As I write this, it’s cold and gloomy in the northern hemisphere, so, as we approach Christmas, let me take you back to sunnier times and last year’s Midwest road trip, when I made an all-too-brief visit to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I’ve already written about Five Watt, in Minneapolis, so today it’s the turn of St Paul, the other half of the Twin Cities.
Spyhouse Coffee is a local roaster/coffee shop chain that opened in its first shop in the Whittier district of Minneapolis in 2000. By the time I visited, it added three more Minneapolis locations, but in true Coffee Spot fashion, I chose the most recent Spyhouse Coffee to visit, it’s first St Paul location (since then, a sixth Spyhouse has opened inside the Emery Hotel in downtown Minneapolis).
Returning to St Paul, Spyhouse occupies an old grocery shop that was, most recently, an antiques store, with Spyhouse opening just over two years ago on Thanksgiving in 2017. Spyhouse serves a seasonal espresso blend, joined by two single-origins on batch-brew and another on pour-over via the Kalita Wave, the choices rotating every few weeks. If you’re hungry, there’s a small breakfast menu, plus a selection of cakes.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Spyhouse Coffee is on Snelling Avenue, a wide, north-south artery. On the corner with Palace Avenue, it faces south and west, catching the sun, particularly later in the day. Spyhouse occupies the right-hand side of the ground floor of an old, two-storey brick building, with another shop on the left and apartments above. There’s a large garden to the rear, with its own entrance from Palace Avenue, while there’s also a takeaway window down here, so you don’t even have to go inside if you’re just getting coffee to go. As with Five Watt, I am indebted to my friend Jen, who served as my local guide, for introducing me to Spyhouse.
Spyhouse has a cut-out door on the corner, the door itself at 45°, set back behind a narrow, cast-iron pillar, flanked by tall, narrow windows on either side. There are two wider, square windows to the left, facing Snelling Avenue, and a further window down the right-hand side on Palace Avenue, the windows stretching up to the tall ceiling.
The bright, spacious interior, with its gorgeous tinned ceiling, is flooded by sunlight. There’s a pair of window-bars, one either side of the door, with a longer, four-person one to the left, and a shorter, three-person one to the right. This is followed by the counter, a long, wooden affair with a marble top, which runs down the right-hand wall. The till and cakes are at the front, facing the door, with the coffee down the side, pride of place going to a customised two-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. There’s also a small pour-over area for the Kalita Wave, with the batch brewers and a hot boiler on the wall behind the counter.
Continuing on from the window-bars, the seating is arranged around the edges, with six long, thin, two-person tables running along a wooden bench against the left-hand wall. These are followed by a tall, eight-person communal table projecting from a pillar on the left-hand wall, while beyond a door in the far, left-hand corner, which leads to the outside seating area, another eight of the two-person tables run along the back wall.
The outdoor seating area occupies a triangular section of decking at the back of the building, where the garden would have been. There are four, four-person tables with benches running along a high-backed wooden bench-seat down the right-hand side, the tall back screening the seating area from Palace Avenue. This is joined by a central island, which can be used as a box seat, along with a long box seat along the left-hand side.
Back inside, you order at the front of the counter, collecting your coffee down the side. On my first visit, I had a flat white, the house-blend proving to be a lovely, biscuity coffee that went really well with the milk. I returned the following morning, having granola for breakfast, which was delightfully presented, the granola in bowl, a jug of milk on the side, all served on a narrow, wooden tray.
I paired this the Vincente Diaz, a single-origin El Salvador, one of two batch-brew options (the other was a Los Naranjos from Colombia, while another El Salvador was on pour-over). This was a really rich, full-bodied coffee, with fruity notes, and more than held its own as it cooled.
|420 SNELLING AVENUE S • ST PAUL • MN 55105 • USA|
|Monday||06:00 – 21:00||Roaster||Spyhouse (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||06:00 – 21:00||Seating||Tables, Window Bars; Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||06:00 – 21:00||Food||Cake, Breakfast|
|Thursday||06:00 – 21:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||06:00 – 21:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 21:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 21:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Local||Visits||9th, 10th September 2018|
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