Coffee Chains That Do Breakfast Better Than Starbucks

There's no better companion to a morning coffee than something warm, fresh-baked, and full of carbs. That's something that practically all coffee lovers can agree on, whether their allegiance lies with bagels, donuts, croissants, or scones. But getting breakfast at a coffee shop can get expensive pretty quickly, so it stands that we all want to make sure that we are getting the best food options available out there.

Starbucks is pretty much everywhere and serves breakfast, but the truth is that our opinion of the food menu at the chain is complicated. The coffee is mostly enjoyable, but after many years of visiting Starbucks, we've often balked at the cost of the chain's food. What's more, we feel that the food's quality when it comes to freshness, taste, and portion size doesn't always justify the price. Arguably the most appealing food at Starbucks is on the chain's lunch menu, where the salads and sandwiches offer a decent afternoon pick-me-up that's usually a better option than most other types of fast food.

But Starbucks isn't the only coffee spot out there. Because we haven't been habitually impressed with Starbucks' breakfast food, we are offering up several alternatives that, in our opinion and others, do breakfast better than America's biggest coffee chain.

Caribou Coffee

Anyone familiar with the Minnesotan treasure that is Caribou Coffee knows that it's got some amazing breakfast available. And with more than 700 locations, it can be fairly easy to find a shop near you. The soft, freshly-baked, New York-style bagels on offer are central to this chain's food menu. The breakfast sandwiches — which naturally use those huge, yummy bagels — are even made fresh to order, not frozen and reheated like many of Starbucks' sandwiches reportedly are. For this reason, we feel that Caribou Coffee's breakfast sandwiches are infinitely more satisfying. Plus, you can make a breakfast sandwich with any of the shop's bagel flavors, which offers tons of room to experiment and find your absolute favorite (we recommend a sweet bagel to contrast more savory and salty ingredients, like egg and bacon). 

Bagels aside, Caribou Coffee has a lot of other solid breakfast options, including overnight oats, parfaits, burritos, a couple of vegan options, and even a soufflé. Most Caribou Coffee items are a bit more expensive than something of comparable ingredients from Starbucks, but the Caribou option is more likely to be substantially bigger and has a more pleasant, made-fresh taste. For a great summary of this difference, you have to try the chain's chicken apple sausage sandwich!

Scooter's Coffee

While it may not be the top contender in the wide field of breakfast sandwiches, Scooter's Coffee is still an unbeatable stop when it comes to pastries. This chain's breakfast sandwiches are competitive in portion size and taste quality. For instance, the breakfast sausage in use at Starbucks is relatively herby and mild, while the Scooter's sausage has a more spicy kick to it. 

When it comes to pastries, though, we'd choose the Omaha-based Scooter's Coffee over Starbucks any day. While the Starbucks pastry menu may beat that of Scooter's Coffee when it comes to quantity, it doesn't approach that of Scooter's in quality. While the larger global chain has some baked goods you can't get at Scooter's — like foldovers and croissants, currently — many argue that the Scooter's Coffee muffins are delicious. They are a permanent menu fixture at Scooter's Coffee, too, while Starbucks only has seasonal offerings. Meanwhile, the Scooter's muffins are generously big and soft, with moist and decadent centers. 

A Scooter's Coffee cinnamon roll easily beats the Starbucks bakery, too. These treats are massive, soft, and served warm with a huge dollop of cream cheese frosting on top. The Starbucks cinnamon roll/morning bun simply doesn't compare in both freshness and texture. Finally, Scooter's has huge frosted sugar cookies that are to die for.

Dunn Brothers Coffee

With only a little more than 55 locations in the U.S. as of 2023, Dunn Brothers Coffee might not be as widely available as Starbucks, but that doesn't mean its breakfast is worth passing up. When we get to a location, we make sure to order and enjoy the chain's build-your-own breakfast sandwich, This menu option allows you to pick between a variety of proteins to put on base that comes in the form of a bagel, croissant, English muffin, burrito, or biscuit. The portions of this sandwich are comparable to what's on offer at Starbucks, but the edge in quality comes in the freshly-assembled taste of the Dunn Brothers entry.

The biggest potential downfall you face in a chain that offers made-to-order breakfast sandwiches like Dunn Brothers is that you're more likely to have inconsistent experiences than at a chain where all of the sandwiches are pre-packaged. However, we've always found Dunn Brothers' bread and pastries to be far more soft and airy than what comes out of a Starbucks, so it's well worth that slight risk. 

Dunn Brothers Coffee deserves props for its bakery, with many options which are baked fresh just that morning. The donuts are particularly scrumptious, while this smaller coffee chain also offers scones, cookies, muffins, and more. Though the baked goods at Dunn Brothers aren't necessarily as large as those of its competitor, it's clear that the winning factor is in the much fresher taste. 


It's no secret that Dunkin' dominates the donut game. But as a result of that recognition, the rest of its breakfast menu is often overlooked. Sure, the sheer variety of donuts can easily push the Dunkin' breakfast above its competition, but we have to take this brand's sizable, freshly-made sandwiches into consideration, too. The sourdough sandwich from Dunkin', in particular, is massive compared to Starbucks sandwiches. And Dunkin's croissant breakfast sandwich is so good that it doesn't seem to even belong in the world of fast food. The croissant is soft and light, the bacon is crisp, and the eggs taste like homestyle, fresh-cracked fried eggs. You can even buy bacon by the bag at Dunkin' — does it get more breakfast than that? The Snackin' Bacon is just one of several novelties at this chain, too, along with the likes of stuffed bagel minis and hash brown rounds.

Dunkin' is no underperformer in the bakery department, either. The big, freshly-baked muffins are usually offered in a half-dozen-or-so different flavors, and there's a modest list of bagel varieties to choose from, too. And, of course, there are dozens of donuts. Regardless of your coffee loyalties, Starbucks doesn't compete on the same level as Dunkin' when it comes to breakfast. 

Blue Bottle Coffee

While you are far less likely to have a Blue Bottle Coffee spot near you than a Starbucks — there are only about 100 locations between the United States and Asia, with American Blue Bottle cafes in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — it's worth a visit. Once you have Blue Bottle Coffee's breakfast, you'll never look at the prepackaged food from Starbucks the same way ever again. And while this is not the basis of the argument here, the exquisitely unique espresso creations at Blue Bottle can't go unmentioned, like the chain's seasonal 2023 springtime drinks that include its Orange Blossom NOLA and Orange Blossom Matcha lattes.

The breakfast experience at this coffee chain is unlike any other we've experienced. The food is vibrant and full of color, ranging from the emerald pop of fresh microgreens to the deep blues and reds of sweet berry compotes. Blue Bottle's breakfast menu is as explorative as its coffees, yet without being too fringe for most people's tastes. To use its 2023 spring menu as an example again, Blue Bottle Coffee is currently offering an apricot ginger scone, a strawberries and cream waffle, a blueberry sprouted almond Danish, and a polenta cherry pound cake that has no true comparison when it comes to other coffee shops.

Au Bon Pain

Au Bon Pain is another chain that, while it falls in the shadow of Starbucks when it comes to size and number of locations, takes the coffee giant head-on in terms of breakfast quality. This brand, which has locations all over the United States, prides itself on baked goods that patrons will swoon over. It's right there in the name — Au Bon Pain translates to "from good bread." So it's no surprise that breakfast is just done better here, especially when it comes to the namesake carbs.

We loved the huge, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth croissants at Au Bon Pain. They are made fresh every morning, and that is evident in the airy, soft texture. To folks with an Au Bon Pain location nearby, the cafe may be better known for its lunch fare, but the simple lineup of breakfast sandwiches reflects the same quality. 

You're not offered a mile-long list of options at Au Bon Pain, but you can select your preferred combination of eggs, cheese, and protein, and have it placed on a grain base ranging from bagels to baguettes to ciabatta. You simply have to follow that up with one of the many other baked goods, whether it be a sweet Danish, scone, muffin, or croissant. Starbucks does hold the edge in affordability, but Au Bon Pain will steal your heart with its warm maple pecan croissant.

Biggby Coffee

Coffee lovers who are lucky enough to have a Biggby Coffee nearby largely claim that this smaller chain is far better than Starbucks when it comes to both its coffee and the quality of its break food. The chain's availability and price may be a sacrifice at times, but the quality of the breakfast sandwiches at Biggby Coffee is worth it. Unfortunately, Biggby doesn't have all that impressive of a bakery menu, with just a few muffin options, another three bagel flavors, donut holes, and chocolate chip cookies. But if you're willing to forego some of the sweet bakery delicacies, there are several yummy breakfast sandwiches you may love.

One especially unique offering available at Biggby Coffee is the chain's Cuban ciabatta, which combines pickles, mustard, cheese, and ham on an airy ciabatta bun. This Michigan-based chain's tuxedo muffin and the maple waffle sandwich are notably delicious, too. There are more than 300 Biggby Coffee locations across the United States, so if you're lucky enough to have one nearby, be sure to give these breakfast recommendations a try.

Peet's Coffee

Peet's Coffee is a grocery store name that you are more than likely familiar with after browsing the coffee aisle, but did you know that this brand has its own coffee shops, too? Peet's Coffee cafes offer a solid menu of nutritious breakfast options, like Mediterranean flatbread, a bacon, spinach, and Swiss cheese frittata, and chicken chorizo flatbread. 

For vegetarians and vegans, Peet's Coffee also has an appealing number of plant-based options on its menu, both in its coffee and food lineup. There's the aforementioned Mediterranean flatbread, which starts with lavash bread topped with vegan JUST Egg, vegan provolone, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers, and pesto. The Everything Plant-based Sandwich loads a warm, toasted bagel up with Beyond Breakfast Sausage, JUST Egg, and vegan cheddar. In fact, Peet's was the first major coffee chain to roll out a completely plant-based breakfast sandwich. 

That said, the food at Peet's is generally pricier than at Starbucks. Even just the egg and cheese sandwich from the smaller chain is $3.75, while parfaits are nearly $5, as are most of its other sandwiches. And while Peet's does have over 330 locations nationwide, your odds of encountering one are still lower than a Starbucks. Still, you may find that it's worth the extra effort to enjoy Peet's breakfast offerings.

Tim Hortons

When it comes to Tim Hortons, people seem to either adore or loathe the chain. Whether you're a fan of this Starbucks competitor from our friends to the north or not, you can't deny that there are some breakfast foods where Timmy outperforms the siren. While there have been some complaints over the Canadian chain's breakfast sandwiches in the past, we find that Tim Hortons breakfast items taste fresher than those at Starbucks. That said, it is not clear whether or not the Tim Hortons sandwiches come, either wholly or at least in part, frozen and prepackaged. 

The Tim Hortons breakfast menu is pretty simple: a biscuit, English muffin, or bagel breakfast sandwich made with cheese, egg, and your choice of protein, a bagel BLT with egg, and several breakfast wraps. We also appreciate that Tim Hortons offers hash browns, a breakfast staple that Starbucks does not appear to have any interest in placing on the menu. The chain's bakery menu is a bit uninspired, however, with just bagels, English muffins, muffins, and donuts. Yet it does offer a good variety of donuts to compensate. 

The Coffee Bean

The Coffee Bean's brand may be tiny compared to Starbucks, but its breakfast menu sure is mighty. We should point out that a visit to this chain is going to cost you more than a visit to Starbucks when it comes to both the drink and food menus. However, The Coffee Bean's products are generally more nutritious and health-conscious. Some locations focus on sandwiches and other hand-held fare, while others offer a full range of sit-down breakfast plates. A review of just such a location from SmartDory applauds The Coffee Bean for its eggs Benedict and pastries in particular.

Even if your local The Coffee Bean spot doesn't offer a full-fledged breakfast menu, the more convenient breakfast dishes are still well worth a visit. You can still likely snag a ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on a soft, buttery brioche bun, veggie-loaded egg white bites, oatmeal, and more. 


We know that McDonald's breakfast is probably the last thing you expected to see on this list, but hear us out. The specialty breakfast foods at Starbucks are all well and good, but when you want a small heap of classic breakfast for cheap, who does it best? McDonald's, of course. You can get an Egg McMuffin and a hash brown patty for just about the same cost as two tiny egg bites from Starbucks.

Starbucks certainly still holds the title for better-tasting coffee and overall quality, but there is also a time for cheap, no-fuss or frills breakfast food. And the McDonald's breakfast menu, while absent of breakfast pastry classics like scones or croissants, still covers the basics with cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, and apple fritters. 

So while we aren't trying to compare McDonald's breakfast with a Michelin-level meal, there are few better chain coffee places to go for quick, affordable, and classic breakfast food. Sometimes you want fancy five-dollar egg white bites, but sometimes you want a greasy McGriddle that you can pay for simply with the loose change you scrounged out of your console. 

Gloria Jean's Coffee

Gloria Jean's Coffee originated in Chicago and has since expanded to over 600 locations worldwide. The chain is widely known for its scrumptious frozen and blended espresso drinks and fruit smoothies, but the breakfast is certainly worth a visit, too. Food availability varies by location — likely because there are franchised Gloria Jean's shops — but there is a variety of breakfast pastries, muffins, sandwiches, and wraps available at certain spots. At some locations, for instance, you can pair your latte with a freshly-baked blueberry muffin or a soft and airy fruit Danish.

But at some Gloria Jean's cafes, there's a full-fledged brunch available for eating. Omelets, pancakes, and French toast are all potentially part of a delicious breakfast at Gloria Jean's, according to a Tripadvisor review that deems it "A must try breakfast." Other locations offer muffins and slices of pastry, plus avocado sandwiches, freshly-baked New York-style bagels, breakfast sandwiches, and even hot wraps. Starbucks could never!