Is Chicago the next big coffee city? With the lack of sunshine and plenty of rain we're having this spring, we can definitely use more cafes. So the news that Philadelphia-based high-end coffee roaster La Colombe will open a cafe and roaster on Randolph in the West Loop was definitely welcome on this dreary day.
La Colombe is targeting a mid-May opening for the approximately 2,000 square-foot cafe that will reflect a traditional French coffee bar where they'll only serve drip coffee and espresso drinks, including ice drinks. They'll have no pour-overs, no syrups, no soy milk (you can get skim though), no gifts and no T-shirts, but you might be able to log on to the Internet via Wi-Fi, although even that is up in the air.
The Chicago location will be the first outside the East Coast, where La Colombe has five locations between Philly and New York. Founders Todd Carmichael and Jean Philippe Iberti decided Chicago was the next appropriate expansion city because of the strength of Chicago's culinary community.
"Their whole philosophy is based upon the culinary world where their backgrounds lie," said Corey Polkow, former general manager of Perennial and Landmark, who is heading up the Chicago operations. "They respect it and chefs respect the company because we give so much support to the kitchen. Chicago being an epicenter of food, they've found themsevlves here. There's so much demand for [La Colombe] now so why don't we build our presence a little more, build a cafe and give people the La Colombe experience?"
The cafe will have about 25 to 30 seats and an industrial vibe with exposed beams, sanded but polished metal, a lot of wood and a few oversized skylights. The old-style vintage roaster will be exposed and sit in plain site, so when they're roasting, you'll know. This cafe won't be a main roaster, but more of a test facility for new beans, Polkow said. The cafe will also carry fresh pastries made daily off site; they're currently talking with different high-end pastry chefs and bakeries to determine the best fit.
La Colombe will sell bags of fresh beans at the cafe, but will also sell direct to restaurants and wholesale to cafes as well through a relationship with Chicagoland Beverage. Many area restaurants already serve La Colombe, including GT Fish & Oyster, Sprout, Alinea, Next, inovasi and the Bristol.
And don't be surprised to see a 1950s Citroen H-Van pull up at events and places like Green City Market handing out samples of La Colombe coffee. "A lot of our belief is about building relationships," Polkow said. Well give people enough good coffee and they'll easily come back for more.
· La Colombe [website]