These days coffee goes wherever it wants to go, darling, and that means hot new coffee bars are popping up in otherwise unexpected places. One such trend we've been eying carefully is the fusion of high end coffee and high art, in the form of delightful coffee bar installations at lauded museums worldwide. One such new cafe opens today at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, in the heart of the Miracle Mile.
Dubbed “The Street,” this project is a collaboration between Jason Hammel and Metric Coffee. Metric needs no introduction to our readers—we've featured the Chicago coffee roasting brand previously on Sprudge—and Hammel is the noted chef behind Chicago's much-loved and oft-suggested brunch/lunch/dinner destination Lula Café. He's bringing not one but two concepts to the Museum of Contemporary Art: a restaurant, Marisol, and adjacent coffee bar, The Street, both featuring Metric Coffee.
Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman spoke with Metric's Xavier Alexander to learn more about the project, which opens today. “We’re simply excited to serve our coffee at such a lauded institution,” Alexander tells Sprudge, “where our coffee can help immerse the visitor in an artful atmosphere.”
And the space itself is stunningly gorgeous, designed by LA design firm Johnston Marklee.
This is exactly where coffee should be in 2017: at home amongst art and culture, collaborating with top chefs, and doing it all in effortless Chicago big city style.
Hey Xavier—thanks for speaking with Sprudge. How long has this project been in development? When did you start working on it?
A little over a year ago, the first conversations with Chef Jason Hammel formulated. Our relationship with Hammel goes back a while though (his Logan Square staple, Lula Café, is a longtime/close wholesale partner). While initially the museum eyed larger brands, Hammel’s focus for a local, quality coffee and his rapport with Metric allowed for us to cement ourselves as Marisol’s mainstay roaster shortly after he was announced to be helming the Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Arts (MCA) food program. From there, we were able to help develop a home for our coffee at the MCA both in the form of a restaurant, “Marisol,” and a walk-up coffee bar, “The Street.”
What special design features are in the cafe?
The cafe strives for a minimalist aesthetic. Natural light drips into the space and white Carra marble drapes atop the counters establishing a classic euro-inspired canvas for artfully prepared food and drinks to strikingly juxtapose. The restaurant possesses a more specific vibe. A Chris Ofili mural wraps around the space. And the soundscape will consist of rotating records curated by contemporary artist!
What gear will you have?
Trying to mirror the minimalist aesthetic, we aspired for streamlined and elegant gear to boot. A two-group La Marzocco Linea Classic, Mahlkönig K30 Twin grinder, and a FETCO XTS 2132 will churn out classic drip and espresso options (sans flavored syrups).
I know tea service is a feature here as well, working with Spirit Tea—why work with them?
Spirit Tea is a neighbor and a friend. But most importantly Spirit Tea is company focused on sourcing principles, similar to those that we practice. Spirit spends twenty percent of their year at origin promoting regional experts and seeking artistic offerings from Taiwan, China, and Japan. Pairing Spirit’s progressive tea sourcing with our coffee and Hammel’s seasonality focused dishes seemed hand-in-hand.
Did you work with a designer on this space?
Due to the venue’s desire for privy, the project was fairly mum on all fronts with various specialists purely contributing their two cents to their respective fields. Therefore, our portion in the collaboration steered solely towards coffee: equipment, education, et cetera. We only recently were permitted to see the space designed by Los Angeles Architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee (of Johnston Marklee).
What challenges does working in a museum space like this present? What opportunities?
With any wholesale relationship, it all boils down to two things: 1) “How do they serve our coffee?” 2) “How can we empower them to do so?” We’re excited about this relationship in particular because of Chef Hammel and the MCA’s commitment to quality. This will allow us to have an on-going relationship and education process, so that these coffees can continually have quality preparation and attention.
As for opportunities, we’re simply excited to serve our coffee at such a lauded institution, where our coffee can help immerse the visitor in an artful atmosphere, whether he or she is visiting a current exhibition or catching a MCA Talk (some of which have featured Solange Knowles and Chance the Rapper).
Have you lined up any special coffees or signature drinks for these spaces?
The emphasis at Marisol and The Street will be on seasonal, fresh coffee options; therefore, the menu will be altering constantly to match. Currently a Honduras Santa Barbara, an Ethiopia Banko Guiti, and a Natural Process Brazil Mogiana are on docket; however, again, the offerings will rotate regularly. In addition, we’re excited about an innovative seasonal drink menu, e.g. Cascara Fizz, Whey Lemonade, and Smoked Date Horchata, which will really pop against the otherwise traditional menu. Down the road, single origin pour-overs will be introduced to the program.
Smoked date horchata, dang. Thank you Xavier.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.