Intelligentsia, Logan Square

A batch-brew of an El Salvador single-origin, served in a carafe with a mug on the side, plus a lovely, honey-glazed doughnut, at Intelligentsia, Logan Square.Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Intelligentsia, the Chicago-based roaster/coffee shop chain with six branches in the city and others in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Some of my earliest speciality coffee experiences came in its branch in the Monadnock Building on Jackson Boulevard and, in many ways, it wouldn’t be a visit to Chicago without at least one coffee from Intelligentsia. Since I’ve been confined to my hotel on my current trip by the freezing temperatures (down to -30°C, so cold that even the coffee bar in the lobby was closed), I thought I would take us back to warmer times, when I popped into Intelligentsia’s Logan Square branch on my previous visit to Chicago in August last year.

There’s the usual Intelligentsia offering, with a choice on espresso: the classic Black Cat blend, a seasonal single-origin and decaf, plus another single-origin on pour-over and a third through batch-brew. Unusually for speciality coffee, the pour-over is priced to reflect the extra effort required, coming in at twice the price of the batch-brew. If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s a good tea selection, plus, if you’re hungry, there’s a range of cakes and doughnuts.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Intelligentsia's Logan Square branch on Chicago's Milkwaukee Avenue.
  • The front, with the door inset on the left, is pretty much all glass.
  • There's a handy sign which lets you know where you are.
  • The view from across the street, which is partially obscured by concrete walls/planters.
  • They project into the road, sheltering this wooden deck with outdoor seating.
  • There are some round tables with matching red chairs...
  • It runs the full width of Intelligentsia, providing space for three of the tables.
  • However, you do need to go inside to order.
  • There's more seating in the window to the right of the door.
  • There's a total of four tables with a mix of high chairs and low stools.
  • The view out of the window at the front. The broad windowsill doubles as bench/table.
  • The glass door is set back on the left, while the majority of the space...
  • ... is occupied by a large island counter, seen here from just inside the door.
  • Meanwhile, here's the view from the other side, at the far end of the window.
  • There's seating down either side of the counter in the shape of eight fixed stools.
  • At the back, on the right, are a pair of high cocktail tables with high stools.
  • A view of one of the tables. The map on the wall is of the local neighbourhood.
  • Over on the left-hand wall, there are retail shelves by the door, followed by a cooler.
  • There a selection of coffee kit, but more importantly, retail bags of coffee.
  • Beyond this are three wooden tables which project from the wall...
  • ... each with a low stool and a long, low bench.
  • The tables, seen from the back.
  • There's a single cocktail table at the back on this side.
  • The view across the back to the right-hand side. There's no seating along the ...
  • ... right-hand wall because it's home to more retail shelves & more coffee kit.
  • The price list for the retail coffee and tea.
  • There are some neat features including these lampshades on the left-hand wall...
  • ... wile if you look up, you'll see a lovely, tinned roof.
  • I also liked the flowers on the counter-top.
  • This is the view of the counter as you enter.
  • You order on the right-hand side where you'll find the till...
  • ... with the cakes and pastries beyond.
  • The menu, meanwhile, is to the left of the till.
  • The La Marzocco Strada espresso machine is at the front of the counter on the left...
  • ... while this is the view from just around the corner at the start of the counter seating.
  • Everything else is along a worktop that runs down the middle of the island counter.
  • There's batch-brew, tea and pour-over.
  • The pour-over's at the back. V60 is the usual method, but there's Chemex & Kalita Wave.
  • A handy crib sheet for the baristas: it's hard to hide these things on an island counter!
  • There's a second La Marzocco Strada at the far end of the counter.
  • I went for the batch-brew and a doughnut, which all came with a glass of sparkling water.
  • My coffee was served in a carafe with a large mug on the side.
  • I'll leave you with a shot of my honey-glazed doughnut. It was as good as it looked!
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In the grand scheme of things (Intelligentsia was founded in 1995), the Logan Square branch is relatively new, only opening in 2014. It’s on Milwaukee Avenue, just down from Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker and across Logan Square from Passion House Coffee Roasters. Located on the southwestern side of the street, it has a broad, glass front and a neat outdoor seating area. This is on the opposite side of the pavement from Intelligentsia, on a wooden deck that extends into the street, screened from the traffic by low concrete walls and multiple planters. Running the full width of Intelligentsia, it’s long enough to hold three round, red tables with matching folding chairs.

The door is inset on the left, while to the right there are six, tall, thin, metal-framed windows which run from almost floor-to-ceiling, stretching the full width of Intelligentsia and making the front almost entirely glass. Inside, it is rectangular, roughly twice as deep as it is wide, with the space defined by a long, central island counter set back from the windows.

This leaves space for four round tables in the window with a long, wooden bench/windowsill which doubles as both table and seating. You’ll find 16 fixed stools down the sides of the counter, with eight on either side. At the back, there’s a pair of high cocktail tables on the right with another on the left, while three tables project from the left-hand wall, each with a single, low stool and a long, low wooden bench. You’ll also find the retail shelves (beans) on the left by the door, while the right-hand wall has retail shelves for coffee kit.

The till is at the front (short side) of the island counter, slightly offset to right, with the cakes beyond that. The main espresso machine, a three-group La Marzocco Strada, is on the left with a second, two-group Strada at the back. The batch-brewers, pour-over (V60, with the options of Kalita Wave and Chemex reserved for specific beans) and tea are on a narrow workspace down the centre of the counter. In a nice touch I’ve not seen at the other Intelligentsia branches (each is very much its own location), if you sit at the counter, one of the baristas will take your order and bring your coffee to you when it’s ready, which is a very civilised way of doing things. Otherwise, it’s the usual order and collect at the till.

Intelligentsia rotates the various single-origin offers on a daily basis, drawing from its large stock. At the end of a mini-coffee crawl, I’d already had an espresso and cortado (Buzz), a pour-over (Passion House) and another espresso (Gaslight Coffee Roasters) so decided to get the set with a batch-brew, a Honey Bourbon from El Salvador. This was served correctly, in a carafe with large-handled mug on the side, all presented on a wooden tray. There was also a glass of sparkling water, constantly refilled through my stay.

My batch-brew was excellent and smooth, developing a little more sweetness and fruitiness as it cooled. Talking of sweetness, I’d been trying to get a doughnut all day, but everywhere I’d gone, they’d sold out. However, Intelligentsia came to the rescue and I had a lovely honey-glazed doughnut which was light and fluffy, with a sweet glaze, but without being sickly.

2642 NORTH MILWAUKEE AVENUE • CHICAGO • IL 60647 • USA
www.intelligentsiacoffee.com +1 773-945-1690
Monday 06:30 – 20:00 Roaster Intelligentsia (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 06:30 – 20:00 Seating Tables, Benches, Counter; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 06:30 – 20:00 Food Cakes
Thursday 06:30 – 20:00 Service Counter/Table
Friday 06:30 – 20:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:30 – 20:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 07:30 – 20:00 Power Yes
Chain National Visits 26th August 2018

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