By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Dudley Riggs' My North
Most people know Dudley Riggs as the man who brought improv comedy to Minnesota, but the founder of Minnesota’s now-infamous Brave New Workshop brought more to town than just a novel new form of comedy—he also brought a novel new form of caffeination. Yep, when Dudley Riggs arrived in Minnesota from New York City in 1958, he did so with the state’s first espresso machine in tow. Fast forward 60 years, and the caffeination situation that Dudley catalyzed is still humming, with some of the best coffee shops in the country calling the Twin Cities home. Here are five that are definitely worth a sip.
In 2014 Caleb Garn and Lee Carter asked themselves, “What would happen if we combined coffee with mixology?” The answer, it turns out, is Five Watt Coffee. The expert baristas at Five Watt can pull an espresso with the best of them, but the café’s true pull for visitors is its stylish, bitters and bar technique. Their specialty menu includes sips like the Gin Basil Smash (cold press, basil simple syrup, gin bitters, and cream) and the Big Easy (cold press, chicory and nutmeg simple syrup, black walnut bitters, and cream). The original Five Watt Coffee can be found in the Kingfield neighborhood of south Minneapolis, and an expanded-menu version of the café—with beer, wine and low-proof cocktails—recently opened up in the trendy Beltrami neighborhood of northeast Minneapolis.
The Spyhouse empire began in 2000 with a single, personality-filled shop in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis. But from those humble beginnings on Eat Street, the fledgling coffee house empire now boasts sleek sister shops in Uptown, Northeast Minneapolis, the North Loop and St. Paul—and, of course, the original hasn’t gone anywhere. The high design aesthetic roaster is as notable for its line of hard goods—from hoodies to coffee mugs—and sleek, modern cafes, as for its actual menu, which includes direct-sourced coffees from around the world and Orion espresso, and pastries from Sarah Botcher and Black Walnut Bakery.
Located on the same block as Choo-Choo Bob’s Train Store and Izzy’s Ice Cream in St. Paul’s Merriam Park neighborhood, Kopplin’s has been whipping milk and roasting beans since 2006. Andrew Kopplin’s one-part hangout, one-part coffee bar, makes all their house coffee fresh to order and prepares their espresso ristretto style, which uses a shorter pull to pack more espresso into less liquid volume. They also serve tea from St. Paul-based tea importer, Verdant, sling pastries from award-winning Minneapolis bakery Rustica, and sell cheese from the St. Paul Cheese Shop.
Although only a year old, Café Astoria’s Instagram-worthy beverages have already made a big splash in the Twin Cities coffee scene. Found in a lovingly renovated brick building near downtown St. Paul, this cozy shop serves up tasty beverages that are almost too pretty to drink. If you are looking for something sweet, try the campfire latte complete with a toasted marshmallow. Ask your barista about the secret menu to discover the 24K latte with real gold leaf or the rainbow peppermint mocha with colors that change daily. If you're hungry, try one of the delicious from-scratch crepes, smoothie bowls or pastries.
Located in the heart of St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood, Quixotic slings solid sips including top-notch cold brews like the DeNiro (nitro cold brew, chocolate milk and almond simple syrup, shaken and stirred over ice), and a side of tonic water with its espresso shots. They’ve also got a full-ish cafe food menu, with eats ranging from a quinoa parfait to a chopped kale salad, as well as beer and wine.