Tasty Thursday: Local Coffee Spots

Caribous and Starbucks are dandy in their own way, but this girl really digs independent local coffee shops.

I like knowing lots of good spots. Then I have meeting place ideas all over the Twin Cities before defaulting to a Caribou or Starbucks. Ask me to coffee, and I might take you on an adventure.

Bonus, independent shops seem a little less dependent on overly sweet concoctions, and have some nifty flavors all their own.  For instance, the cinnamon-y Mexican mocha at J & S Bean Factory over on Randolph in St. Paul (one of my favorite coffee drinks ever), or the lavender white mocha at Cahoots on Selby in St Paul, or the Shot in the Nuts at Bull Run on Lyndale, which features Nutella among other things.  I can’t bring myself to order that last one because I think I’d turn purple in mortification trying to say the name (or totally loose my composure in a fit of junior high girl giggles) — even though I’m curious about it since I love just about anything with Nutella.

As I try to be more diligent in writing, I head to coffee shops like I’m headed to work.  Bless you writers that can write at home.  When I try to write at home, I find myself tempted to look for new K-dramas on Viki or DramaFever.  Or, even if I’m trying to be focused, the cats start crying for attention or knocking things about in the kitchen.

Wally Or Wally our beagle decides he needs snuggles, and then starts kicking me furiously as he drifts off into dreams of chasing things. Or worse, Wally starts the anxious pacing and crying routine that can go on for hours, even though all his needs are met. To which, I find myself at my wits end declaring to him. You’ve been outside. You have eaten. You have water. You’ve been walked.  Forever. You were walked for miles. Why aren’t you tired?!?!? Go to sleep. Please.

Somewhere in the cacophony of noise, needs and distractions, my sanity, focus and patience gets obliterated. So, when I need to focus, I have to get myself up and out of the house.

Here’s a few of my recent experiments in no particular order.

Victory 44 Mocha & PastryVictory 44 in NE Minneapolis: Victory 44 has been serving up delectable dishes for quite a while now, but they’ve added some new comfy leather armchairs to the coffee side. And that makes it a cozier spot to hang out with my coffee and pastry — whether I’m there working or to chat with a friend. Also, their coffee is flat out delicious and a cut above most places in the Twin Cities.  Though, if uber sweet coffees a la Caribou and Starbucks are your thing, Victory 44 might not be for you. But, if you like a  pastry with your coffee, as I occasionally do, Victory 44’s pastries are incomparably better than the mass market chain’s.

Urban Bean on Lyndale Ave in Uptown: I just stopped in here on a whim while I Urban Bean Mocha & Animal Crackerwas killing time before another appointment. There’s loads of outlets for those of you wanting to charge laptops or phones, and the hardwood floors and exposed brick make for a charming hipster hangout. Plus, they make their own syrups, and have beautiful latte art. I’m a sucker for latte art. Surprise feature: my mocha came with a cute little animal cracker. I was totally charmed, and gave in to the urge to Instagram my beverage. Yup, I’m that girl.  Downside to Urban Bean is the seating: stools without backs and really uncomfortable wood benches. Great for quick meetings, but you’ll be sore if you try to hang here for more than an hour. At least, I was.

Anelace CoffeesAnelace Coffee on Central Ave in NE Minneapolis: Cute hipster coffee shop with hard woods and pristine white subway tiles. Perfect for dates in your skinny jeans — you’ll fit right in. I’m only slightly kidding. J and I went here for breakfast and coffee as a Saturday morning date, though not wearing skinny jeans. We left feeling supercharged, but not jittery from the coffee. We got the boost we needed to feel ready to take on the world (or brewing beer, which was the actual task of the day), minus the usual accompanying anxiety that coffee amps up in me. Warnings: Don’t go when you’re in a rush, since their beverages are specially crafted by the glass and take a bit of time to steep. It’s on the spendy side as far as coffee goes, but it’s worth it for the complexity of the coffee flavors. It’s probably the first coffee that I could drink straight black and actually enjoy.  It’s velvety smooth without the burnt edge. Also, their baked goods are delicious. Like Urban Bean, seating is hard surfaces, so your posterior might get a little sore if you’re planning to be there longer than an hour.

Maeves MochaMaeve’s Cafe over in NE Minneapolis: My mother-in-law, who is not a fan of lingering in places or coffee shops, went here with a friend a few months ago and was not impressed. Her words: “People seem to be hanging out with their coffee and laptops forever, and not buying much of anything. Maybe that’s a place you’d like.” She was spot on. I loved it. It is my kind of place. And I’ll likely frequent here often. It’s green, cozy and warm with a delightful creative vibe from the folks milling around. I accidentally situated myself across from a mirror when I went, so found myself staring at my reflection inadvertently (awkward!) while I worked.  The staff is friendly. The mocha was tasty. And they have real food that sounds delicious. I battled food envy as I watched another person consume a cheese and fruit plate.

Bull Run MochaBull Run Coffee over on Lyndale in Minneapolis: I met a friend here a few weeks ago for the first time and have been back twice. I like it a lot. In case you’re wondering (and even if you’re not), my two Monday lectionary posts were written here. This might be my favorite place for coffee. Comfy spaces.  Ample places to charge my laptop. Hardwood flooring, tall ceiling, and aesthetically pleasing space to camp out.  It’s fairly easy to find on street parking nearby.  And I haven’t even mentioned the coffee.  Their mocha is my favorite in the Cities.  Smooth. Not overly sweet. Lacking the bitter, burnt edge that some places have. And it’s beautiful. They do latte art too. We’ve already covered my affection for latte art. They also have a second location off of Nicollet that’s kitty corner to one of my favorite restaurants, The Lowbrow.

Cahoots MochaCahoots Coffee off of Selby and Snelling in St Paul: Just discovered this little joint this morning. For you freeze babies who are always cold, you might just love hanging out here. It was cozy warm with comfy chairs and tight little nooks. I thought I was going to melt, so I had to shed my hoodie and my scarf. The staff is super friendly, and people seem to be camped out here for quite awhile. My mocha was tasty, and I loved that the overhead lighting was dim while my little table was adorned with its own lamp. On days when I’m hanging out in St Paul, it might be a toss up between Cahoots or J & S as my favorite place to write. I should also mention Cahoots has a pretty decent selection of loose leaf teas for you non-coffee drinkers.

So, what’s your favorite coffee (or tea) place around the Cities? Anywhere that I should try?

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