Continuing the return leg of my mid-America road trip from October last year brings us to Saint Louis, which marks the mid-point of the journey. We actually called in at Blueprint Coffee on the way back, but since I’ve already written about that, today’s the turn of Sump Coffee, where we stopped on the way out. This is the original Sump Coffee, which also has a second location in Nashville. Occupying a beautiful old building on the corner of Winnebago Street and Jefferson Avenue, there’s a small outdoor terrace at the front, while inside Sump Coffee occupies three long, thin rooms, the last of which houses the 10 kg Diedrich roaster, which produces all the coffee, both for here and for Nashville.
Talking of which, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to coffee. Like Sump’s Nashville location, there are three single-origins on espresso, with six more on pour-over, plus three cold brew options. Naturally, all the beans are for sale in retail bags, along with a selection of coffee-making equipment and merchandising. Meanwhile, if you don’t fancy coffee, there’s a selection of teas, while if you’re hungry, Sump has a range of cakes and pastries too.
The Coffee Spot gets another year underway by returning to my mid-America road trip from October last year and the first stop on our return leg, Coffea Roasterie and Espresso Bar in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Coffea has three locations, all in Sioux Falls, but this is the flagship, combining coffee shop and roastery in a lovey, multi-faceted space on the city’s west side. There are multiple choices on espresso, batch brew and pour-over, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries, all baked in-house.
Sadly this was very much a flying visit since we had started late that day, had a long way to go and wanted to see the eponymous Sioux Falls (which are well worth the effort, and, if you have time for coffee, Coffea’s downtown espresso bar isn’t that far away). As a result, I wasn’t able to do a full write-up, lacking both the photographs and the extensive notes that I normally take, so instead you’ll have to make do with the year’s first Saturday Snapshot.
Today’s Coffee Spot takes us back to October and the final coffee stop of my American road-trip, when we called into Sioux City, Iowa on our way to Madison, South Dakota. Like the first stop of the trip, Niedlov’s Cafe & Bakery in Chattanooga, Hardline Coffee was a chance find, this time the result of an internet search. A separate business located inside Art SUX Gallery on 4th Street in downtown Sioux City, Hardline acts as the in-house coffee shop, although both it and the gallery are fully open to the public, the gallery offering extensive seating options, including a sheltered outdoor terrace at the front.
While a chance find, I knew that I’d come to the right place as soon as I saw the roaster in the window and the Sanremo Café Racer (my second of the trip) on the counter inside. Hardline roasts its own single-origin Brazilian for use on the Sanremo, while North Carolina’s Black & White Coffee Roasters provides various filter options that are available as either as batch brew or pour-over. There’s a range of seasonal drinks and teas from nearby Artemis Tea, while if you’re hungry, Hardline has the usual selection of cakes and pastries.
Today’s Coffee Spot continues the retelling of last month’s American road trip through the medium of coffee shops. We’ve reached Kansas City, our final overnight stop before Madison, South Dakota, where we called into Monarch Coffee, a recommendation from Sump Coffee in St Louis.
Monarch is a roaster which used to have two bricks-and-mortar stores in Kansas City, one of which was the lovely store on Broadway which we visited. Sadly, Monarch took the difficult decision to close both stores at the end of October, although it’s still going strong as a roaster, making this the first time that I’ve written about a coffee shop knowing it was closed. I did consider not posting, but decided that this would be a fitting tribute to Monarch Coffee.
Monarch Coffee was on the ground floor of the Ambassador apartment building, occupying a large corner unit on the right. With limited tables outside on the pavement, there was plenty more seating in the spacious interior, arrayed on either side of the island counter offset to the left. When it came to coffee, there was a commendably concise espresso-based menu with a single-origin option on batch brew filter, plus iced and nitro options.
Continuing the retelling of our road trip from Atlanta to South Dakota last month, our next stop after Nashville was St Louis, home of today’s Coffee Spot, Blueprint Coffee on Delmar Boulevard. We actually visited Blueprint on our way back to Atlanta, having calling into Sump Coffee on the way out. However, since I wrote about Sump Coffee’s Nashville store on Monday, I wanted to spread the love.
Like Sump, Blueprint Coffee is both roaster and coffee shop, with three shops in St Louis. We visited the original which is, for the moment, also home to the roastery, located at the back of the building.
Occupying a long, thin shop in the Delmar Loop neighbourhood, Blueprint is close to the St Louis Metro as well as having free on-street parking nearby (which was handy for us). There are a handful of tables outside on the busy pavement, with several more in the spacious interior. All the coffee is roasted on-site, with a blend and regularly-rotating single-origin on espresso, plus another on batch-brew and a selection of eight blends/single-origins on pour-over using the SP9 and Kalita Wave filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a concise all-day brunch menu and various cakes.
It was fitting that the last leg of the trip was in Chicago, a city that I’m very familiar with. That said, although I refer to “staying in Chicago”, I was actually visiting friends who live in Chicago in the same sense that I live in London, the point being that I actually live in Guildford, which is about as far from London as my friends’ place is from Chicago.
Just before the full onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent a day exploring Wicker Park, one of many Chicago neighbourhood clustered along Milwaukee Avenue. I visited three coffee shops along the way, Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea, Purple Llama (now sadly permanently closed) and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Intelligentsia. It’s appropriate that, in the week that I wrote about Canopy Coffee, the first coffee shop I visited since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, that I should also feature the last coffee shop I visited before COVID-19 forced many coffee shops to close.
As regular readers know, I have a soft spot for Intelligentsia, one of Chicago’s pioneering roaster/coffee shop chains. I first visited its coffee bar in the Monadnock Building on Jackson Boulevard in 2003, long before my Coffee Spot days. The Wicker Park location is a more recent addition, occupying an open, light-filled space on the ground floor of an apartment block on the corner of Division and Ashland. There’s the usual Intelligentsia offering of coffee, Kilogram tea, cakes/savouries and a large retail selection. There are three espresso options: Black Cat, single-origin and decaf, while pour-over and batch-brew each have their own single-origin.
Welcome to the fourth instalment of this, the second (and possibly last) Travel Spot of 2020. It covers my recent trip to America, which began when I flew to Boston at the end of February. It’s been shaped throughout by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, no more so than at the end of the trip. I’d originally planned to return at the end of March, but, as you’ll see, that’s not quite what happened.
I’d arrived in Chicago on Saturday, 14th March, having flown in from Atlanta. Everything felt fairly normal as I settled into my usual hotel right on the corner of the Chicago River, although the hotel itself felt rather quiet. The following day was gorgeous, with clear, blue skies, the temperature hovering a few degrees above freezing.
While people were taking precautions COVID-19, the city felt pretty normal. However, by the end of the day, the Governor of Illinois had announced the closure of all bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes except for takeaway customers and I decided that it was time to head home. I rearranged my flights that evening and, the following morning, I left for the airport. When, I wonder, will I be able to return?
In mid-March, I’d just arrived in Chicago and was looking forward to spending a couple of weeks exploring the city’s excellent speciality coffee scene, interleaved with a series of work calls in the late afternoons/evenings. In the end, I managed just one day before the COVID-19 pandemic cut short my trip and I beat a hasty path for home. Today’s Coffee Spot, Purple Llama, is one of three coffee shops that I managed to visit on my single day in Chicago.
Purple Llama is on West Division Street, where it runs along the southern edge of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighbourhood. It feels like it’s been on my list forever, since so many people mention it to me, but, in reality, it’s only been three years since Purple Llama first opened in April 2017.
Purple Llama combines speciality coffee and music, offering a range of vinyl records for sale alongside some outstanding coffee. A multi-roaster, the coffee is drawn from a selection of roasters across the US and Europe, with the specific beans on offer changing once a week. There are multiple options on espresso, batch-brew and pour-over, along with around 10 teas and a range of cakes if you’re hungry.
April 2020: Sad news. I believe that due to COVID-19, Purple Llama has decided to permanently close.
Welcome to the third instalment of this, the second (and possibly last, the way things are going) Travel Spot of 2020, all about my trip to America just before the COVID-19 crisis. Part 1 covered my flight to Boston with British Airways to spend a couple of weeks with Amanda in Portland. In Part 2, Amanda and I travelled from Portland to Atlanta by a combination of car and train to visit her mother. Then, after a week in the Atlanta suburbs, we parted company and I flew to Chicago, which is the subject of today’s Travel Spot. I was supposed to be there for two weeks, although subsequent events radically altered that plan!
It’s now exactly three weeks since I made that flight and, sitting here, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels very surreal to be writing about taking an internal flight in the US when so much has changed since then. However, at the time I flew, although people were starting to take precautions against catching COVID-19, everything seemed pretty normal. Little did I know at the time that this would be the last “normal” flight I’m likely to take for who knows how long!