Although the drive-thru of West Side Perk lets patrons easily grab their coffee to go, this café is no caffeine assembly line. Instead, owners Dave and Deb Irvin have sought to create a community-oriented cultural hub where locals can banter about significant issues, get some work done via free WiFi, and catch up with old friends over cups of gourmet coffee. The full menu of coffee, tea, and smoothies pairs up with a selection of sandwiches and soups that rotate by the day of the week or by which vegetable was not pardoned by the chef. When the lights begin to dim at week's end, the café entertains patrons with its Friday Night Movie Series, which showcases kid-friendly films to audiences nestled in the café's cushy seating.
In a series of black and white portraits that pop against the backdrop of rich burgundy walls, smiling farm workers stationed around the world stand amid their crops, tools in hand. The photographs are the first hint at Peoples Organic Coffee & Wine Café's mission to link ingredients back to their source. The second hint is the menu, which boasts a roster of local farms: the ham comes from Fischer Farm, the chicken sausage from Schultz Farm, and the bison from Eichtens Family Farm. Chefs spotlight these free-range meats in wholesome burgers, wraps, and salads, which they enhance with fresh, organic veggies and housemade sauces. To complement meals, the café boasts a beer menu filled with choices from local breweries such as the limited-supply Surly and Fulton. Additionally, its wine selection runneth over with biodynamic, organic, and sustainable varietals, which are tastier than their unsustainable counterpart, unicorn tears.
The culinary team at Common Roots Cafe believes that the best way to create a welcoming restaurant is to fully embrace local flavor in every sense of the word. Even the interior speaks to this mission—reclaimed barn wood makes up the dining room's floorboards and tabletops, the counter is composed of recycled cardboard, and the air is one-hundred percent Minnesotan. The overall effect is one of casual warmth, an atmosphere that makes the cafe an ideal spot for guests to chew on eclectic, yet accessible, cuisine and relax with a choice of 10 local craft beers.
The menu itself also bursts with hometown pride, highlighting local organic and sustainable ingredients. As much as half of the restaurant's food comes from farms located within 250 miles of Minneapolis, while some produce is picked right outside the door at the cafe's urban garden. And since the selection of ingredients alters with the seasons, the chefs adapt their dishes each month to showcase their fresh flavors. Previous offerings have included redfish tacos with jicama slaw, mac 'n' cheese with local cheddar, and house-made tagliatelle pasta topped with a hearty bison bolognese sauce. Bites are complemented with sips from a drink list featuring wines—many made from organic grapes—and local beers. And, in the unlikely event that diners leave any food on their plates, the scraps are carefully composted to continue the cafe's green production cycle.
In 1944, Reino Wuollet opened a small bakery where he prepared fresh bread each day. More than 65 years later, his humble shop has grown into six locations where 30 or so family members tinker over cakes, pastries, and pies. Wedding and other occasion cakes are one of their specialties; flavors such as chocolate mousse and Lady Baltimore can be coated with marzipan, buttercream frosting, or fondant in an impressive array of custom designs. Of course, they still bake breads: an international selection of loaves includes baguettes, challah, Swedish lympa, Irish soda bread, and buns shaped into busts of United Nations delegates.
Though inspired by the northern California cafés of the early 1980s, Espresso Royale fits right in with Michigan’s modern coffee drinkers—in 2014 readers of The Michigan Daily voted it Best Coffee Shop for the fifth year in a row. Their coffees include a house blend developed in 1987, which has since been joined by a seasonally appropriate autumn spice blend and a southern Italian-style espresso called Napoli. Royale's customers also clamor to the counter for favorites such as raspberry mochas, mint hot chocolates, and ginger dragon, a tea layered with fresh lemon and steeped ginger root that can be served iced or heated by a dragon named Ginger.
According to an old Dutch proverb, "Coffee has two virtues: it is wet and warm. Stop giggling." For $8, today's Groupon lets you enjoy the dark elixir's many virtues with four coffee drinks at Dunn Bros Coffee (an up to $18 value). Bring your Groupon to either the Loring Park or Lyndale Avenue locations and you'll receive a four-beverage punch card that you can use to stay alert until baseball season.