Showing posts with label Illinois. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Illinois. Show all posts

Monday, October 02, 2017

The Spoke and Bird

Subject: The Spoke and Bird
Location: Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

Having gone to McCormick Place in Chicago more times than I have eaten deep dish pizza, it has become a point of mine to find good coffee in reasonable walking distance from the giant halls that occupy much of my day when I visit Illinois. Over the years, Chicago's blooming coffee scene has made this hunt for quality coffee less and less daunting, with this past visit turning up a coffee shop a mere three blocks away. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

Sawada Coffee

Subject: Sawada Coffee
Location: Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

With the various business developments currently happening in the specialty coffee realm, it always peaks my interest when I find a unique collaboration. Take Hogsalt Hospitality, a restaurant powerhouse responsible for some of Chicago's snazziest venues, and Japanese coffee champion and Steamer Coffee Company originator Hiroshi Sawada. Thanks to a chance meeting in Japan and some clever teamwork, the two entities put together a splendid coffeehouse in the West Loop of the Windy City that definitely catches a discerning eye.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Big Shoulders Coffee

Subject: Big Shoulders Coffee
Location: Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

In the oppressive heat of summer, I like to look back to the chilly adventures of winter past. One of my recent favorites was to Chicago's River West section of town, over to a corner coffee roaster named Big Shoulders Coffee.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ethiopian Guava Smash - Cup and Spoon

One of the best facets of summer are its refreshing caffeinated creations. Though I tend to be a purist when it comes to my coffee, I have grown to appreciate a well-made concoction, especially when it's cold and refreshing, as there's something almost transcendental about a great iced beverage with a splash of quality coffee.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Metric Coffee

Subject: Metric Coffee
Location visited: Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Growing up in the American school system, I always wondered why I had to learn two systems of measurement. It took up precious daylight and to this day I struggle to convert calories to joules (btw it's 1 kilocalorie = 4184 joules).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Heritage Outpost

Subject: Heritage Outpost
Location visited: West Wilson Ave, Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Early in my adult life I found an apartment across the street from what looked like a decent coffeehouse. The place hadn't opened yet but due to strange designs, it was set to open its doors about the same time as my move-in date. Unfortunately, rampant delay and poor decisions foiled my dream of living mere steps from a decent coffeehouse, as the shop turned out to be a dud and the business closed down a shortly after I moved out. To this day I am leery to let local amenities influence my real estate decisions.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Damn Fine Coffee Bar

Subject: Damn Fine Coffee Bar
Location: Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

The first time I heard the words "damn fine" were in the King's English in a CS Lewis book (technically "dem fine"). The Magician's Nephew, still my most loved of the seven Chronicles of Narnia, features an eccentric uncle who refers to the short-tempered Queen Jadis as a "dem fine woman." At the time when I first read this, I took this as scandal, as I was 11 and didn't read books with "sentence enhancers." But years later, after learning all 13 bad words and then banishing them from my lips (as fancy sophisticates should not stain their lips with cursing), I have personally sought to find more creative vocabulary. And so, even though I really don't see the word "damn" as a foul word (unless you use it as a verb, and then you are telling the person/thing to go to H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS, which is kinda bad if you believe in hell (and I do)), it's a word I just don't use casually any more just to play it safe.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cup and Spoon

Subject: Cup and Spoon
Location: Chicago, IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

A Chicago winter certainly demands plenty of cafes in which to warm up and enjoy a mug of well-brewed coffee. Fortunately on a recent trip to the windy city, I found such a place to sip and relax at a local haven called Cup and Spoon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Groundswell Coffee Roasters

Subject: Groundswell Coffee Roasters
Location Visited: 4839 N. Damen Ave, Chicago IL
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

While Chicago usually bequeaths a tough winter fit for a caribou, the occasional mild days make walking the city streets a fairly pleasant jaunt. Naturally, when I take such an outing, one of Chicago's many excellent coffeehouses will be on my route. Always on the hunt for new-to-me establishments, I found myself out for a stroll one morning that ended at the doorstep of Groundswell Coffee's North Damen outpost.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Mugged: Goshen Coffee's Secret Stash

Subject: Goshen Coffee
Coffees Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Adame Gorbota, Ethiopian 6+
- Gedeb, Ethiopia 6+
- Kintamani, Bali 6+
- Pedro Melgar, Honduras 5+
- Toribo Vasquez, Honduras 5+

A lot of great things have come out of Illinois. Abraham Lincoln, Portillo's hot dogs and Home Alone (just the first movie) usually top my list. But over the years, I have found another contender amidst the regulars: Goshen Coffee.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mugged: Brasil, Colombia and Ethiopia [PHCR]

Subject: Passion House Coffee Roasters 
Coffee Mugged and Rating [see key]:
- Brasil Sertaozinho 5+
- Colombia Matambo AAA 6+
- Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere 5+

I always love getting revisits from great roasters, especially ones from Chicago, as the windy city seems to be home to some of the warmest coffee folks in the industry. Some months ago I got my first real interaction with Passion House Coffee Roasters (a tremendously pleasant one) and as a recent follow-up, I got a full taste of their Ambient-Mainstream-Experimental spectrum with three coffees each championing a genre: their Brasil Sertaozinho representing Ambient, Colombia Matambo volunteering as tribute for Mainstream and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere standing up for Experimental. I brewed each coffee via pourover, french press and siphon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mugged: Guatemala Huehuetenango [Passion House]

Subject: Passion House Coffee Roasters
Coffee Mugged: Guatemala Huehuetenango
Rating [see key]: 6+

Every time I turn on my internet surfer, it seems the number of coffee roasters has swelled even larger. Like a growing wave, the expanding number of coffee roasters makes my heart leap with joy that more and more people are coming to patronize worthy roasters, but conversely I know that any growth, while healthy, does mean an increased competition for constituents.

But one thing is for sure: with a constantly growing variety of coffee roasters, you will need curators to highlight the glorious. One such coffee entity is Coffee Kind, armed with a litany of great roasters as well as coffee equipment and brewing wisdom. Recently they extended to me a coupon so I could test out their services, and without wasting much timeI took the opportunity to order a delightful-looking Guatemalan from Passion House Coffee Roasters.

Passion House is a pretty new-to-the-scene roaster, based out of Chicago infused with what seems like vats of zeal and coffee skills. Of their many offerings, I ordered from their Ambient Genre the Guatemala Huehuetenango, a blend of various beans produced from the Huehuetenango Highland Coffee Presidium esteemed for their high quality and traceability.

After the coffee's prompt arrival, I sampled the coffee via pourover, french press and siphon. The pourover slung notes of honey, ice wine, cracked wheat, nougat, cashew and a touch of roast fowl, making for a delectable nectar with a cocoa-esque followthrough. The french press also pressed in sweetly, with nougat, cracked wheat, cashew and sweet tea dominating amidst a light body. The siphon rounded out the three with buttered cracker, nougat, cashew, cream, a bit of roast chicken and a basil hint, making for a sweet and dessert-packed coffee.

Few coffees have been as easy to decimate as this fine Guatemalan from Passion House. Coffee Kind proved a valuable presence in the coffee choosing process and with numerous great roasters and gear, they'll be more than happy to help you narrow down your decision.

Next time you seek beans, check out Coffee Kind and Passion House Coffee Roasters.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Monday, August 12, 2013

CC: Dollop Coffee

Subject: Dollop Coffee Buena Park and Lakeview
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: Both 6+ [see key]

Rarely in my travels do I get to hit two (or more) different locations for the same shop on a single trip, but sometimes I stumble upon such luck. While walking through Chicago, I first came upon Dollop Coffee of Buena Park one sunny morning and then the next day, I found myself loitering by the Lakeview location. Both serving Metropolis Coffee, I was able to capitalize on the opportunity to try out two Dollops in one trip.

At their original Buena Park location, the run-of-the-mill brick exterior does a fair job cloaking the beautiful interior, with its swanky wood furniture and decor, gorgeous layout and warm lighting. For my libations, I ordered an espresso of the Red Line Espresso Blend and a drip of La Callandrina. The espresso, pulled short with a dark brown crema, delivered notes of bittersweet cocoa, cumin, blood orange, buttermilk and a little pepper. The drip proved equally delicious, with flavors of honey, wheat, pistachio, snickerdoodle and sesame seed amidst a medium body.

Heading south to the Lakeview location, a relatively recent shop acquisition from former Kickstand Espresso, it is a little smaller than Buena Park though it lacks none of the charm. In regards to the coffee that afternoon, I had the Red Line for the espresso and the Good Soldier blend for the drip. The espresso proved well-liked, with bits of dark chocolate, deep citrus, vanilla, cumin and malt, showing an overall dark but tasty infusion. The drip held out smatterings of challah, tomato, molasses, cucumber and nutmeg among a medium body, confirming a similarly toothsome 
filtered infusion.

With a highly-praised third spot in the Streeterville neighborhood (which I did not make it to), Dollop seems to be a great shop to visit, no matter the location. Give Dollop a dollop of your time next time you're in one the aforementioned Chicago neighborhoods.

Monday, July 15, 2013

CC: Bow Truss Coffee Company

Subject: Bow Truss Coffee Company
Location: Chicago, IL (Broadway Roastery)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I've found nice morning walks very cathartic when I visit Chicago. Maybe it's the soothing hum of the trains amidst the wind gusts, or maybe its delayed gratification of making a bit of a targeted trek to a great coffee spot for my gloriously anticipated first cup of morning coffee.

No matter the reason, my most recent Chicago morning stroll led me to the doors of Bow Truss Coffee Company's Broadway roastery. Arriving earlier then many of the other patrons, I was greeted with a calm quiet cafe that resembled a bit of an old rustic factory and farmhouse, with rich wood furniture up front and the coffee roasting operation in the back (note: there are sadly no bathrooms).

For my coffee, I ordered an espresso of a Guatemalan (La Sofia I believe) and a V60 of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The espresso, pulled short with a brownish crema, delivered orange juice, cocoa, licorice, lime zest and nutmeg, proving very bright yet deep, all tying together quite nicely. The yirg trumpeted out giant notes of fruit punch, with bits of vanilla, croissant, cocoa and rose petals; an all around juicy coffee with some nice rich sweet elements on the back end.

To say the least, I was greatly pleased with my inaugural AM visit to Bow Truss. If you happen to be in need of a coffee destination, or just a pit stop on your morning walk, make one of Bow Truss Coffee Company's locations a pin on your Chicago map. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

CC: Buzz: Killer Espresso

Subject: Buzz: Killer Espresso
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

How a barista handles customers coming in during the last half hour of business says a lot about a place in my mind. Within that final half hour, a lot of shops begin to shut down and clean their equipment, because like most people, the employees want to go home sooner rather than later. If things are slow and people aren't really ordering much, than usually no one notices the gradual wind down. But have a sudden up-spike in business with a small bus tour of eager customers walking in 5 minutes before closing, that's when you will see the difference in establishments.

I had a great experience at Chicago's Buzz: Killer Espresso one fine evening a little under a half hour before their 8 PM close. Usually I try not to show up to a coffeehouse that close to the buzzer (pun intended) but especially when I'm traveling and my adventures keep me from being as punctual as I would like, I will give it the old college try. I walked up their stoop and inside to their gorgeously designed cafe (clean, polished and lots of seating) and asked if they were still serving espresso and pourovers. To my delight, the barista did not give me a furrowed brow and the monotone "we're closing soon so I can only make you ___ drinks" spiel, but instead heartily smiled and began a chipper exchange with me as she took my order.

Buzz has a roasting arm called Buzz: Artisanal Coffee Roaster, of which that evening I ordered an espresso the Hornet Espresso Blend and a pourover of a Kenya. The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, smacked of silky chocolate, cherries, a touch of cayenne pepper, some whole milk and a good squeeze of lime; deliciously extracted with all the potency of the hornet's sting but nothing but euphoria. The Kenya also delivered a sumptuous beverage, with notes of milk chocolate, strawberry, vanilla wafer, a little dill and a touch of wheat grass, making for a sweet and juicy coffee.

Fortunately, Chicago is a great city of great coffee people and Buzz kept to that high standard. If you're in the area of Wicker Park, definitely stop by Buzz.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

CC: Overflow Coffee Bar

Subject: Overflow Coffee Bar
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Staring at a map of Chicago, there are very few paths to get from the McCormick Place Convention Center to a decent coffeehouse. The closest I've found to date is a funky place on State St called Overflow Coffee Bar. Set in a very wide store front, the voluminous cafe seems to be home to many students during the course of the year, as there are a few institutions of learning close by and Overflow has a lot of tables, not to mention a slight, unique aura of a school bookstore.

Sauntering up to the centrally placed counter, I ordered an espresso of Ipsento's Wildfire and a drip Coffee Ambassador's Brazil. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with light brown crema, blasted out notes of cocoa, cherry, oregano, sweet wheat and fig, proving in totality to be a smooth, chocolatey espresso. The Brazil dictated triscuit, apple, prune and a little basil, composing a bright and hearty coffee that made for many a delightful sip.   

Quite thrilled with my experience, I take heart that a mere 20 minute walk stands in the way between decent coffee and the endless halls of McCormick Place. If you're in town for a conference or for different strokes, meander over to Overflow.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

CC: Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Subject: Gaslight Coffee Roasters
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Some people I know still shudder and shake at the idea of using trains as a primary means of transportation. Sure the noble automobile has much more versatility, but when you're in a city like Chicago with its superb transit systems, it just makes more sense to take the L where you need to go.

But unfortunately for me one night, I found myself chained to a colleague who refused to let me take the train to get some coffee because it was "unsafe."  Instead, after some negotiation to keep the apple cart settled, I found myself being chauffeured (not a bad compromise) to my evening coffee stop in Logan Square, Gaslight Coffee Roasters.

Getting out of the car, I found Gaslight conveniently situated in a very visible corner space with wide windows. Stepping inside, it seemed that even the cold night air could not chill the warm vibe given off by the clean design and spiffy decor of the interior. The place was also packed and buzzing, despite the late hour.

Sauntering up to the counter, in no time at all I engaged a barista or two in coffee-laden banter, eventually deciding on a espresso of their Ethiopian Sidamo and a pourover of their Colombian Peaberry. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, shot off rockets of intense flavor, with notes of berry, almond croissant, cocoa, hibiscus, red wine and a little cumin (delicious!). The pourover proved creamy and sweet with wheat, additionally throwing in notes of vanilla, corn and apple skin, proving smooth and thoroughly pleasant.

While I wasn't able to hang out as long as I would have liked (my chaffuer awaited me in the car), it was great to make it out to Gaslight Coffee Roasters. When you're in Chicago, make sure to float yourself over for great coffee.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CC: New Wave Coffee

Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

While most folks prefer their coffee in the morning, I really think I enjoy my coffee more in the evening. Maybe it's beacuse my taste buds have awoken more fully by night; perhaps it's due to the fact that late-night studying largely birthed my love for coffee. Regardless of the reason, it's always a delight to grab a swell cup of coffee for what lies ahead when the sun goes down. 

Last I was in Chicago, I decided to pay a twilight visit to a cafe called New Wave Coffee, a cafe known to be serving Metropolis Coffee and doing fine things with it. Straddling Milwaukee Ave and Logan Blvd, the place has an entrance on each side with a creamy center containing a pink and blue tile floor, some interesting art pieces and a pleasing mix of random furniture.

For my coffee beverages, I ordered an espresso of the Redline Espresso and a drip of a Costa Rican. The espresso, pulled short with a dark brown marbled crema, held flavors of mellow chocolate, Seagrams, salt, sugar cookie and apples; a delicious showing of Redline. The Costa Rican extended out notes of raspberry, cherry, torte, pie crust, a little hot cocoa and a tad bit almond milk; an overall crowd-pleasing coffee. 

To put it plain, I thought my visit to New Wave proved delightful and fulfilling, especially on the part of the coffee. Surf over to New Wave for good stuff regardless of when you like to imbibe your coffee.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

CC: Caffe Streets

Subject: Caffe Streets
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

In the world of coffeehouses, most shops look pretty much the same. What I mean is that right now most shops (especially in the same city) seem to use very similar layouts and themes. For all the shrinking the world is doing these days, it is still hard to find truly unique interiors. Of course certain staples like counters, tables and chairs tend to gravitate to a certain trendy uniformity, but it's surprising how many shops fail to set themselves apart with a rocking decor simply because they lack or leave out the creative process. 

But some places do their planning well and put together a memorable shop. When I was last in Chicago, I found such a cafe in Caffe Streets. While the exterior didn't scream anything different than a normal coffeehouse would, the interior drew the eye (and eventually the rest of the body) in with its layers of wood, well-placed plants and its one-of-kind counter that boasted not only fine equipment, but also several street lights that loomed becomingly over the baristas. 

As for the coffee, they served me Los Andes of El Salvador, a single origin espresso from Heart Roasters out of Portland, and a pourover of El Trapiche Colombia from Intelligentsia. The espresso, pulled medium-short with a brown crema, issued notes of lime, powdered sugar, a cigar-like sweetness, butter cracker and balsamic vinegar amidst seaweed salad; a delicious extraction that enamored me with its bright front. The pourover tasted of condensed milk, clover honey, bits of grass, some merlot, vanilla and a smidgen of dandelion, overall smacking of a mellow cup of caffeinated nectar. 

Of course no stylish cafe is complete without great coffee, and Caffe Streets held the full package. If you're in the lovely city of Chicago, swing by to the only shop that offers street light both inside and out. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

CC: Wormhole Coffee

Subject:  Wormhole Coffee
Location: Chicago, IL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Many years ago I read a book called Enter the Worship Circle, an interesting piece that explored the many ways a person worships God, one of them being personified through the story of a coffeehouse patron. At the time, I was more obsessed with coffee culture than the quality of the beverage, so the part that stuck with me from this book was the emphasis on seeing simple truths (specifically about worship) through unusual artistic presentations in a coffeehouse. 

Years later, even though most coffeehouses try to be more chic than eclectic, every time I hit an off-the-wall joint, my mind thinks back to the concept of simple truths in the less conventional. While in Chicago, I had heard of an establishment called Wormhole Coffee near Wicker Park. The part that had caught my ear was an attention to quality with their coffee but upon arrival one early evening, I caught sight of a full-size DeLorean sitting in the front window and I knew this was no typical shop. 

The shop carried a sci-fi theme overall, with a complex arrangement of figurines and art highlighting the various pieces of mismatched furniture. My coffee came from two sources, with my espresso using Metropolis' Red Line and my pourover Ipsento's natural Panama. The espresso, pulled short with a marbled crema, held the flavors of vanilla, bittersweet cocoa, Italian bread and sweet scallops, all of which blended together to form a great drink. The pourover demonstrated blueberry, cherry jolly rancher, wheat, 2% milk and a little cake doughnut; a coffee with a punch of sweetness followed by a subtle wheat. 

While I didn't stay long enough to analyze the intriguing decor, I found Wormhole to be just the tear in the fabric of time that I needed. If you're looking for a fun place to get some great coffee, set your coordinates to Wormhole Coffee.