5628 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60660
Whenever I get talking to people about my blog (which seems to be happening more and more lately), the question of how I hear about these coffee shops is often broached. Do I have some kind of prescient instincts about which cafés are destined for greatness? Am I naturally endowed with hypersensory skills that draw me intuitively to quality coffee, like a drug dog is drawn to an addict’s stash? I wish! Rather, a lot of my recommendations come to me from what I find to one of the most accurate sources—word of mouth. In fact, this week’s coffeehouse was suggested to me a Northwestern professor and fellow coffee lover, someone I obviously trusted enough to hinge my morning’s caffeine intake upon.
Located on Andersonville's pleasantly commercial Clark Street, The Coffee Studio is situated in a handsome corner slot conveniently located along the CTA's Bus Route 22. I just love the brick façades of so many of these old Chicago buildings. Even better, plenty of them are being newly renovated to house coffee shops, which matches the old-fashioned ambiance of these buildings perfectly. The Coffee Studio is a prime example. The brick outside gives me hope that the inside will hold sufficient warmth to revive my cold-deadened bones.
My wish is granted as I enter the cozy interior of The Coffee Studio. The brick motif is continued inside, along with some refined wooden panels and a couple of strategically placed mirrors, used to give the café a more spacious feel. The environment is very clean and modern, with plenty of stainless steel, ninety degree angles, and tall, leafy greenery. There are a few places to sit down and chat or read a book, but I instead elect to sit at the coffee bar and monitor the work of the baristas with a stern eye.
I knew that The Coffee Studio used beans supplied and roasted by Intelligentsia, but this did not diminish my anticipation a bit. I have sampled only two varieties of their coffee before, and I am well-aware that they have myriad delicious others. Upon asking about the coffee of the day, I learn that it is Organic El Gallo, a Honduran breakfast blend that was roasted just yesterday. I order a cinnamon dusted slice of coffee cake (Egads! Not a muffin!) as a companion to my big mug of the El Gallo—a serving easily large enough to rekindle my body’s faltering furnaces for only about $4.50.
The steaming hot El Gallo is presented to me almost instantaneously. As I wait for it to cool down to a temperature that won’t send me to Cook County’s burn unit, I read the description of the coffee.
"El Gallo offers an enveloping velvety mouthfeel in perfect balance with the mild fruit-like acidity and warming hazelnut nuances. The finish brings cane sugar and a touch of floral."
The whole “touch of floral” business has me a little weirded out, but I can’t wait any longer to get a taste of this Honduran monstrosity. As I take my first sip, I’m once again surprised by the multi-dimensional layering of flavors in Intelligentsia’s coffee. The initial flavor is definitely distinct from that at the swallow and the aftertaste. If I really focus I can almost taste the continuum of flavor expressed in the coffee’s description—a shift from fruity to nutty to sweet. The coffee cake quickly becomes the comic relief as the coffee dominates center stage. I am forced to restrain myself to keep from ordering an encore performance.
The heavy flow of customers in and out of the store while I’m there indicates The Coffee Studio is already an established Andersonville favorite. The baristas are astonishingly adept at brewing up their various concoctions, incorporating an artistic flair in keeping with the coffeehouse’s namesake. In fact, many components of The Coffee Studio encapsulate this ideology. Although Intelligentsia supplies the medium, the rendering of the artwork fully belongs to the Coffee Studio.