midwest college & coffee tour (part 1)

clockwise, from top left: downtown Pittsburgh; Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis; Miller Park, Milwaukee; central branch of the Chicago River, Chicago

My wife and I took our son on a college tour during his spring break last week. In a sign of increased personal maturity and growth, before we left I acknowledged to them that my coffee obsessions may have at times imposed upon them when we travel (cough cough). So I made an offer, which was accepted: in each city I would pick only one coffee shop to visit and make a thorough inspection as fodder for a blog post, and I would make sure it was not out of the way.

Congratulations to those careful readers who noticed I said nothing of having a list of other coffee shops for quick, photo-free pop-ins to grab something to go.

So let’s gas up the old station wagon and hit the road!


highly recommend a trip on the Duquesne Incline for the spectacular views of the city from Mt Washington

The City
If you haven’t been to Pittsburgh in a while, or never, your preconceived notions of a tired old industrial city are very much out of date. This is a vibrant place with a ton of energy, great food, interesting neighborhoods, beautiful older buildings, a place with a distinct history and an attractive future.

The Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

The College
We really liked the University of Pittsburgh a lot, particularly its campus. Could definitely see our son heading here.

The Coffee (side visits)
21st Street Coffee is a little shop at the ground floor of an office tower downtown. Feels much warmer than a traditional office tower storefront, staff is friendly, great coffee using Intelligentsia Beans. Highly recommended.

21st Street Coffee and Tea
225 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

While we were at Pitt we visited Redhawk Coffee. Quirky little shop in Oakland’s commercial district, friendly people making really great coffee. This is the kind of coffee shop every college area needs to have.

Redhawk Coffee Cafe
120 Meyran Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

The Coffee (main visit)
Tazza D’Oro is a mainstay in the Highland Park neighborhood, a mixture of lovely older brick and stone houses and apartment buildings. Established in 1999, has since added three other outlets. Sidewalk seating, comfortable and homey wood and tile interior. Flooded from sun streaming through big bay windows at the front of the shop.

Big focus on quality, for coffee (Counter Culture beans made on an older La Marzocco Linea PB), food, and staff training and development, and if you pay attention it shows. The barista was clearly taking care with the drinks he was making rather than pushing through quickly. Our coffees were delicious (the usual quad macchiato for me and a cappuccino for my wife), as was the food. I tried the Morita specialty espresso roast, which was more fruit forward/lemon overload than I would have liked, but still a very well made drink. Her drink was with the Hologram blend and much more balanced.

Overall, this is exactly the place we should all wish we could find in our neighborhood. Loved it.

Tazza D’Oro
1125 N. Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh

the good stuff!



never had a croissant panini before, it was delicious


This was a quick stop to break up the travel and see family. No schools visited, didn’t see the city, and coffee was for convenience before getting on the road out. From previous visits there are a lot of great coffee shops to be found here, as always please check the directory for additional suggestions.

The Coffee
Luck Bros. Coffee in Grandview, independent shop and roaster, coffee was pretty good, people were friendly. Color scheme a bit overwhelming (shades of orange), but all in all a very pleasant stop.

Luck Bros. Coffee
1101 1st Avenue, Grandview Heights, OH

NEXT city: Indianapolis

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