Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Twelve Best Coffee Houses in the Twin Cities

After the relative robustness of my last "Twelve Best" I had to delve into the rest of my foodie bliss and review something new. I chose coffee. To some it is a pleasurable distraction and to others it is a second source of life. Well to me its one of the most enjoyable and controversially steeped drinks of the time. It has taken me longer than I thought, but with no further ado, here you go.

I have a friend that roasts and sells his own coffee. His customers often ask if the coffee is free-trade to which he usually responds, "What is free-trade?" Its become the buzz word surrounding coffee, but does anyone really know what free trade is? I'll discuss that and much more as I take a look at the twelve best coffee houses in the Twin Cities.

Before I begin my review let me make a comment. This was a true sacrifice to go around trying coffee at anything from the "hole-in-the-wall" joints to Starbucks, j/k. I encourage you to make your own coffee pilgrimage around the cities. Its a fairly cheep way to see the scene around Minneapolis and St. Paul. Also, this list is not made in order from best to worst. Its just the way I wrote it out. Any of these places are great and they really are the twelve best of the cities.

  1. Black Dog Cafe, located near the St. Paul farmers market is a full cafe offering both wine and beer. First off the coffee was extraordinarily smooth. It had the best aroma I've smelled in quite a while. The only odd thing was that my dark roast was served up in a pint glass. I kept looking down and thinking I was drinking a Guinness very early in the morning. The atmosphere was intriguing. The Black Dog is housed in a renovated warehouse that still had the original wooden beams. This was mixed with WiFi and acrylics painted by local artists. Although if you go the one of the back corners you'll see some paintings heavily steeped in the macabre. The coffeehouse smelled like and aromatic antiques joint. You could see the history of this place, even though the bright colors that the owners have painted it.
  2. Nina's Coffee Cafe: Located in the Cathedral hill area of St.Paul, this coffee house plays upstairs to Garrison Keillor's book store. You'll find an odd collection of miss-matched tables and a good listing of coffee. The brews are solid, meaning they don't skimp on the beans. I think the best part of this place though is buying some coffee, going downstairs and finding a little hole in the book store to hide in for an hour or two. Believe me too, the book store is great at having little spots to snuggle into and read. It reminds me of some old English bookstore, that has so many nooks and crannies that no one really knows where everything is. But, I digress... the coffee is very satisfying here.
  3. Dunn Brothers: Yup, I didn't think I would have a chain in my list either, but golly, this is just a good place. I would recommend them over Caribou or Starbucks any day, any where.
  4. Muddy Water: Come for the atmosphere and the malted mocha...holy cow! You've got to love the half cup mugs glued to the wall. Come here for the people watching atmosphere and you won't be let down. Of course freeWiFi (comes standard with most coffee shops today) and one cool, laid back place.
  5. Bob's Java Hut: Well, if you like to have a strong coffee without the yuppie flair, then this is the place for you. The music is loud and the beans are louder...what does that even mean? Well anyway, not a place to sit and ponder things, but if you need to get energized quick, here you go.
  6. Uncommon Grounds : Toted as one of the sheik-est places to grab a mug of coffee; although here we would refer to it in the proper English as a cup. Great Victorian atmosphere, but don't come here without a loaded wallet. The service is very good, but they try to feel more hip than they are. They should just embrace their classiness and go with it. As far as the coffee goes, its very good.
  7. Coffee News Cafe: This hole in the wall place is located by Macalester college. There was a heavily political, Andy Warhol inspired interior decorating theme. My favorite painting was "W-Mart" referring to Mr. Bush. Though it tried to pull a very hippie vibe, the place only had six drinks on the menu. The house blend was bland with a dull aroma. It was vaguely like drinking coffee, but I don't know what to call it. I was disappointed too that the delicious looking New York style cheesecakes were not made in-house, but rather from a bakery down the road. The hot chocolate was pretty good though. I guess I could sum up my experience by letting you know that the Dunn Brother's down the road was at least twice as busy when I left. I could not find a website for this coffeehouse. Apparently the owners are Luddites...
  8. Gingko Coffeehouse, located in St. Paul along historic Snelling Ave. offers one of the richest bohemian atmospheres around. Taking coffee in house is always best because it offers a chance to start conversations and have aGrande in a house mug. While me and the misses were there a local folk singer pointed us out and sang what he said was the "most romantic song" he had ever heard.
  9. Sister Sludge Coffee Cafe, great mochas and very good service. All the workers there are great. They are close to a few lakes and here is one of the best parts; they are dog friendly. If you go there I suggest the Turtle Mocha.
  10. Jitters, the coffee is pretty good, but the true reason to savor Jitters is the music. Jazz, blues, soul, R&B. Also, one of the best kept secrets is the 99cent comedy hour on Wednesday nights.
  11. Spyhouse Espresso Bar and Gallery, this is a very hipster place where your servers are known as baristas. They have, as the name implies, some neat art on the walls. If you want to feel like a real up and coming try this place out. The only thing is be prepared for a similar kind of attitude in the service.
  12. Urban Bean Coffee Shop is a delightfully sunny place with a vibrant ambiance. The signature drink is the Furley Freak, named after the Don Knott's character in Three's Company. Its a chilled drink that will be both refreshing and energizing. Its a great place to sit back and gets some blogging done. It can be dog friendly and offers free Milk Bones, but in my research I learned that you may be asked to leave if you dog so much as yelps. I have had better coffee elsewhere though.
I hope you will your enjoy your own exploration of the coffeehouses in the Twin Cities. Maybe this list will afford you an easier start in getting great coffee.

1 comment:

Brian said...

I love Jitters. On some Friday/Saturday nights they have a cabaret singer named Erin Schwab who is amazing.