Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Barrel Aged Menu
I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks. I don't mind their blonde roast coffee, and I like the occasional iced caramel frappuccino in the Summer, but, in general, I think that their coffee tastes like they over-roasted the beans. So, when Starbucks announced plans to open a 35,000-square-foot facility in the old Crate and Barrel location on Michigan Avenue, I was underwhelmed. And, after hearing reports of crowds of people waiting for over an hour to get in, I didn't want to go anywhere near the place. But, the girlfriend really wanted to, so I figured we'd get a hotel room close by the night before and walk over right before the Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened so that we wouldn't have to wait very long out in the cold to get inside. The strategy worked, as we waited for less than 15 minutes to get in. And, honestly, it's a pretty interesting place.

Looking Down From The 4th Floor
The Chicago location is just the latest in a line of gigantic experiential Starbucks stores that have been opening over the last few years. The Chicago location is the only one so far that offers whiskey-barrel aged coffee. It’s also the first to concoct a cocktail featuring coffee and Malört, a locally-made liquor only some die-hard Chicagoans appreciate. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is divided into five different sections, one on each floor.

The first floor offers coffee-to-go and hosts the gift shop. I picked up a pretty cool coffee mug for myself and a shirt for my daughter while my girlfriend bought the Chicago exclusive mug and some Christmas Blend coffee beans. The second floor is home to the Princi Bakery and Cafe where we had some yummy pastries with names I had a hard time keeping track of. I had some kind of raspberry muffin-type thing.

Irish Con Crema
The third floor is where you'll find an experiential coffee bar with coffee flights that feature coffees made with various brewing techniques. The Arriviamo Cocktail Bar is on the fourth floor. We had an absolutely amazing Irish Con Crema and some Mulled Spice coffee there (at over $10 per cup, they'd better be amazing). We also tried the Smoked Cold Fashioned, which is a sweet, whiskey-barrel aged cold brew with aromatic bitters. It’s alcohol-free, but you can change that by adding a glass of Knob Creek bourbon on the side. The fifth floor is the Michigan Avenue viewing terrace which was closed due to the cold weather.

I think we spent about two hours at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Even though the place was pretty crowded, and there were some pretty long lines, everyone there, customers included, were very friendly. We met a nice older lady who invited us to sit with her and was kind enough to snap a photo of us. When we left, there was still a pretty large line outside of people waiting to get in. And when we walked past later in the afternoon, there was an even larger line. I'm sure that, as the newness wears off, the long lines will be come less and less of a thing. As it stands, though, I'm glad we visited the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I had quite a bit of fun and I really did enjoy the pastries and some of the coffee creations, especially the Irish Con Crema.

I actually feel pretty bad for the Starbucks location around the corner on Ontario. I'm sure they have to deal with the occasional overflow from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and have to tell people that they don't serve barrel aged coffees. "Sir, you can have a coffee to go or you can have a coffee and sit in the lounge, but we don't have any damn Irish Con Crema. You're like the eighth person to ask this morning!".

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