Chicago – Espresso Destinations 2014

Chicagoland is the area of my roots, and being so, has provided opportunity to visit fairly often.  It seems not too long ago that the effort required to find a fine espresso was a tribulation, and taking a cycle ride across town was a perilous endeavor.  As much as time has passed and faces have changed, Sandberg’s poem, Chicago, seems in many ways as relevant today as it was when originally published a century ago in 1914 by Poetry Magazine.  Under the waves of present day violence and political grift and graft, the “City of Big Shoulders” can be seen with “lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning”. New investments into urban space such as Maggie Daley Park and in multi-modal infrastructure bears proof that the pulse and heart of the people can be felt.  The growth of urban bicycling and abundance of fine espresso houses are part of the “stormy, husky, brawling” laughter raising Chicago above the fray.  The implementation of cycling infrastructure is impressive, and by witness of our non-scientific survey, it is robustly used.  The Divvy bike share program has taken off with flourishing success;  Kudos to Chicago for leading the way!  The number of coffee houses to visit has grown handsomely with a variety of gems to choose from.

4000 fattened fossil fuel miles of flying to and from Seattle and Chicago burdened my eco-footprint.  To lighten the trip, planes, trains, car-shares, and bikes, were relied upon to traverse the country to “The Region” or “Da Region”; the affectionate Hoosier moniker for Northwest Indiana.  With not a cubic micron to spare, our  Chrome Industries backpack was precisely loaded to outfit the trip to allow seamless transition from one mode of transportation to the next. The multimodal relay went like this:  Brief walk to a  Car2Go, transition to the Link Light Rail, ride to SeaTac, fly to O’Hare, hop the “L” Blueline, ride a Divvy Bike, and finally roll on the South Shore Line to the Gary Metro Center.  From there my wonderful parents chauffeured me to their home.

Repeating this trip a number of times over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to explore and highlight some Chicagoland espresso destinations. Dock your Divvy to read the run down of cafe recommendations.

Heritage Bicycles General Store – 2959 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

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How could we not like Heritage General Store, a mashup of bikes and coffee! Nestled in Lincoln Park, they evoke the feeling of a neighborhood corner store. Enjoy a properly served espresso, warm yourself within the bright day-lit interior, and view the working bike shop in action.  They are builders of fine urban cycles that exude class and tradition.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

 

Caffe Streets – 1750 W. Division, Chicago, IL

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One word for Caffe Streets, style!, well worth the stop just to experience the interior. Pretend you are an architect and check out the custom ceiling.  The cobra head street lights define the espresso bar and definitely light the way to a well cared for and properly served espresso.  There is plenty of cycle parking outside and a sidewalk seating corral to enjoy your beverage al fresco.  Caffe Streets is located on the south boundary of Wicker Park, the seemingly center of mass of Chicago’s coffee houses.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Bowtruss Coffee Roasters – 2934 N Broadway, Chicago, IL

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Bowtruss’ original roasting facility that caters to the local shops and restaurants is just a few blocks walk from a Divvy bike station.   Enjoy the aromas of the roast while partaking in a beverage at the modestly sized front of house coffee bar.   They small batch roast and serve a properly crafted espresso.  I enjoyed the espresso so much that I bought a bag of beans to go, even though I had no room to spare in the backpack.  Fortunately, I could take advantage of the Divvy bike cargo rack and enjoyed a ride on the Lakefront Trail leading into downtown with Big John beckoning the way .

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Dark Matter Coffee – Osmium Coffee Bar 1117 W Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL

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Os, atomic number 76, has an other worldly bluish iridescent glow to its decor.  Located on Belmont, in the heart of the Lake View neighborhood, Osmium is one of three Dark Matter identities. Os is focused on espresso and finely crafted coffee beverages that are not dependent on milk and sweeteners but the natural flavor characteristic of the roasts. “In a world driven by technology and science, we are the gravitational resistance rooted in skill and philosophy…” is the lead sentence of Dark Matter Coffee’s manifesto.  A noble cause that we can lift an espresso to.  The friendly barista pulled a fine espresso with bountiful crema.   He also engaged in some good conversation.  Unfortunately time was short and I had to beat feet to the next Divvy bike, otherwise I would have lingered a bit longer.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

The Wormhole Coffee – 1462 N MilwaukeeAve. Chicago, IL

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Fill your flux capacitor at The Wormhole Coffee. The unique decor absolutely takes one back to the future.  1980’s era sci-fi memorabilia is the theme and rings back future memories. Keep your eyes open for the the storefront, it maintains a low profile; probably to not attract too much space trash. The complimentary bowl of Lucky Charms hit the spot and provided just enough fuel to power a ride into downtown on N. Milwuakee Ave..  The staff was very friendly and engaging, and we look forward to a return trip.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Espressamente illy – 455 N Cityfront Plaza Dr, Chicago, IL

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Molto sexy! Espressamente is one of illy’s finely appointed Italian coffee bars.  After arriving on the red-eye, I made my way through the dawning hours of the Chicago streets to Espressamente, who who thankfully opens at 6:00 AM to cater to those in need. Polished and glossy, it is a gem set perfectly at the base of the NBC Tower.  Order and enjoy your espresso at the bar in Italian style.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Intelligentsia Coffee – Chicago

Intelligentsia Coffee, founded in Chicago, can also be found in NYC and Los Angeles.

1871 Coffee Bar – 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza Suite 1212

The 1871 location will have to be filed in the archives, it has recently closed operations.  Back in 2012 it was our first IC connection

Monadnock Coffee Bar – 53 W Jackson Blvd.

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Located at the base of the Monadnock Building, a bastion of architectural prowess, Intelligenstia is well grounded within the massive load bearing brick facade.  The interior is a throwback to a traditional Italian espresso bar with marble topped tables complementing the original tiled floors.  The traditional styling pays appropriate homage to its setting.  Bustling with caffeinated Chicagoans, one could feel the heart of the city’s business pulse in motion.

Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Millennium Park Coffee Bar – 53 East Randolph Street

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Conveniently located off the northwest corner Millennium Park, the terminus of the South Shore Line, Intelligentsia’s Millennium Park edition is simply and elegantly styled.  Amidst the busy morning caffeine rush hour, appropriate craft and exceptional service tended to the ethos of the espresso experience.  The barista chatted it up a little and liked the fact that I was living the dream and cycling in some rough weather.  Following the espresso, a Divvy bike was pulled at the Daley Center plaza, tribute was paid to the Picasso and then the Marina City Towers, I then made haste northwest via the abounding cycling infrastructure supported by Chicago.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

La Colombe – 1552 N Damen Ave.

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La Colombe was founded in Philly by two partners who met in Seattle.  They developed “culinary coffee”; inspired by the techniques of European roasters and an evolving fine american cuisine.  Located  below the Damen ‘L’ stop, La Colombe is set within a gritty Chicago urban texture.   Plenty of cycle parking is in the area to serve the multi-modal commuters and urban riders.  A delicious espresso with a bountiful crema was enjoyed.  The self serve soda water station is a nice touch so make sure to take care of yourself.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Uptown Cafe – 1400 E. Lincoln Way, Valparaiso IN

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If you need to get to northwest Indiana from Chicago, take the South Shore Line, an interurban commuter rail that connects from the Millennium Park station to South Bend Indiana.  The peaceful rail trip from Millennium Park to the Gary Metro Center takes just under an hour for a meager $6.00 cost.

You might tell yourself that NW Indiana is not known for its specialty coffee houses and you would be right.  Presently, the exception is Uptown Cafe, which  is an espresso oasis for “The Region”.  It is strategically located across the street from the world renowned comics, gaming, and graphic novel shop, Galactic Greg’s, run by Greg Karras, author of the graphic novel, CLASH.  Uptown is also situated at the edge of Valparaiso University.  It is well appointed with a modern and stylish cafe bar and serves a fine espresso in a fancy Bodum double glass insulated demitasse.  I had the good fortune to share an espresso and conversation with Galactic Greg who was donning a smashing custom Captain America leather jacket.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

 

*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

Stumptown Coffee Roasters – Capitol Hill Seattle

Stumptown Coffee Roasters – 12th Avenue Seattle, WA

Espresso Rating Updated 2014.03.10

  • Espresso – ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷
  • Cycle accommodations: Ample quantity, direct visual observation
  • Cafe setting: Quality design sensibility, excellent ambience, modern aesthetic
  • Interior seating: Cozy, comfortable, a few options
  • Exterior seating: Limited, exposed to the elements
  • Pastry selection: Average with variety

The legend existed.  We knew of it.  Our curiosity was peaked, yet we had not made the opportunity to discover it.  Multiple sources, from the young and hip, to the mature and  seasoned, provided accolades.  We are writing about Stumptown Coffee.

Stumptown originated in 1999 at their Division Street location, which stakes the claim of starting the coffee revolution in Portland.  Stumptown has an instructive website that is a resource, in addition to other informational morsels, for coffee brewing methods; including our own home favorite the moka pot!  Stumptown, along with Intelligentsia Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee, has helped to pioneer the concept of “Direct Trade” coffee.  They are also on the leading edge of “Third Wave Coffee” which seeks to elevate the culinary craft of artisan coffee blending, roasting, and brewing.   “Direct Trade” is a departure and differentiates itself from “Fair Trade” on the grounds of premiums paid to farmers, quality incentives to growers, limits on participation, and fees levied on participants.

Stumptown boasts five locations in Portland, two in Seattle, and one in Manhattan.  Our visit was to the 12th Avenue cafe in Seattle.   All of the cafes, it would appear from photographs on the website, have a tuned touch of design sensibility that create a unique and signature statement that is Stumptown.  At the 12th Avenue location, exposed timber structure, and finely finished natural wood fixtures, play a strong role in the style of the refurbished warehouse setting.  The steel shapes of the structural seismic upgrade are highlighted against the exposed masonry it reinforces.   A full glass storefront brightly lights up the interior with natural light, while a large blooming pendant light marks the stair to the lower level.  High backed cushioned banquettes create a co-op of social seating at the front of the house, and a linear bar at the back, provides space for those in more of a solitary mode.  A fine selection of music fills the voids remaining within the space, and match the modern edge of the cafe.

Provision for cycle parking is ample, and a handful of metal chairs provide for modest outdoor unsheltered seating.  The cafe was delightful.

We queued up to place our order and after just a few moments were greeted by a concierge or expediter.  This was a nice touch that kept the bark of drink orders at bay and from being the dominant auditory experience; it allowed the mild tones of conversation, and an excellent selection of music, to set the mood.  We particularly enjoyed the Seu Jorge acoustic Bowie covers playing. We were a bit anxious that the expedited espresso order would be prepared, and sit expiring on the counter, while we waited to pay.  Fortunately, this was not the case.  We reviewed the pastry assortment, which had a good variety of average looking selections.   A soda water compliment was provide upon request.  We noticed that the barisat was not pleased with the espresso pulls and discarded a few and apologized that he was not happy with the quality.  We appreciated that he took his time to make it right.  The aroma was robust and the crema a deep reddish brown that had a full quality.  The flavor had a good progression finishing with a  lasting coffee flavor that turned to sweetness.

Stumptown we give you four wheels out of five.  The cafe ambience and service was fantastic, and we enjoyed the energetic buzz in the cafe.  We have revisited many time from our first visit which and have received many quality espresso.  Perhaps a soda water complement for the espresso purist will cap off the finest espresso experience.

Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Celesto Espresso Mobile Truck

Celesto Espresso Mobile Truck – Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations: On the go ~
  • Cafe setting:  A fantastic truck ~
  • Interior seating: Fabulous, but only on invitation ~
  • Exterior seating: That is all there is ~
  • Pastry selection: A fine modest selection ~

February 22, 2014 cold, wet, and gray are the descriptors for the day. The weather forecast promised that an 8:00 AM departure time would provide a window of opportunity for a dry ride.  Upon review of the mendacious weather app, we saw that the bright red warning icon was flashing, saying snow was a possibility in the higher elevations.  Turning a blind eye to that, a final check of the polished red brake levers of the Wilier was made.  As the cranks turned, a drizzle filled the air closing the promise of the dry window.  We were committed now and forged ahead climbing up to the top of Discovery Park to get warm and then to Perkins lane where freezing rain stung into our cheeks on the descent.  Red alerts went off to say that the ride may need to be abandoned if the freezing rain continued.  Fortunately, it was brief and yielded to larger drops of fluid precipitation.  Looking at the glistening sleeves of the red Rapha rain jacket, today would be a day that will test the quality and performance of the gear.  Another fleeting wise thought was that today would be a good day to use an indoor trainer.   If that was the case, we would not have the opportunity to go out in search of our motivator for the ride, Celesto Espresso Mobile Truck.  Would we find it? Would it be in its promised location on a day like today?  Could Celesto provide a quality espresso?  Most horrifyingly, would it be served in a paper cup?; lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!  We pressed onward making for the dependable West Seattle loop, out beyond the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, up Marine View Drive, and then back northbound using the treacherous heavily motorized 35th Ave SW which provided the highest elevation point of the ride and heavy slushy drops that wavered between snow and rain.  Only ten miles of glistening pavement stood between us and an espresso.  Rain had penetrated through both gloves and booties but the Rapha rain jacket  and winter collar kept our core warm and dry.  A brief chill that slithered in during the descent brought back memories of the 2012 Tour de Blast.

Pausing at the Port for a moment to admire the Smith Tower, we mentally charted a route to South Lake Union (SLU) and the Center for Wooden Boats (CWB), the promised location of Celesto.   The strategy was to warm up by climbing Western Avenue from Pioneer Square and then cut over to SLU via Virginia Street.  The steep climb on the wet cobbles of Virginia required concentration to make it to the top upright without incident; we were now on axis with our destination.  With the chill setting in, was this craziness to go in search of an outdoor truck for the ride’s espresso reward?  Pedaling on, we started the descent to Lake Union; scanning forward in search of Celesto.  Raindrops on our glasses refracted the green light of traffic signals and blinding white beams of oncoming headlights, then we spotted it in the distance, a small glowing red ember, tucked between IMG_5543the cedar shingled roofs of the CWB.  Beckoning us forward, we made our way toward the warmth of the truck’s vermilion radiance.  The foreboding weather had kept most of the visitors away but not Celesto, it was stationed stalwartly between the proud totem pole and the stack of lonely wooden dinghies, whose turquoise hulls complemented the bright fluid script and logo of Celseto.  Basking in the glow and charm of the delightfully restored truck was enough to warm the day.  Clumsily fumbling around with numb hands for money and camera we made preparations for the espresso order. The window slid IMG_5527open and we were pleasantly greeted by Celeste, the proprietor of the truck.  We asked and were granted permission to lean the bike on the truck and were mindful to rest it gently so as to not blemish the paint.  Through shivering lips an espresso was ordered and to our delight it was offered in porcelain and not paper.  Celeste set busily to work crafting a wonderfully aromatic cup.  The flavor was robust and satisfying and provided a lingering sweetness on the palette.  A second espresso was needed and it was IMG_5529equally delicious.  Celesto fulfilled our expectations and we give it a solid four wheels rating and make it a recommended cycling espresso stop when on the go.

Much to our delight we were given a backstage tour of the truck.  The stow-away drivers seat flipped away and provided access in to the neatly developed interior.  The simplicity of the drive council was outstanding; a large steering wheel with just a couple of dials and switches set into a flat metal dash was all that was needed to navigate the rig. We lingered a bit near Holmes, the heater, to admire the artwork sporting a skeleton in a camper.   Finished with the tour and once again outside, we were powered by Celesto espresso and madly pedaled home to finish the ride.

Celesto is open on the weekends at the Center of Wooden Boats and in the future Sundays at the Fremont market.

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse

Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse – 19003 Front Street, Poulsbo WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Available in the side court ~
  • Cafe setting:  Bohemian! ~
  • Interior seating: Plenty of seating choices ~
  • Exterior seating: Plenty available, no cover ~
  • Pastry selection: Good options for refueling ~

Poetic waxing can only provide this scenic ride justice.  Summer relenting into Autumn;  Chill morning air tempered by virtue of exertion;  Deciduous warming tones brushed an evergreen canvas. Pathways unrevealed, extended, exhilarated, winding descents; Friendships forged future.

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This cycling journey took us north out of Seattle to Edmonds, to catch the ferry to Kingston.  The morning was crisp with blue pristine skies. Quiet early morning roadways made for favorable riding.  Pronounced and glowing with the rising sun, the Olympic mountains cut a beautiful profile across the sky and above Puget Sound; they beckoned us to board the ferry and continue our journey towards the west. Disembarking the ferry, we pedaled non-stop southward through Indianola, then around Miller Bay and through Squamish.  Continuing on, we headed north then west, navigating our way to Poulsbo and our midpoint destination, the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse.  Climbing southward out of  Poulsbo, a wonderful three mile stretch of rolling coastal roadway, Lemolo Shore Drive, was a fitting treat.  It connected to  the busier SR 305 and the Agate Pass bridge joining the peninsula to Bainbridge Island.  We conducted a tour of the east side of the island and visited the Vintage Bicycle Museum at Classic Cycles while we waited for the return ferry to Seattle.  The conditions of the day were perfect, the scenery phenomenal, and the camaraderie rewarding.  While the picturesque nature of this ride would be satisfying any time of year, the autumn colors made it magnificent.  Round trip, departing from the Fremont Bridge, was about 60 miles and 5500’ of elevation gain.

The Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse (PBCH) was a delightful cycling cafe stop.  We were ready to recharge after traveling some 35 miles and 3500 vertical feet.  Located at the northern extreme of the Poulsbo town center the PBCH was painted strikingly yellow with blue accents and presented with paradoxical quietness to the street.   Small in scale, the facade gives way to a large variety of interior seating with breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the Western Peninsula.  A side court is an excellent exterior room that provides a secure spot to park your bikes and enjoy a cup.

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Food selection is good, including pastries, sandwiches, and soup.  Serving a custom Mukilteo Coffee Roasters Poulsbohemian blend, the PBCH proffered some fine espresso preparations.

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The service was friendly and the barista/cashier did an admirable job of multi-tasking coffee, food, and coin.  We self-served a glass of filtered water to cleanse the palette prior to partaking in our cafe indulgence.  Moving to the finer points of the espresso; its best attributes were the aroma and the flavor.  The crema was smooth, although, frail; dissipating quickly. The progression of flavor was good and did provide a sweet lingering coffee flavor.  Overall we give the espresso experience a solid three wheel rating.  PBCH, you are definitely a recommended cycling stop and strategically placed for those exploring the area by cycle.  We look forward to stopping again.

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

Manhattan Espresso Adventure 2013

Humidity and heat was the trepidation for a late August vacation to New York City.  Regardless, the prospect to spend quality time focused in Manhattan dispelled any festering anxieties about heat and humidity.  Soaking up the urban experience was what this trip was about.  Immersing ourselves in NYC, from morning through the night still endures with a buzz.  While this was not a cycling journey, there was abundant opportunity to explore as many espresso stops as possible.  In the wake of nine days and over twenty coffee houses visited; we chose ten to distinguish.  Stops were made by recommendation, research, and spontaneous discovery.  Headquarters was Midtown East Manhattan, at the Metropolitan Double Tree, located at 51st and Lexington.  A Citi-Bike station and subway were directly outside of the hotel, so getting around town was a snap.

We only provided an espresso “Wheels” rating and did not call out how bike friendly… take a Citi-bike, dock it, walk, enjoy!

Little Collins – 667 Lexington Ave NY, NY

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

LC had the full package.  Featuring the sleek Modbar system, they delivered a quality espresso served with a soda water accompaniment.  The baristas were decked out properly and took their craft seriously with delight.  LC was our last stop of the trip, and was a spontaneous discovery.  They were the real deal, and capped off our Manhattan Espresso adventure perfectly.

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Joe Coffee – Grand Central Terminal  NY, NY (Graybar Passage)

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Joe was a destination stop based on research.  If you do not know Grand Central Terminal – have fun finding Joe.  Simply find the Graybar Passage and you are there, just keep your eyes peeled wide open because you can walk past it in a heartbeat.  Hopping busy, serving up all comers, Joe delivered a proper espresso including a soda water, impressive!

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Blue Bottle – 1 Rockefeller Plaza Concourse Level, Suite D NY, NY

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

The trick for us was finding the access to the concourse level of the Rock.  A trip down the elevator was the easiest solution.  Blue Bottle found its way from San Francisco to NYC.  Featuring duel espresso bars within the well appointed interior, Blue Bottle served up a fine cup of  coffee nectar.  We love the logo, as well as, the history and espionage tied to the name. The Polish army came to the rescue of the Viennese who were waning from a prolonged siege by the Ottoman Turks.  While fleeing from a surprise attack by the Polish army, the Turks abandoned stores of mysterious bean. Thought to be camel feed by the unknowing Viennese, they were reckoned worthless.  As reward for his role, Kolshitsky, the spy who infiltrated Turkish lines to summon the Polish army, knowingly requested ownership of the stores of coffee.  Kolshitsky opened the first Viennese coffee house, The Blue Bottle.  A pivotal moment of world history and coffee.

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Cafe Grumpy – 224 W 20th St.  NY, NY (Chelsea)

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Slipping in the door just prior to closing, we enjoyed a delicious espresso at Cafe Grumpy.  Founded in Brooklyn, and as we understand the story, Grumpy was one of, if not the first, to break the scene of a new era of indie coffee houses in NYC.  A scrumptious espresso was our treat.  We left with a souvenir Cafe Grumpy demitasse.  Delightfully tucked into a long narrow space in Chelsea, we can see how Grumpy can be a neighborhood fixture.

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Ninth St. Espresso – 75 9th Ave. NY, NY (Chelsea Market)

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Strolling the Highline?, jump off at the Chelsea Market passage and treat yourself at Ninth St. Espresso.  Via the E train, we arrived just at opening time.  The barista was pleasant, and took her time to make sure the espresso was dialed in properly for the opening hour.  Bountiful aroma, velvety creme, and lasting flavor, was our reward.  Thanks!

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Ground Support Cafe – 399 W Broadway  NY, NY (SoHo)

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

According to NASA, SoHo stands for Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, perhaps a take on the name Ground Support; okay most likely not.  Maybe Ground Support will email and enlighten us on the history of the name.  Ground Support provided a needed respite to our dogs, which had been tramping around for quite a bit.  While service was a bit aloof at the order station, we had some pleasant banter with the baristas.  Brewing Intelligentsia’s “Black Cat”, Ground Support provided a fine espresso.  We particularly enjoyed the selection of cycling magazines to peruse while at the espresso bar.

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Culture Espresso – 32 W. 38th St.  NY, NY

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Located in the heart of Mid-town, close to Bryant Park and the Library, Culture offers a quick recess from the bustle.  AM coffee lovers were packed out the door, fortunately, the line moved quickly to serve those in need.  Hearing the espresso order, the barista took note of our place in line and made the preparations appropriately to ensure, that when the espresso was up, we were there to receive it at it’s peak.The crystal chandelier is the centerpiece of the cafe and the dual cold brew towers the piece-de-resistance. Heart was the roast being featured while we were there.

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Third Rail Coffee – 240 Sullivan St  NY, NY (Greenwich Village)

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Located just south of Washington Park, Third Rail is positioned well to serve the burgeoning students of the NYU School of Law.  Third Rail’s friendly baristas served up a fine spot of Stumptown’s Hairbender roast.  Appointed sparingly, the brick interior provided just the right atmosphere to enjoy a caffeinated delight.  There was space to secure a cycle outside and in sight from within.

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Irving Farm Coffee Roasters – Grand Central Terminal  NY, NY

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Irving  Farm roasts there own beans and has a number of offerings to select from, including organic, which we appreciate for many reasons.  We had the Black Strap espresso blend.  Served with a soda water accompaniment, the espresso, much to our satisfaction, was richly aromatic and robustly flavorful.   If we were giving out awards, which we were not, this particular espresso pull would have received the messiest cup award; just saying!  Still enjoyed it Charlie Brown.

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Becco – 355 W. 46th St.  NY, NY

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷    ~

We want to give a shout out to one restaurant, italian of course, that served a proper espresso, BECCO!  A satisfying meal was enjoyed following the poignant hilarity of “The Book of Mormon”.  All three of the features of the house specialty meal were delicious.  Dessert was followed by a revivifying espresso.

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

New York City – hunt for a proper espresso

New York City, the delights and magnificence of your metropolis are  truly impressive.  The only thing missing is our cycle.  Renting will have to suffice to provide a tour around Central Park and a test of a Citibike will be in order as well.

Demarco Coffee 569 Lexington in Midtown East was our first stop and conveniently located at the base of our hotel.  Demarcos serves up a good coffee, has a pleasant atmosphere, and friendly staff.  The espresso craft can use some refinement to take it to the level of a recommended cycling espresso stop.  Less liquid more crema, tuning in on the particulars of duration of the espresso pull seems to be a next required step.
Third Rail Coffee in 240 Sullivan St. In the Village just south of Washington Square Park was our next destination following a tour along The Highline.  Third Rail Coffee is a cozy spot and fitted out just right for the location.  The barista were friendly and engaging while serving up the espresso.  They served up a plain water with the espresso, it was appreciated, not as a much as a proper soda water, but appreciated none the less.  You will catch a glimpse of the barista’s Surely Longhaul Trucker in the foreground of the exterior photo.  Kudos for biking it.  The crema was nice and consistent, however, it was thin and disappeared rapidly.  The nuance of crafting the proper espresso is within reach.  The shot seemed to be over extracted IMHO.  We enjoyed our visit and left perked up and ready for more à pied touring.
Ground Support Cafe at 399 W. Broadway in SOHO was the next discovery.  Hip and happening and serving up Intelligentsia’s Black Cat.  It was 5 PM and our dogs needed a lift after pounding the pavement all day, Ground Support Cafe delivered.  They hit the mark with a full and rich crema, plus the bevy of cycling mags boosted our spirits.  A proper soda water compliment would have captured the day.  The place was packed and had an excellent haute couture  coffee house atmosphere.  Smooth out the large bubbles in the crema and we think you have it nailed.
More to explore in the coming days and pardon the typos as this was posted from the iPhone. Photos yet to come In the meantime we have posted some shots on our Facebook site.

urban Coffee lounge

Urban Coffee Lounge – 9744 119th Way, Kirkland WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  plenty of options ~
  • Cafe setting: Modern coffee lounge ~
  • Interior seating:  plenty of options including fire place ~
  • Exterior seating: large selection plus some limited under cover ~
  • Pastry selection: bountiful ~

With the STP behind us it was time to get out and have another ride, this time around the north end of lake Washington.  We rendezvoused and rolled out from the Fremont Bridge.  A marine cover of clouds created a low grey ceiling that loaded the air with moisture that collected on our jerseys and sun glasses.  Meteorologically, this was still considered a dry day.  The route would take us through  Kirkland, then to Bellevue, and then over Mercer Island and back home to round out a fifty-four mile loop.  Juanita Drive will take you straight into Kirkland from the north end of the lake, however, make sure to take a right on Holmes Pt. Dr. NE for a treat of a descent following the climb.  Low traffic and good pavement combined with some good turns makes this a favorite segment.  It turns into 76th place NE for a short climb back up to Jaunita Dr. NE.  From there put the hammer down and cruise your way towards Kirkland.  As you pass Juanita Beach Park, take a left  going east on 97th Ave NE; land marked by Spud Fish and Chips on the corner.  Take the first right onto NE 119th Way then look for urban Coffee lounge, set back on the east side of the street in the open plaza of Juanita Village shopping center.

We set “urban Coffee lounge” (UCL) as a destination, based on a recommendation from one of our readers.  A big thank you for the tip!  We spotted some cafe tables in the plaza and parked our rides there and made our way in.  The interior has a high quality urban edge to it.  An angular finished concrete bar cradles a warm heavy wood counter.  It was busy and the line moved quickly.  The cashier and barista were taking good care of the customers and were light and engaging with their manner.  We ordered an espresso, there were two options, Stumptown Hairbender and a single origin.  We have had a fair share of Hairbender recently and decided to risk the single origin.  A sumptuous display of food was on display to tempt our fancy.  There were any number of pastries that would have been a good choice, however, the dill and cheese scone won the day.  There looked to be a dozen or so different sandwiches available to round our a full compliment of gastronomic alternatives.

Peering over the counter and curious how the espresso was coming along, we spied that a tall cylindrical shot of soda water was prepped and in the ready to accompany the espresso.  The espresso was delivered with grace onto the counter and the barista looked very pleased to have put the soda water, spoon, and espresso together and all contained within a wooden saucer. It was refreshing to come to a place that has taken time to think about the composition of the espresso, it looked “marvelous”.

The aroma was good, the crema was thick, but had some large bubbles.  The flavor was good but the single origin was a bit too tart to provide a satisfying and lasting espresso flavor.  If time was not pressing a second espresso would have been in order.

urban Coffee lounge, you are definitely a recommended cycling espresso stop.  There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and space to park cycles, the atmosphere was truly a quality coffee lounge, the service was engaging and the presentation of the espresso was superb.  We knocked you a bit for the quality of the crema, but will need to go back to try your go to espresso blend rather than the single origin.  We give you four out of five wheels, in particular for properly served and presented espresso, well done!

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

Cosmonaut Coffee

Cosmonaut Coffee – 817 Division Ave, Tacoma WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Bike rack down low, or the elevated deck ~
  • Cafe setting: Out of this world ~
  • Interior seating: neatly packed like a space capsule ~
  • Exterior seating: above the earth deck ~
  • Pastry selection: good pastries and sandwiches ~

We had planned a big day to wheel around the South Sound from Seattle, to Tacoma, across the narrows to Gig Harbor, then to the Southworth Ferry and back to Seattle; 107 miles and 7,250’ of quality rolling and climbing awaited.

Hugging Puget Sound for the majority of the route, we were treated to breathtaking beauty, and quiet roads on an early Sunday morning in June.  This ride was one, regardless of the hurt the climbs dealt out, that placed us into an orbit of cycling euphoria.  It included steep climbs, exhilarating descents, and ribbons of back road tranquility.

Along the way there were a few moments of urban turbulence when grinding through Burien, Des Moines, and the Port of Tacoma.  We had two extra-terrestrial sightings.  First, a fist shaking and presumed toothless, pick-up truck driving male, ranting out some redneck wisdom.  The second, at roughly 10:00 AM, was a dog walking, PBR tallboy sipping, smoke dragging, muumuu clad female.  Dropping a chain on the rise of the narrow, heavily trafficked, Elle St Bridge provided the coda of the gritty urban segment of the ride and also the prelude to our mid-ride docking at Cosmonaut Coffee.

IMG_3333IMG_3352Located directly opposite of Wright Park on Division Ave in Tacoma, Cosmonaut Coffee, formerly Satellite Coffee (click here for the story), provided an excellent drop out of hyperdrive.  It was quirky, fun, and provided an excellent cycling espresso stop.  The space theme was marvelous.  We docked our rides on the upper landing bay and entered through the triple air locked door fitted with a delightful custom brass porthole.  Within the espresso chamber we were greeted by the sensory lifting scents of coffee.

IMG_3351The tight quarters inside the coffee station were fancifully themed for the space traveller.  Narrow counters with lollipop bar stools and  fixed benches were the seating choice; not luxurious but perfect scale for the outpost.  The head was equally compact, equipped with a “stink-o-meter” to monitor air quality, and a velvet print of the Enterprise to appease lingering stargazers.

The espresso bar was a neatly engineered unit with fully powered equipment.  The barista was friendly and engaged her customers while managing the helm and the till.  Food rations were good; pastries, sandwiches and more IMG_3342filled out the compliment.  The Veggie-fu sandwich from Molly’s Grown to Eat was excellent. We enjoyed finishing our sandwiches on the deck that looks over historic Wright Park, that has recently received restorative updates and  improvements to further the longevity of this delightful urban respite.  The masterplan and updates were designed by Site Workshop.

Cosmonaut Coffee, we definitely recommend you as a cycling espresso stop and give our espresso experience a four out of five wheel rating.  The atmosphere was delightful, the barista was engaging, and the espresso was excellent.  The only items that took you out of the highest orbit were, the crema did not quite attain a velvety perfection and the soda water was served in a plastic cup.  We hope to try the 6th Avenue ship that boasts a cycling roll up service window.

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Fully refueled, we launched again on our journey, enjoying sites such as Stadium High School and the beautiful housing stock along N Yakima Ave..  We made our way to the deep space portal of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  The cycling lane was excellent, particularly when compared to the death defying wormhole of the old bridge.  Our journey took us through beautiful Gig Harbor and onto scenic Crescent Vally Dr. NW.  Crescent Valley Dr. has a few thigh roasting climbs that are just a warm up to the even more punishing ascents on Banner Rd SE.  After being beaten up by the hills, we made a quick stop to check the time and ferry schedule. We discovered we were 8 miles away with only 20 minutes until the next ferry departed.  If we missed this one, there would be a full hour to wait for the next one and family obligations loomed heavily.  We hopped back into our cockpits and launched with our beleaguered legs down the line of Banner Rd.  It was straight and riddled with ups and downs.  From the apex of the first climb and in the line of site was a long daunting climb ahead of us.  Gritting teeth we hammered down the descent to gain as much speed and momentum to attain escape velocity from the impending black hole that would suck the life from our legs and any hope of reaching the ferry in time.  We pressed on and called upon Scotty to give us just a little more as we crested into a low grade mile long ascent to reached the right turn onto Sedgwick Rd., which would provide a gravitational slingshot to the ferry terminal.  Scotty delivered but the demand had our hearts jumping out of our chests.  As we sped downhill to our goal, a doe followed by her fawn sprung into the road causing an abrupt halt and narrow miss of calamity.  Picking it up again, we raced to the dock where the workers had just clipped the safety netting across the loading bay and were giving the go signal to the Captain.  We raced to the line and pleaded our case to let us on.  The workers said it would rely on the Captain’s approval and they radioed up the request.  Like dogs at the dinner table we arched our heads upward to the helm with wide longing eyes.  The Captain gave the thumbs up and we were allowed to board.  The ferry ride was a welcome respite to our knackered legs that still needed to press on an additional 15 miles on the far side of the ride.  The sprint to the ferry was exhilerating and forged a fond memory to an extremely enjoyable day of riding.

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

Monorail Espresso

Monorail Espresso – 510 Pike Street, Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  On the go! ~
  • Cafe setting:  Walk up window ~
  • Interior seating: None ~
  • Exterior seating: None ~
  • Pastry selection: Chubbies ~

Skid your fixie to a halt and order an espresso at Monorail Espresso.  This is your on the go spot for an excellent espresso when in downtown Seattle.  Socketed into the the south facade of the former Coliseum Cinema, now Banana Republic, Monorail coffee maintains a long standing presence.

Monorail Espresso is a walk up espresso bar.  Do not park the bike, go straight for the espresso, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.  No futzing about wondering what you want, put your order in and let the line keep moving.  Cash only and tourist’s questions answered for a nominal fee.  Only one choice for food here, Chubbies.  Regretfully we did not order one; they looked much like our favorite chocolate chip cookies; made by Grandma.  We must go back to try them and update this post with the results.

Expectations were low when we asked to have the espresso served in hardware and with a soda water.  We were accommodated on both accounts.  The soda was served in an espresso cup and espresso served in a Japanese tea cup.  Aroma excellent, crema like fine velvet, texture like it should be, and flavor was exquisite.  Needless to say, this espresso hit the spot.  Traditions and formalities of cups, saucers and spoons aside, the quality of the espresso rocked the day. Monorail Espresso we give your espresso a five out of five wheel rating!

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

 

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3

Issaquah Coffee Company

Issaquah Coffee Company – 317 NW Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Plenty of space, limited cycling specific ~
  • Cafe setting:  Spacious good daylight ~
  • Interior seating: Plenty, with options ~
  • Exterior seating: Exterior decks, some under cover ~
  • Pastry selection: Good & Plentiful ~

May’s bike month and Cycling season had kicked into full gear and beautiful weather IMG_3117launched it forward with splendor.  The goal of this ride was to complete a century and since timing did not work out for riding companions, it had to be done solo. Reaching 100 miles would include a route around the north end of Lake Washington, a stretch east, along Lake Sammamish, a climb over Issaquah, a switch back to the east along SE May Valley Road, south to the Cedar River Trail, then west into Renton, a transition north along Lake Washington Boulevard and finally ending with a few climbs in Discovery Park to eek out the last few miles to mark the century.

IMG_3118The route included three trails, the Burke-Gilman, the Sammamish River, and the Cedar River trail.   The Sammamish River Trail, the best of the three in our opinion, provides beautiful countryside scenery along the water’s edge.  Taking it early in the morning is recommended to offer the best continuous riding and fewest pedestrians.  The trail terminates in Redmond Washington.  East Lake Sammamish Parkway, a 10 mile stretch of quality roadway with a good shoulder, provided satisfying uninterrupted hammering of pedal strokes that guided us to the destination espresso stop, Issaquah Coffee Company.  Previously we were under the impression that Issaquah was devoid of a quality indie coffee house.  Thanks to a tip from one of our readers, Issaquah was saved from this stigma and now has the honor of having a recognized Cycling Espresso Stop, Issaquah Coffee Company.

IMG_3137Tucked on the south side of Gilman Village, Issaquah Coffee Company is most easily accessed off NW Juniper Street.  From the north, East Lake Sammamish Parkway changes to Front Street North; go west on NW Holly street and continue west to the end where you must turn right on 3rd Ave NW which will tee into NW Juniper Street.  Turn left then take the first right into the parking lot where you will see the gabled roof of Issaquah Coffee Company.  Enter from the west side where there is a front porch hosting a few adirondack chairs under cover.  There is a large deck to the north as well as another one to the east.  There is a small bike rack next to the garbage and recycling containers, hardly a fitting spot to rest your fine ride.  While there is limited cycling specific parking, plenty of space is availabe on the deck.

IMG_3129IMG_3123Inside there is a large amount of seating with multiple options including, soft couches and chairs, as well as cafe tables.  It is a pleasant simple interior with ample daylight to warm the hardwood floors.  The large flat screen TV is a bit of an anomaly to the other wise peaceful cafe setting, fortunately the volume was not turned on.

IMG_3122IMG_3125If you have worked up an appetite there is plenty of food and a good selection of sweet and savory items.  Sandwiches in addition to pastries are available for purchase.  The veggie quiche was called to our plate.  It was warm and delicious.

Our espresso experience was good.  Stumptown Hairbender is served at the cafe.  We were warmly greeted at the counter and placed our espresso and food order.  A soda water compliment was served upon request.  As is preferred, our payment was taken prior to the espresso being made.  Our food was prepared and then the espresso was delivered making the timing and delivery just right.  The crema was thick and rich and had the typical characteristics we see with Hairbender.  The aroma was full and offered an excellent prelude to a satisfying progression of delightful coffee flavor.  It was an excellent first espresso that begged a second one be ordered to help energize our legs to make the next 57 miles of the days effort.   The second espresso was pulled by a different barista.  A small cappuccino cup was used instead of a proper espresso demitasse, so the crema dissipated rapidly and the temperature of the shot was lost.  The flavor was generally the same but the espresso experience faltered on try number two.

Issaquah Coffee Company, we definitely make you a recommended cycling stop.  The staff is friendly, there are plenty of seating options, and enough food choices to serve the peloton.  We give the espresso experience three out of five wheels rating, primarily taken a notch down due to the faltering on the second pull and primarily the delivery; easily remedied.  We enjoyed the visit and will plan to stop again when in Issaquah.

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

Statistics recorded with Counterize – Version 3.1.3