One thing I love about living in Salem is that there is always a coffee shop nearby. Several of the downtown coffee shops are great for hanging out, having a snack, reading a book or surfing the web. The main players for downtown coffee shops, at least the ones I've discovered, are Starbucks, The Beanery, Coffee House Café, and Governor's Cup.
There are two Starbucks on the same block of Liberty, one at Court St, one at Chemeketa. I like the Chemeketa one, since it's larger and has more tables. Even so, it's Starbucks. Nothing unusual or different, and certainly not unique to Salem. The coffee's decent, the pastries are made who knows where, and the music is decent. Can you even get real coffee mugs for your drink at Starbucks anymore? So even if you're going to sit there for an hour, you'll still be drinking from a paper cup unless you bring your own. You also have to pay for the wifi.
There are two Beaneries downtown, one on Liberty, across from the Starbucks on Court, and one on Court Street between High and Church. I really like the Beanery on Liberty. Other than being a bit on the noisy side, it's clean, spacious, has good lighting, and big windows where you can watch the world fly by. The food is ok, and the wifi is free (I think--never tried it there). The bus mall Beanery doesn't have a lot of character, other than the characters that come through. The clientele is an interesting mix of bus patrons, county and state workers. It's pretty basic, more there to serve coffee than act as a local hangout.
Coffee House Café is also on Liberty, between State and Court. I like how spacious it feels inside, with high ceilings, plenty of tables and several couches, and a large, long bar. The coffee is good, the pastries and cookies seem fresh and are quite tasty. The background music is good, and they also have live music many evenings. I've often had a hard time getting the attention of a barista, or the wait is long, but once I have my coffee (and often a very good snack), I'm quite content.
Governor's Cup seems like it's a bit on the grungy side. It's got a very narrow storefront on Court St near High. They roast their coffee on site, and when they're roasting, the smell of cooking or burning beans is almost too strong to bear. The pastries are all wrapped tightly in saran wrap, which make me think they're neither local nor fresh. The place seems a bit too worn out. The couch cushions all have rips, the place seems dusty and the carpets are filthy. Even so, I sort of like the scene. It seems like a younger crowd there, the music is fun, and the upstairs balcony provides more privacy if you need to study or wander the web (free wifi here as well). The staff people are very friendly, chatting with you like you've been friends for years. In fact, Governor's Cup was the only coffee shop to recall my order after going in a few times.
I'm sure there are more coffee shops downtown. Where do you like to go for a good cup?