nashville when Heather found latte art pics from Crema, so it was decided. Had a brief but good conversation with the people there, and got a couple lattes for the road, which were excellent. Good art, the whole deal. Later on I figured out I was actually following them on Twitter already! (they're @CREMACREMA)
Primavera, on White Oak Dr., Birmingham, AL: Excellent. Had multiple lattes here (some for the road), all excellent. Good art. Again, great coffee people here... they roast their own, and clearly do a pretty good job of it. They sell Chemex gear, etc. I bought some beans to bring home. People of Birmingham, send them your business!
Cocoa Bean Pastry Shop, on Morris Ave., Hammond, LA: Decent coffee, not great, but great baked goods. This was a long shot and it turned out better than expected. Definitely better than hitting sbux. It got me home. :)