In this installment we visit a pair of St. Paul coffee houses and a pair in Minneapolis. One of the latter offers baked goods from a literally world-class practitioner.
(Links to previous reviews in this series are at the bottom of this post.)
Rose Street Patisserie
2822 West 43rd St., Minneapolis (Linden Hills) (website)
Rose Street’s motto is “Authentically French minus the airfare”; they live up to this aspiration.
The owner and chef, John Kraus, is a graduate of Chicago’s French Pastry School. His initial foray in the Twin Cities was Patisserie 46 in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis; Rose Street is an outgrowth of that delightful venue.
Kraus was the first American inducted into Relais Desserts, which the Strib called the “secret order of the world’s baking elite.” Here’s a video clip of Kraus with a Scottish compére on the YouTube channel of Relais Desserts.
Hard surfaces abound in this large space with an industrial feel. A Strib review from a year ago notes that the space was designed by Peterssen/Keller Architecture of Minneapolis. The floor is cement, the walls stone, the counter marble and glass (showcasing pastries as if they were precious jewels — see photo). An entire wall of windows faces north. Seating is at four long wooden tables with matching chairs, and two smaller tables at the window. There is no soft seating.
Fans high up against the black ceiling kept the air moving, and not in a welcome way on the cold day of our visit.
This is not a place to hang out with coffee and a laptop. It is a place to sample some of the best baked goods you will ever encounter. Also, come warmer weather, we intend to go back for take-out to convey to Beard’s Plaisance, the nearby pocket park overlooking Lake Harriet.
Vibe — Katharyn: industrial; Keith French.
Crowd — Mixed, 20s to retirement age. Pretty much everyone was dressed in black; for some of them this was because they had left their winter coats on (us included). Two business types had spread documents all over one large table.
Wi-Fi — 114.0 Mbps down, 22.2 Mbps up; latency 22 msec. Provisioning by Comcast Residential. Perhaps one or two other devices on the Wi-Fi; only 8 other access points visible, so a quiet neighborhood. Not to prejudice the review, but I was unable to connect fully to either the 2.4 or 5 GHz access point; no DNS service ever activated. The above measurement came from Katharyn’s computer, which was able to connect on one of half a dozen attempts.
Staff — Young. Thin. Serious. Dressed in black.
Beans — None for sale.
Cup — The source of Rose Street’s beans was not evident. I had a latte and Katharyn got the seasonable variation with cinnamon and cardamom. They were not decorated but were yummy.
Food — We had pastries — an absolutely fabulous apple Danish for me and an even more wonderful chocolate pound cake for Katharyn (see photo). The menu includes breakfast items, pizzas, and even mac-n-cheese, and there is a short list of wines and beers available.
Music & noise — The music rode under the conversational buzz in the high-ceilinged space.
Dogwood Coffee, St. Paul
825 Carlton Street, St. Paul (South Saint Anthony Park) (website)
Dogwood is a “small, quality-focused” roaster based here and in and Winnipeg, Manitoba. They supply beans to a number of Twin Cities coffee houses, for example Black in St. Paul. The operation runs three coffee bars in the Cities; the one in St. Paul is north of University.
In this location four east-facing windows allow a lot of light. They are equipped with translucent grey shades against direct sunlight, but the 4-story apartment building across the street blocks much of the early morning sun. LED tube lighting fills in the dark spaces.
Some of the seating is solid wooden booths, for 2 or 4, that make fine workspaces. Four wide plush chairs surround a coffee table equipped with the Times and the Journal (for those who prefer paper).
There is a letterpress print shop next door, Studio In Fire, that shares the front entrance. Three large picture windows look into it so Dogwood patrons can watch the printers at work, and vice versa.
Vibe — Katharyn: bright; Keith nifty.
Crowd — 20s to 50s.
Wi-Fi — 92.3 Mbps downstream, 19.3 Mbps up; latency 24 msec. Provisioning by Comcast residential. During our visit the Wi-Fi was shared with 7 other patrons and probably 10 devices. The wireless environment was as crowded as any I have ever seen, with 43 Wi-Fi access points visible. Most of these seemed to be CenturyLink (i.e. fiber) devices from the newly opened raySmartLiving apartment building across the street, which advertises “connected living.”
Staff — notably personable. These baristas look you in the eye and smile and seem to mean it.
Beans — On the day of our visit only a few varieties were on sale, including a “Zamboni” cold brew, all $18 to $20 per 12 oz. and all organic and fair trade. The barista told me that the bean supply took a hit over the weekend and that the supply is refreshed on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Cup — Katharyn had a Gibraltar: half espresso and half foamed milk served in a shot glass. I tried the Camper signature specialty coffee, with maple syrup and hickory smoke flavor; it arrived decorated. Both were exceptional.
Food — Pastries are from Rustica Bakery. We ordered a bar and a sweet cake (see photo). On another visit I had a ham and cheese breakfast croissant. Everything was entirely satisfactory —Rustica does great work.
Music & noise — The music was at a low level but distinguishable. An album by Frou Frou was playing, including It’s Good to Be in Love and Psychobabble. Conversational buzz was low in the high-ceilinged space. The print shop next door provided a constant background level of industrial noise; Katharyn found it intrusive enough that she wouldn’t want to spend hours there. (I barely noticed it.)
Dogwood Coffee, Lake Street
4021 East Lake Street, Minneapolis (Longfellow) (website)
The East Lake location of Dogwood Coffee, across Lake Street from the Hi-Lo Diner, shares space with a workshop and gallery called Forage, which is interesting in its own right.
The design of this space has a feeling of deliberateness and intentionality. We sat in a 2-person booth whose lighting and electrical arrangements made it feel like a still life; the espresso machine is a work of art (see photo).
The openness of the shop with the next-door gallery does not contribute to the overall draftiness; the space is comfortable. The only discouragement to a long visit might be the hard-surfaced seating.
Vibe — Katharyn: gemutlich; Keith clean.
Crowd — 20s, 30s.
Wi-Fi — 64.9 Mbps downstream, 13.1 Mbps up; latency 24 msec. Provisioning by Comcast Business.
Staff — friendly and expert.
Beans — On the day we visited, 7 varieties plus a decaf in the bean were on sale, $18 to $20 per 12 oz. All organic and fair trade. In addition there was a 6-pack sampler, the Coffees of La Lia Variety Project, from long-time supplier the La Lia plantation in Costa Rica.
Cup — Katharyn had a pour-over decaf (with incredible cream from Autumnwood Farm), and I tried an Alta Palla sparkling blood orange soda. If you have had San Pellegrino sparkling fruit drinks, this is like that, but organic and fair-trade according to the makers in San Francisco.
Food — Only pastries and one toast “dish” are on the menu. Two beers and two wines are also listed.
Music & noise — The music was at a low level but distinguishable. Examples: Exit Music for a Film by Radiohead (from OK Computer); Miami by Foals. Conversational buzz was quite muted in the high-ceilinged space.
Workhorse Coffee Bar
2399 University Avenue, Saint Paul (South Saint Anthony Park) (website)
This coffee shop (which the menu notes is “within the boundaries of the Creative Enterprise Zone,” but not an official CEZ business) is also the home of the Smallest Museum St. Paul, brainchild of co-owner Shannon Forney. Unfortunately the museum was empty during our early 2017 visit: its initial grant had paid for a year of monthly exhibits, but ran out in mid-2016. Happily, the museum is back up and running monthly exhibits now.
Workhorse Coffee Bar, St. Paul Creative Enterprise Zone
The establishment is easy to get to: it’s on the Green Line a block from the Raymond stop.
We visited on an extremely busy Saturday — that weekend the coffee house (along with hundreds of others nationwide) was donating a portion of profits to the ACLU.
Seating is three big communal tables that could seat 8 each and a half dozen smaller tables. Chairs are hard wood, student-level.
Outlets are not in abundant supply (but I found one).
Vibe — Katharyn: drafty; Keith alive.
Crowd — Mostly students & twenty-somethings.
Wi-Fi — Unusable during our visit. The guest Wi-Fi has a password and I connected several times but never got DNS service. Used my iPhone’s mobile hotspot instead. 26 Wi-Fi access points were visible during our visit (including one other iPhone doing as I was), so the wireless environment was quite crowded.
Staff — Upbeat and friendly.
Beans — From Bootstrap Coffee Roasters.
Cup — The barista was slammed during our visit but remained bright & cheerful. She delivered a latte and a “feffer” that were works of art. The latter is described in terms of “a pfefferneusse cookie dressed up as a latte.” Both were excellent.
Food — Baked goods, filled croissants, salads, and a few pizzas. We ordered a turkey/Swiss croissant and a nutella croissant. The choices were quite limited when we arrived, due to the crowds I assume.
Music & noise — Loud & lively when the place is crowded, as it was during our visit. Music plays at a low level and was not discernible above the conversation. The ceiling is high and seems to absorb some of the noise.