midwest college & coffee tour (part 3)

see Part 1 (Pittsburgh & Columbus)
Part 2 (Indianapolis)


The City
Only my second trip, but I love Chicago. We stayed downtown, along the Chicago River (pics taken from our hotel). We had beautiful weather, took an architecture boat tour which was very interesting, and walked around a lot. It’s a city that draws a ton of visitors and handles them very well. Great food, great cultural attractions.

The College
We were there on the weekend. Didn’t visit any schools, but drove through a bit of Northwestern’s campus, which was attractive.

The Coffee
No side trips, went twice to my main target.

I’ve enjoyed Intelligentsia’s coffee before, and it always matched their strong reputation for quality. I’ve wanted to visit one of their retail outlets, and this was my first chance. They operate a number of cafes in Chicago, and I was staying close to their shop near Millenium Park (home of the iconic Chicago bean, which is worth a visit).

There’s not much to see facing the street, and you might miss it if you aren’t careful. Inside, the shop is open, airy and spacious, with a large work area for the staff. Well suited to handle a high volume of customers (I wish the same was true of the deep dish pizza place we visited, but at least what we got after two hours (!) was delicious). There are several seating areas, including a bar at the counter. High ceilings, cement floor, white walls with black trim, several large modernist paintings of Chicago city scenes. Wood and metal accents, including shelves offering a variety of beans, coffee gear and swag. Espresso made on a La Marzocco Linea PB, and there is a Poursteady pour-over station with three types of filters. Attractive selection of baked goods and snacks.

The coffee, in a word, fantastic. Well balanced, subtle hints of fruit, dry (but not too dry) finish. My macchiato and my wife’s cappuccino were both very well made; mine was served with a glass of sparkling water, hers wasn’t. The staff is friendly enough and professional, but given the high volume of customers they are buzzing around getting drinks out quickly to keep the line going so they aren’t likely to hang out and chat with you.

If you live in or visit one of the cities with an Intelligentsia cafe, or have the opportunity to visit a shop carrying their beans, take advantage. They have managed to keep a high level of quality and you’ll be glad for it.

Intelligentsia Coffee
53 E. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
several other locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Austin, TX

NEXT city: Milwaukee

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