Spyhouse Coffee, St Paul

Details of the single-origin coffees available at Spyhouse Coffee in St Paul, two on batch brew, one on pour-over, during my visit in September 2018.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 in St Paul, as seen from the other side of Snelling Avenue.
  • It's on the ground floor of a lovely, old brick building on the corner of Palace Avenue.
  • The door, meanwhile, shows no favouritism, being at 45° to both streets.
  • The front of Spyhouse Coffee in more detail.
  • Not that you have to go inside if you don't want to. Head down the right-hand side...
  • ... and you'll find this takeaway window where you can order and collect to go.
  • However, there's even more. Keep going and you'll reach the seating area at the back.
  • Returning to the front, you'll find the counter, which runs down the right-hand side...
  • ... where the till, on the short side, greets you as you enter.
  • There's a three-person window-bar to the right of the door...
  • ... and here's the door itself, seen from the inside.
  • There's another window-bar to the left of the door, a four-person one this time.
  • Beyond that, down the left-hand wall, are six narrow, two-person tables...
  • ... running along a wooden bench. These can be pushed into sets of two or three.
  • There's more seating at the back, to the left of and behind the counter...
  • ... where you'll find this high, thin, eight-person communal table.
  • Finally, there are another eight of the narrow, two-person tables along the back wall.
  • A view of Spyhouse Coffee from the back, left-hand corner. However, there's more.
  • A doorway in the back corner leads out into the seating area at the back.
  • This, meanwhile, is the view if you enter from the street (Palace Avenue).
  • There's an island box seat in the middle of the decking, with a long seat on the left...
  • ... while on the right, these four four-person tables run along the side of Palace Avenue.
  • If you've come in this way, then you need the door on the right to get into Spyhouse.
  • Back inside, Spyhouse has a lovely, high tin ceiling...
  • ... with lots of excellent light fittings.
  • Last one, I promise.
  • There are also some interesting fittings, like this old first aid cabinet.
  • The window above the door.
  • Other neat features include this German map of the world that hangs on the wall...
  • ... while these cacti add a touch of green.
  • You order at the till at the front of the counter...
  • ... where you'll find the cakes displayed in the curved section below.
  • Meanwhile, there's a retail selection on the left...
  • ... with the menu on the wall to the right.
  • There's also a smaller chalkboard with the filter options, complete with tasting notes.
  • If coffee's not your thing, then you can always have tea.
  • However, I was there for coffee, the customised La Marzocco Strada taking pride of place...
  • ... down the side of the counter...
  • ... where you wait to collect your coffee.
  • This is also where you'll find the pour-over, complete with details of the coffee.
  • On my first visit, I had a flat white...
  • ... which came in a neat, branded cup.
  • It also had some excellent latte art.
  • The following morning I was back for breakfast and this lovely granola, which I paired...
  • ... with a mug of the Vincente Diaz, a single-origin El Salvador, on batch brew.
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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
https://spyhousecoffee.com +1 651-478-4198
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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