Sunday, May 16, 2010
Julius Meinl: 3601 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60613
Within walking distance of the CTA’s Addison stop and Wrigley Field, Julius Meinl looks as though it was uprooted from late 19th century Austria and lovingly transplanted in downtown Chicago by the Almighty Coffee Gods. Founded in 1862 by its namesake, Julius Meinl specializes in brewing and serving freshly roasted coffee. 148 years, five generations of the Meinl family, and two Chicago locations later, this Kaffeehaus is still able to draw in adoring customers by the herd.
After a 50 minute L ride and wading through viscous streams of Cubs fans before having my morning coffee, I am in an especially misanthropic mood. I arrive to Julius Meinl on the corner of Addison and Southport, sincerely hoping that my high expectations will not be let down. The façade of the building looks promising: a rich brick edifice, with several tables available for outside seating.
Inside, the aroma of freshly brewing coffee is nearly tangible. A vast expanse of wall-space behind the front register is stacked from floor to ceiling with various coffee beans for sale. Freshly made pastries of countless shapes and sizes peek out from a proudly displayed glass case. My appetite is instantly provoked.
Despite the fact that is 10:00 on a Saturday and there are a lot of people waiting in line, I am seated within five minutes. Service is prompt and courteous, perfect for my now-grumbling belly. The menu is a twelve page monstrosity with decent prices, even for a poor college student such as myself. Just glancing through, the number of possibilities is almost intimidating.
For those seeking some less-filling fare, there are many traditional pastries such as flaky croissants, scones, and Danishes all baked with a European touch. If you’re looking for a more substantial breakfast, Julius Meinl has a mouth-watering selection of eggs, oatmeal, crepes and Kaiserschmarren, which is described as an “Austrian pancake with golden raisins, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and plum compote.” To drink, beyond the typical coffees and espressos, there are also a bevy of hot chocolates, lattes, smoothies, Italian sodas, and the kicker—a three page list of loose-leaf teas.
I choose Meinl’s signature light roast coffee and a bowl of granola topped with cranberries. My coffee arrives quickly, standing majestically between a small gingerbread wafer and a small glass of ice-cold water. Pleased to find the coffee’s temperature already at the perfect drinking temperature, I voraciously took my first sip.
The light roast is characterized by an exceedingly smooth flavor, completely free from any bitterness, even in the aftertaste. The coffee’s taste is outstanding, and the price will not break the bank—$2.50, with refills for as long as you feel like staying. The coffee also complements the sweetness of the granola and gingerbread cookie well, as the flavors join together in a cataclysm of deliciousness. Washing everything down with the refreshing glass of water makes a satisfying end to my breakfast. My grand total comes to a managable $7.10 after tax.
Although the jaunt is a bit long from Northwestern’s campus and some of the options seemed a little pricy, I found Julius Meinl to be well worth it for Chicago’s own little taste of Austria. With two locations in Chicago, this one and another on Lincoln Avenue, Julius Meinl is certifiably a heavyweight contender in the Chicago coffeehouse scene.