Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coffee Tour: Windy City Style

Way the heck back in September, Jordan and I took ourselves on a little coffee tour of Milwaukee.  Antique shops were visited, coffee places evaluated, java consumed, and everyone had themselves a lovely time.  In fact, it was so nice, we did it twice!

On Friday, Jordan surprised me with an overnight trip down to the Chicago.  That's right folks, we're in the big leagues now!

So without further ado, I present to you:  Coffee Tour: Chicago

(The same rules as last time apply.  I drink what I want - it's my blog, and I do what I want!)

First stopIpsento, 2035 N. Western Ave.

You guys, I fell in love.
Ipsento was everything a coffee shop should be.  This place has personality, the baristas were friendly, the drinks were phenomenal, and you could tell by the clientele this was a regular establishment for most of them.
And the back room, I haven't told you about the back room!  I plan on modeling my future kitchen after that back room:  the walls were teal and yellow, with curtains in white and royal blue, and they used window frames as wall art.
There were tons of original, unique photography and artwork on the walls, and books just lying around, for anyone to pick up and read.  ("A Horse and His Boy" by C.S. Lewis, a biography of Oscar Wilde, and selections from Plato were at our table.)
I got a Nutella mocha, which is exactly as fabulous as it sounds.
Jordan got the house drink - the Ipsento - which was a latte made with honey, coconut milk and cayanne pepper.  Non-traditional, to be sure, but a great, imaginative combination.
The only downside is that it is a bit out of the city (I think the neighborhood is called Bucktown?).  But I would travel much, much further for a place as cool as this.

Ranking:  1st

Second stopNoble Tree Coffee & Tea, 2444 N. Clark St.

Noble Tree also had a lot of personality.  
The coffee shop had three-stories, and the building was quite old, so each level was oddly shaped, like a long rectangle, which made for interesting table setup and people placement.  (Gosh, run on sentence much?)  
I could tell it was very student-focused - almost everyone was studying, really deep stuff too, stuff that scared me just a little bit.  The two guys sitting behind us kept talking about the social ramifications of Twitter... uhhh, yeah.
But overall, it made for a quiet, relaxed atmosphere.
I got a cafe au lait, which was nothing to write home about.
Jordan got an iced mocha.  Same deal.
Overall verdict:  If I was living in the neighborhood, I'd probably visit frequently, but it isn't necessarily worth its own trip.

Ranking:  3rd

(insert break here because Charlotte is starving, and incredibly cranky, and finishes her Qdoba faster than her husband)

Third stopIntelligentsia, 53 E. Randolph

Wow. I mean, wow.
When Jordan and I mentioned to people that we did this tour, Intelligentsia was the one place people asked if we visited.  Apparently, they won some world championship barista competition, and boy, did they deserve it.
While Jordan and I were disappointed by the Randolph location (crowded!), their espresso was, hands down, the best I've ever had.  I'm craving it, as I'm typing this.
I had to drink my cappuccino standing up, but I'd do it again.  (Jordan got a macchiato.)  And I would wait in an even longer line than we did.
If their was an Intelligentsia coffee location closer to our house, I would undoubtedly buy beans from there.  Maybe they have cheap shipping...

Ranking:  2nd

Fourth stop: Cafe Descartes, 327 N. Michigan Ave.

(Can you tell we were having a lot of fun with this camera setting?)

Well, not everyone can be first.  And unfortunately, Cafe Descartes was last.
It got major props for its location - right in the heart of downtown! - but major thumbs down for its beverages and staff.
I got a iced caramel latte that was terribly mixed - all the caramel settled right on the bottom, it actually made me shudder when I drank it.
Jordan got a Mexican mocha, which he thought had too much cinnamon.  We ended up switching drinks halfway through, and we were much more pleased with the others' selection.
The baristas weren't particularly friendly and they didn't really seem like they wanted to be at work.  And for 7 pm on a Saturday night, the place was dead.  As a matter of fact, Jordan's actual words were:  "It's so calm I could die.  It seems like a front for an alternative operation (insert wink here)."

Ranking:  4th

These coffee tours have been so much fun - I can't wait for the next one!
I plan on roping one of my best friends into a Minneapolis version, the next time I can get up the Minnesota.
Stay tuned...

Ipsento on Urbanspoon


  1. A Nutella mocha! YUM!!! I really love the look and feel of the first one!

  2. Coffee tours are the best, and you can never have enough...
    I have had a lot of them as well...:)

    Have a great day.

  3. This looks like SO. MUCH. FUN!! That first stop - those books!!! Oh my, I don't think I would have wanted to leave! :-) Thanks for sharing your fun trips with all of us. My husband went to college in Chicago for two years and then we headed to the Windy City for our honeymoon 10+ years ago. It's got a special place in our hearts. :-)

  4. that first place sounds amazing!!! i'm still loving this idea and have to remember it next time my boyfriend and i are together :)

    ps. i love that b&w pic!

  5. So much fun! and coffee! yay!
    Before I read your last paragrpah, I thought "She should do this in Minneapolis, too."

  6. I love your coffee tours. You must be buzzzed by the end.

  7. "It's so calm I could die." <- HA Ha Ha Ha HAHA!

    I love these coffee house tours you two go on. Also, I like your new picture in your "Who We Are" corner.

  8. Insert Heather here: "I plan on roping in one of my best friends into a Minneapolis version..." :D Nothing could possibly make me happier...char and coffee. I think that you should become a coffee house critic :D and then I would finally have enough sources to write my thesis on what I wanted: the nature of coffee house communication.

    oh...and can I just say that I took a break from grading papers so that I could read your blog and some GOOD writing for a change ;)

  9. LOVE the coffee tour!! We're headed to Chicago next month for a whirlwind family get together... I'm definitely going to try to make it to Ipsento.
    I'm not missing the Nutella mocha... though that Ipsento sounds delish too. CHOICES CHOICES

    Thanks for doing the leg work. Your awesomeness never ceases to amaze me.

  10. Coffee!

    Oh my.

    This is such a good idea, all full of coffee and pretty cozy coffee-shops :)

  11. Thanks for stopping by our shop! As the resident network admin I peruse the interwebs for mention of our name. I stumbled upon your blog. Well done, I enjoy your writing. We're a family owned direct trade venture. My sister designed the Ipsento latte, and the Nutella Mocha you enjoyed. Coincidentally, she is also named Charlotte. She decorated most of the place as well. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the visit. -Jeremiah

  12. What a fun idea! I love coffee but I think if I did a tour of it I would be a jittery mess... I dunno why I am really sensitive to the stuff. I wish I would have read this when I still lived in chi though. Would have been very useful!