Intelligentsia Coffee has just opened their sixth Chicago retail location next to Plum Market‘s new location in the ritzy Old Town neighborhood. Plum Market and Intelligentsia are a surprisingly good fit, and Intelligentsia has taken great pains to go beyond a supermarket stand, creating a cohesive cafe that just so happens to abut a really fancy supermarket.
Like, a really, really fancy supermarket. There’s no “Customer Service” desk here–instead they have “Guest Relations”, where one can coordinate personal shopping assistance and home delivery.
The cafe has its own street entrance, or you can wind your way down a long hall from the checkout area, past the fancy yogurt spot, the wine bar, and a long row of tables. Being tucked into the corner certainly helps them create their own vibe, and the clean, vibrant design sets the space apart, while still working with the color scheme of the rest of the market.
As befits a supermarket location, there is a big focus on retail. As you enter the Intelli space, you are greeted first by a big table of merchandise, from brew devices, to cups, to swag. This island forces the line to wrap around the side, right next to the wall of coffee and tea for sale.
Intelligentsia recently started working with Floriole pastries at their Logan Square location, and the full selection of delectables from them is available at Old Town as well. New York’s obsessively competitive pastry scene has certainly spoiled me, so I didn’t freak out about the almond croissant I had as much as I might otherwise, but it was indeed very good.
For your actual cup of coffee, there’s a wide selection of options: blend and single-origin espressos off of a beautiful La Marzocco Strada EP, done up to match Intelligentsia’s house line of Not Neutral cups. There’s brewed coffee ready to go off of a Fetco, as well as dedicated pour-over island offering Chemex and Kalita Wave. A variety of Kilogram teas are of course on offer as well. The Logan Square location has this same best of all worlds spread, and it seems like this menu will probably be the new standard at Intelligentsia. I had a cup of the Los Inmortales from El Salvador off of the Wave that was delightfully clean and vibrant.
This new location is a worthy addition to the Intelligentsia stable. It’s attractive, well thought out, highly executed, and innovative without being over the top. A huge step up from the Starbucks stand in your local Safeway, and a cafe that I think will help Intelligentsia reach an affluent set of casual customers who might not otherwise think to step foot into one of their more elaborate free-standing coffee palaces.