Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tour De Coffee Shops: HERITAGE GENERAL STORE

Let's be honest here. 
Heritage is my most favorite coffee shop in this entire city. 
Hands down. 
Mind you, I haven't been to all of the coffee shops around the city, but I don't even have to. 
Heritage had me at coffee shop and bike shop in one. 
I've been here a million times already, but Jenna had not, so we HAD to make this one of our stops on the tour.
 Here's my new saying in a southern accent for some reason:
"You ain't been to Chicago if you ain't been to Heritage." 
As you softly say this out loud to yourself, remember to add an "A" on the end of Chicago.
"Chicaga."
Go ahead, whisper the saying to yourself. It'll make you feel liberated and free.


Thoughts de Christine:

The people are awesome. 
The coffee is so freaking good. 
They brew Stumptown Coffee!!!! 
Stumptown story: Back in 2008, me and one of my best friends in the entire universe, Kelley, went on a road trip that was beyond incredible. When we made our stop in Portland, we ran into Stumptown Coffee and spent probably too many hours there. Talking. Reading. People watching. This coffee has such a special place in my heart. Every time I drink it I am taken back to our road trip. And I'm reminded of our sweet friendship. And even though we live far away, my dear friend, I am reminded of how much I love you! Thanks Stumptown! And as always, thanks Heritage. 

As for my trusty ol' Decaf Americano, you think Heritage is gonna let me down. Psssshhht no. Every time I go there, it's awesome. They got it goin' on in the coffee making department and wherever you get those scones, keep gettin' 'em. I like them.
 If you make them, keep making them. 

And get this, if you need to get a flat tire fixed, you get a coffee on the house as you wait. 
You people are brilliant and I will keep talking about you and liking your Instagram pictures and coming to your events {which I have yet to do, but I will doggonnit}. 
And get this other thing, I just got a bike so I can get it fixed at Heritage! My dreams are coming true.
Just in case you were wondering, I am committed.

Ok, true confessions, I forgot to take Heritage pics the day we went here for the Tour de Coffee Shops, so I made up for it by taking pics the next time I went. Here are some bonus food and drink items that were super tasty as well!



Thoughts de Jenna: 

Atmosphere:

 Um... where do I even start? Combining an amazing coffee shop with a bicycle shop.... can you say GENIUS?! Okay, I will. GENIUS. Walking inside Heritage instantly makes me happy, even before I get espresso in my system! Its so clean inside, and has so many unique little details that make it extra special. The beautiful bicycles on display are never unwelcome, and the tables (one large, communal table and a few smaller ones) are all good spots. We did, however, end up sitting right in the sun on a warmer day and were trying to hide from the glare. But that was a minor detail, and isn't their fault! Basically, everything about this place screams "cool" and "I wish I could just live here!"

Customer service: 
The staff is knowledgable and often found having conversations with regulars that sound like two best friends catching up, which shows how integral the shop is in the lives of their customers! There is something special about serving both customers looking for exceptional coffee and customers looking for exceptional bikes. Everything they do is done with style, precision, and care. And it shows!
Quality: 
Two words: Stumptown Roasters. They use this Portland-based company for coffee and espresso, and it's the best. Whenever I visit Portland (and I will!), I will definitely be paying a visit to Stumptown. Their syrups/flavorings are housemade, and very delicious! I got an Iced Vanilla Latte, accompanied by an amazing Bialy. They sell baked goods from Southport Grocery, which never disappoints! They also make some seriously great sandwiches! Everything was amazing, as always. I seriously just can't get enough of this place.
Aesthetic: 
I pretty much covered this when discussing the atmosphere, but clean, crisp, and cool would be three great words to sum up the joint. White walls, ridiculously beautiful and functional bicycles scattered about, industrial- and vintage-looking accents, and a staff that looks intimidatingly awesome. The music is great here, too. Also, the cream and sugar is housed inside of an old, metal oven, which I just find really great. It's the little things, you know?
If you're ever feeling down and want to be surrounded by pure bliss, do yourself and favor and go the Heritage. It's a shame that the Lincoln buss stopped running past the shop, but the brown line will get you within a nice walking distance if you don't have a car!

{This is made by the lovely Jenna}










Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tour De Coffee Shops: Knock Box Cafe

A happy Thursday to you! 
Today we travel a bit west into the city to Knock Box Cafe. 

Thoughts de Christine:

This place was hoppin' with people hard at work, at conversation and at getting their first morning sips of coffee in. It made me happy to see so many people in there, because it's in kind of a funky location. Funky location ain't stoppin' Knock Box from doing what they do best: 
make coffee for the people. 
As you walk into the place, you'll notice interesting local art made from talented people around the city, mismatched chairs and tables, and your average tattooed hipster on a MacBook. I'm not hatin', I'm just sayin'. I love you hipsters, and and your tattoos, and MacBooks. I really don't know where I'd be without those three things in my life. 
And coffee.
 Where would I be without coffee?
Per usual, I had my ever-so-loved Decaf Americano.
It was strong like bull.
It woke me up and it wasn't even fully caffeinated. 
It was a solid cup of joe. 
If you're looking for a robust cup of coffee, Knock Box is your place. 
I don't want to leave out the delightful scone I ordered. It was Cranberry-Orange and it did not disappoint. 

Not only do they have a decent brew, they also have a heart for the community and the environment. Quite cool if you ask me.


Thoughts de Jenna

Atmosphere: 
Well, for starters, Knock Box is not exactly located in the best neighborhood of Chicago. It's actually right near the corner of Sketchy and Sketchier. Due to this, I probably wouldn't choose to make the trek all the way over there too often--definitely not when I'm by myself! But, I'll look past that for now. Knock Box itself had a very pleasant and inviting atmosphere! We walked in around 9am and the place was already pretty full. You could tell their customers are loyal and view this place as a second home. The furniture was homey, and it made me want to settle in and stay for a while! They feature local artists on the walls, which I always appreciate and feel adds to the overall positive vibe.
Customer service: 
The staff at Knock Box was very friendly! I got the feeling that they truly care about their customers and the quality of the goods that they serve.
Quality: 
I had an Almond Latte (yay, Almond!) and a pretzel croissant. That's right: pretzel. croissant. Two of my favorite things wrapped into one! I enjoyed their signature mugs which they served our drinks in, and the beverage itself was very good! I wouldn't say that it compares to my latte from Big Shoulders, but it was still good. And that croissant... heaven! They also served sandwiches that I've heard are very good. I guess that's a reason to go back!
Aesthetic: 
The homey vibe, as I already mentioned, was inviting and made me understand why locals hang out here. By the time we were leaving, there was a line practically out the door of locals waiting to get their morning fix! They have free wifi, and if I did lived closer to Knock Box I'm sure I would be a regular!
Overall, not my absolute favorite and a little tricky to get to, but still very good and worth checking out. Especially if you live in the area.




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tour De Coffee Shops: BOW TRUSS

All aboard the caffeine train for day two of the tour! 

Well, I guess I'm hopping on the decaf train in hopes that the caffeinated folks won't hate.
Caffeine makes my body go unbelievably crazy on the inside. 
Take for instance, the time about a month ago I asked for decaf but ended up with caffeinated coffee and then proceeded to partake in four, yes, four workout videos just to try to not feel so insane. 
Let's also take for instance my digestive system whilst running the Chicago Marathon in 2011. I'll keep it at that and up to the imagination. Don't think too hard. 

Alright, before I let you know any more incriminating information about the reactions of my internal organs, let's get back to why you're reading this in the first place: Bow Truss


Thoughts de Christine: 

Once again, my world was rocked. 
We walked in and Ray Charles was playing on the record player, the barista and the coffee roaster man were hard at work, and the aroma of good quality coffee was in the air. We took a look around and like the true females were are, we couldn't stop saying
 "Oh my gah, this is so cute." 
Let me further define my definition of cute though. 
It is rugged, vintage, outdoorsy, cozy-cute. 
A place you want to sit for a long time with good conversation and good coffee.



Which brings be to my next point.
The coffee. 
My Decaf Americano really was perfect. There's no other way to put it. 
Quality. 
Made me want more after every sip. 
Not too bitter. 
Not too watery.
A solid combination of coffee goodness in my mug.
You know what they say: "Happy wife, happy life." 
Here's what I say: "Good cup of coffee, happy life." 
And Bow Truss, you did it for me. You make life good with every sip, the folks that work there are top notch and friendly, and the atmosphere made me not want to leave. 

One more thing I don't want to forget:
Bow Truss not only serves quality coffee, but they roast their coffee right in front of our faces. Ok, not like RIGHT in front of our faces, but more in the back of the store, but you can still see them. I LOVE everything about this! The minds that make all this happen are brilliant. They roast to order, the beans are as fresh as fresh can get, their standards are wicked high, yet they are down to earth, have a sweet partnership with the people from where they get the beans, with local Chicagoans, and also with restaurants around the city. 

Bow Truss, you will see me again and learn my name, don't you worry. 
I am in love. 


Thoughts de Jenna

Atmosphere: 

I loved the look and feel of Bow Truss from before I even walked in the door! Big, glass windows let passerby's see how amazing the inside is and just makes you want to walk right in! Inside, I absolutely loved that coffee was being roasted and packaged right past the counter and seating area. You can sit all day long and watch if you want to, and I was definitely tempted! I give Bow Truss major props for roasting some amazing coffee and producing my favorite espresso (for realz). Most places around the city use Metropolis, but I've been excited to see more and more switch over to Bow Truss as their supplier! It was pretty quiet in there, and the seating capacity is rather limited--hence why we sat at the Pac Man game doubling as a table.

Customer service: 
No complaints! The staff wasn't extra friendly or talkative, but they are most definitely respectful and do their job well. No fluff, but you get what you pay for!
Quality: 
As I already mentioned, Bow Truss espresso is my current favorite. So, I obviously enjoyed my latte! I went with a Vanilla Latte because they don't have Almond (sad day!), and was not disappointed. I planned on ordering some type of breakfast-y bread item, but alas, not food was stocked in the place! So my stomach was grumbling, and we had to follow our Bow Truss visit with one to CBA. I know Bow Truss hosts baking vendors from time to time, who set up goods in the window for purchase, but having something edible available on a consistent basis would be nice. The main player, however, is the coffee. And they delivered on that front!
Aesthetic: 
I was instantly impressed with the layout and style of Bow Truss. That have a few smaller seating areas, and one giant table. There is a blue canoe standing up in the corner that I absolutely adored. And again, having all of the roasting materials out for customers to see make me a happy camper! Bow Truss does not, however, have wifi. This definitely discourages customers from hanging around too long, and will most likely keep me from frequenting too often. No other complaints, though! It's in a nice area of Lakeview that I don't go to often, which is a plus.
All in all, Bow Truss definitely warrants a visit and is deserving of loyal customers!




Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tour De Coffee Shops: BIG SHOULDERS COFFEE

Big Shoulders Coffee was the perfect first place to go on our tour. 
Thoughts De Christine: 
After finding free parking, {which is something to celebrate} we stepped on up into Big Shoulders. 
Literally. There is a little step to get into the door. 
We settled in and we were about to go up to the counter to order, when all of a sudden a man comes up to us, brings us waters, welcomes us, and asks if we have any questions. I probably stared at him blankly because I was so taken aback by his kindness and hospitality. 
Is that what the word is? Hospitality? 
Maybe customer service is a better definition. 
Oh, what the heck, I'm in a good mood, it's both! 
Ok, I just googled who the man was. His name is Tim. 
Tim, if you ever read this, please know that how welcoming and kind you are speaks volumes. Never stop being that. Never stop doing that. You and your staff are incredible people. 
So needless to say, Big Shoulders' customer service is outta this world. 

Moving on, I ordered my Decaf Americano with a scone like I promised in yesterday's post. 
My friends, they did not disappoint. 
The Americano was a perfect blend. Not too strong tasting but not anywhere near weak sauce either. 
The scone was a nice blend of not to crumbly, but not too cakey.
The wonderful pastries come from Cheap Tart Bakery. So good.
Also, Jenna's yummy croissant pictured below came from Eclair Bakery.
We had to give these people some credit. Good. Food. 

Lastly, atmosphere. Even though it was a gloomy day in the windy city, the big windows and natural light that pours in makes the day seem more on the bright side. I like natural light, so there's a big plus from me on that. There isn't too much seating, but we had no problem finding some. There's enough that you won't get your undies in a bundle. The decor is exactly how they explain their coffee: 
Big Shoulders Coffee was created specifically
 for hard-working Chicagoans like you: 
a perfectly roasted, no-nonsense 
brew delivered fast and hot in our signature one-size fits all cup. 
No fancy lingo required.
The decor is clean, practical, yet inviting at the same time. 
We had good conversation, dang good coffee, and a good overall experience. Big Shoulders Coffee, I am bringing everyone I know here. Get ready. 

Thoughts De Jenna:

Atmosphere:

Great! Felt welcoming, open, and inviting from the moment we walked in the door. Its location, right by blue line and bus routes at a busy intersection, gives it a desirable location. They cater to the working, Chicago commuter, which pretty much covers all of us! They have a large screen tracking upcoming trains and buses, which is extremely helpful if you want to snag a cup of jo without making yourself late for work or for your hot date! Although its a rather small place, it doesn't feel crowded at all.

Customer service:

So great! The owner (I think) brought us water and greeted us as we were sitting down at the barstools along the windows. He took our orders as we sat and brought everything to us. We didn't have to pay until we left, and they had our tabs open and ready to check out at the counter! Now that's the way to run a business. They clearly put their customers first. The woman at the counter was equally as friendly as the owner, and made sure we enjoyed our drinks and our time there. The service alone made me know I'd want to come back many times!

Quality: 
I have an unabashed love for anything Almond, so when the owner told me they just began making their own HOME-MADE almond syrup (am I in heaven?!,) I of course ordered an Almond Latte. It did not disappoint, and tasted much like marzipan as an employee noted, which I agree with. I savored every last sip of that latte-- and the foam was perfect, too! I also got an almond croissant (you say too much almond, I say no such thing), which was equally as heavenly. Basically, two thumbs up for everything I consumed. I would give it three thumbs if I had an extra, but that would just be weird on lots of levels...
Aesthetic:

I really do love the layout of this place! The wooden counters along the windows have hooks underneath to hang coats/bags, and there is also a small nook underneath to set a bag--how clever is that! It's the little things like this that I really appreciate. The giant windows and mainly white interior make for a very bright and airy interior that can't help but make you feel awake and happy to be there! They played great music, including Sufjan Stevens, which always makes me appreciate a coffee shop that much more. I noticed they have free wifi, which I didn't get to use but consider an integral component to any great cafe. And as a side note, I really enjoyed their website and explanation for serving their coffees in a single-size 16 oz cup: 
"Big Shoulders Coffee was created specifically for hard-working Chicagoans like you: a perfectly roasted, no-nonsense brew delivered fast and hot in our signature one-size fits all cup."

They don't mess around, but they do give you the best! Can't wait to revisit this gem.




Big Shoulders Coffee, you made us love Chicago even more than we do now and I didn't even think that was possible. 






Monday, April 8, 2013

Tour De Coffee Shops

Last week, one of my lovelies, Jenna, and I decided to hit up some Chicago coffee shops we've been dying to try. Just about everyone at her school was outta town on Spring Break, so we thought, why not make Chicago Spring Break one for the books by doing things we love:
Frequenting coffee shops
Sipping coffee
Talking for hours
Getting to know the best city on earth 
{Which is obviously Chicago, but I thought I'd make it clear}

Monday through Thursday we hit up one coffee shop a day. 
Here's our list:
Tuesday: Bow Truss
Wednesday: KnockBox Cafe

Each day we will give a little overview.
 One from me.
One from Jenna.



As for me and my palate here's what I'm sticking with each day:
Decaf Americanos & a scone. 
{and one extra work out video}
I'm out to find the perfect Americano since that usually is my drink of choice on a non week-long coffee shop hunt basis. 

As for Jenna:
She is sticking with the latte & a bread item.
Her favorite flavored latte is almond, so we will see if any of the coffee shops have that in stock.

Pop on over to the blog every day this week to get reviews of some wonderful local places. Until then, check out each of their websites, instagrams, facebook pages and see what they're all about!