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Café Guide: Minneapolis

Coffee to cure those wind chills.

by Ever Meister | May 06, 2021

Of course, everyone knows Minneapolis is cold (it’s the major US metro city with the coldest average temperature), but did you know how cool it is here? If you’re a coffee lover, this half of the Twin Cities is the real hot dish: From super coffee-nerd spots to shops that focus on hospitality, to some of the most creative specialty menus we’ve seen in a long time, the Minne Apple has something brewing for everybody.

Next time you think that all Minneapolis is good for is a heap of snow and some -60°F wind chills, remember: we’ve got coffee covered here, year-round and any way you like.

Frgmnt Coffee

729 Washington Avenue North; Minneapolis, Minneapolis 55401

One great shop that’s already got good friends in great places is Frgmnt Coffee, a multiroaster café in the North Loop neighborhood, owned and operated by longtime Twin Cities barista Ben Banse. Ben’s been a coffee professional and store manager long enough to have built a huge network of caffeine comrades, which is why his spot features coffees from just about everywhere: England, Denmark, Germany, North Carolina, New York, Australia, Canada — and, yes, even across the river in Saint Paul.

“I always knew I wanted to do an international program,” Ben says. “When we opened Frgmnt I wanted to go with more of big industry names, they’re really accomplished and decorated. I use the term ‘click-baity,’ because we wanted people to want to check it out right away.

Over all the places that I’ve worked, I still was never really sure what the consumers wanted or cared about, you know? Some people were interested in what we were doing, but most people just wanted that quick cup of coffee that you want on the way to work. But after we brought in our first big international roaster, Koppi, and seeing people flock when we announced that — I never expected that. Every time we bring on someone new, people have a reaction that’s really, really cool. I didn’t really expect that from our city going into it, but it’s been wild.”

Scrolling their offerings list is like taking a coffee trip around the world in eight minutes: When the café was in operation pre-Covid, guests could choose from a menu of single origin espressos or filter coffees and be instantly transported to another place and time. These days, the shop’s menu is a bit pared-down (paper cups just aren’t a very fun passport), but visiting is still like a little visit to distant friends.

“For the coffee-curious folk, there hasn’t been a place to really get their fill of that,” Ben says. “I want to give people a different coffee experience every time they come in.”

Misfit Coffee Co.

2401 Lyndale Avenue South; Minneapolis, Minneapolis 55405

You like cocktails? You like coffee? You’ll love Misfit Coffee Co., a café and bar in Uptown (yes, the Uptown that Prince sang about) that has a cool-kid look with a great sense of humor.

Sure, you can have an espresso or a regular ol’ latte, but scan the offerings a little longer and you’ll hit the booze-inspired Kyoto cold brew drinks: For spring, they’ve released a few “Gyoto” options, blending cold-brew coffee with the herbal flavors of gin (think grapefruit, elderflower, juniper, pine…). Nothing’s too misfit for the Misfit crew: carrot juice, black pepper, masala orgeat, banana (yes, there’s a drink with banana, and yes, it’s good).

Five Watt Coffee

Multiple locations

You want more tasty stuff? Stop by a location of Five Watt Coffee for their creative takes on specialty sippers. I’m currently obsessed with their spring menu, but especially the Gin Basil Smash, a mix of nitro cold brew coffee, basil simple syrup, house-made gin bitters, and cream.

Five Watt also sells vials of their custom bitters — everything from fennel to coriander, blackstrap to black walnut — and they serve it all in a laid-back spot that was made for hanging out with friends (or making new ones).

Duck Duck Coffee

1830 East 38th Street; Minneapolis, Minneapolis 55407

Meanwhile, in the Standish neighborhood, there’s Duck Duck Coffee, a spot that feels like home even though it’s been open for a year and a half-ish. Owner Kat Naden knows her way around a neighborhood joint: She was a barista at local favorite Muddy Waters for about a decade, while dreaming about having her own shop one day.

Her vision? To create someplace with the vibe of Muddy, someplace a regular could come back to after moving out of the neighborhood, knowing they’d run in to all their old friends. “The kind of place where you didn’t need to have plans to see everybody because they’re all just hanging out there,” she says.

“I think the evolution of coffee here is really cool,” Kat says. “Now there are so many coffee shops, there’s something for everybody. My place may not be the place for everyone, but if you tell me what you like I’m gonna tell you where you can go get that because I love coffee and coffee shops.” (Well, if you like great, no-nonsense coffee, Honey Nut Cheerios bars, and playing Ms. Pac-Man while your espresso cools — you know, when we can sit inside again — then Duck Duck is definitely the place for you.)

7 Corners Coffee

1851 Washington Avenue South; Minneapolis, Minneapolis 55454

Having good coffee friends who can point you in the right direction is very much a part of the story at 7 Corners Coffee in Minneapolis’s Seven Corners neighborhood, near downtown. It was a passion project for a group from Wooddale Church who wanted to create a space that would provide the environment to build relationships, fuel conversation, and “offer a place of hope at key intersections in life.” As luck would have it, Ben Carlson of Long Miles Coffee Project had just recently returned to the States, and was brought on to help develop the shop’s multiroaster program as well as to provide training and insight from his years working in the industry.

“Our mission is to serve and share the story of coffee through the whole supply chain, starting with the farmers and making sure they are treated well, with kindness and dignity, and then to feature roasters who are treating farmers well. Then our team, showing love and kindness within our community,” says café manager Abby Fabre.

Pre-Covid times, Wooddale was using the space on Sundays as a kind of downtown campus, but during the rest of the time the shop was designed to be “a spot for graduate students to study and meet. Last year we had a professor who came every Wednesday afternoon with his class, and he brought everybody a latte, which is an example of just what we want.” (Funny, that’s an example of just what we want, too! Now where do we sign up for that class…?)

Wildflyer Coffee

3262 Minnehaha Avenue; Minneapolis, Minneapolis 55406

Across town in South Minneapolis, Wildflyer Coffee has been making huge strides and huge impact as something of an activist café, addressing another of Minneapolis’s biggest social issues: The company, which was started by Carley Kammerer as a coffee training program and retail kiosk in 2017, provides training, employment opportunities, and stability to houseless youth, ages 16 to 24, in the Twin Cities.

Coffee professional and social worker Carley dreamed up the nonprofit Wildflyer after seeing the same young people return her youth groups time and time again, in large part because of the dangerous cycle of houselessness: It’s incredibly difficult to get housing without a job, and incredibly hard to get or keep a job without housing.

Wildflyer offers nine-month programs that are focused on providing employment as well as hands-on training in both the hard skills of brewing, serving, and selling coffee, and the soft skills that are the recipe for success in the hospitality industry. The company hopes to graduate 20 youth annually — a goal that’s in reach now, thanks to its expansion into a brick-and-mortar location formerly occupied by Minneapolis stalwart Peace Coffee.

When Peace decided to cease retail operations in order to focus on roasting and wholesale, Carley struck gold: The companies have built a simpatico relationship so that Wildflyer has the space and Peace has got their back, offering training, support, and, of course, fantastic locally roasted coffee.

Dogwood Coffee Co.

Multiple locations

One of the companies that’s a huge supporter of Wildflyer also happens to be one of the most beloved roaster-retail operations in the Cities: Dogwood Coffee. Quirky but not over-the-top design make Dogwood’s spaces super-comfortable for just about anyone, and their top-notch coffee sourcing and incredible attention-to-detail in preparation have cemented them as the local darling, bar none.

Not only was Dogwood one of the way-pavers for great-quality coffee in Minneapolis, but they continue to create inroads for others when it comes to finding success in a caffeinated way. They’re an ally to both Wildflyer Coffee and an in-the-works new spot called The Get Down Coffee Co., an initiative that’s aiming to bring coffee, community, and jobs to the Camden neighborhood of North Minneapolis by opening a café and roastery in the next five years. Until then, The Get Down is roasting in Dogwood’s space and learning the ropes.

Café Cerés

3509 West 44th Street; Minneapolis, Minneapolis 55410

From longstanding to total newcomer, Café Cerés opened earlier this year and has been giving the Linden Hills neighborhood something completely different: Turkish-style coffee.

Sure, you can get a great espresso and a traditional cappuccino, too (to go with the unbelievably gorgeous pastries), but why would you when you could have a craft-made, rich, and righteous Turkish brew made in a cezve? The shop also makes signature lattes with Ras el Hanout (a dozen-plus-spice mix including cardamom, cumin, clove, ginger, turmeric, and more) and Dukkah (fennel, sesame, pepper, coriander).