Urban Deluxe Readers Tell us: Five Things That Make a Coffee House Great

Colored sketch of musicians with instruments playing on the Black Dog stage.

Coffee houses are vital to an urban life on so many levels.  They get us up in the morning and ready for braving the trek to work. We meet at them to do business, maintain friendships and meet new people.  Coffee houses can also be a place where we stay in touch with local art, writers  and musicians.

Some people consider the only real coffee houses to be the indies.  Others feel that the local Starbuck’s or Caribou around the corner, or next to the office, qualifies for them.  Regardless of your view, these caffeinated watering holes bind our neighborhoods together, gives us a way to connect with coworkers outside of the office and so much more.

Personally, I view the neighborhood coffee house as the primary way to get to know what my community cares about and who lives in it.  Having had the incredible good fortune to live within blocks of a true community coffee house with top notch brew, The Black Dog Cafe, in Lowertown St. Paul, I believe I’ve been a bit spoiled when it comes to my view what makes a great coffee establishment. As noted in earlier UD entries, The Black Dog was one of the things we missed most about leaving our Lowertown neighborhood in 2013.

What The Black Dog so successfully embodied was a sense of community, through a welcoming atmosphere for everyone who lived and wandered into the neighborhood, and a strong identity we all shared in supporting our local artist in residents in

Lap top computer open on a table with a cup of coffee next to it.

My virtual office view in our beloved Black Dog Café, Lowertown, downtown St. Paul, before we moved to Minneapolis in 2013.

the surrounding lofts.  John and I still talk about The Black Dog as having the finest coffee and espresso we’ve ever tasted in the Twin Cities and lament that, while we’ve found some great coffee spots in Minneapolis, after two years we still can’t find anything to match the BD’s roast.

But there are more experiences and opinions out there than ours, so we thought it would be fun to hear from people in the Urban Deluxe community about what they think makes a great coffee house.  All the feedback we received boiled down to five traits and everyone pretty much agreed on the order of importance.  So here’s the five things that UD readers feel are important to making a good coffee house a great one.

URBAN DELUXE READERS:
TOP FIVE TRAITS OF GREAT COFFEE HOUSES

#5 / Great Music: Number five on our list is great music. A mix of live and recorded was mentioned, with an emphasis of local artists featured for both. The standout genre mentioned was jazz, though eclectic bands came in a close second.

#4 / Support for the Arts: Though music was included in this suggestion, also sited were coffee houses that supported visual arts through rotating displays of photography, paint and sculpture as well as those who feature locally made jewelry and gifts.  Many UD readers felt that their local coffee house should give them access to local artists and support their work.

#3 / Good Food: Pastries in particular were mentioned, though others felt that soups, salads and sandwiches should be on the menu.  All agreed that the small bites needed to be quality, homemade if possible, fresh and delicious.

#2 / Friendly Staff: Having a place where everyone knows your name isn’t just for bar patrons on Cheers. UD readers felt strongly that coffee house baristas who knew them and served up Joe with a smile was almost as important as the quality of their brew.

# 1 / Good Coffee/Espresso Drinks: Whether they preferred dark or light roast, espresso, Latte or cappuccino, UD readers all agreed that good coffee and espresso were essentials to any great coffee house.  Nothing, it seems, can trump the perfect cup of brew for coffee house connoisseurs.

NAME YOUR FAVORITE COFFEE HOUSE! EARN A $15 GIFT CARD

An illustration of a coffee cup and saucer.  Steam is coming from the contents inside of the cup.Urban Deluxe would love to know where you’re sipping coffee and why.  Comment on this post and tell us about your favorite coffee house! We’ll send you a $15 gift card to that coffee house IF you write the most interesting entry!   No geographical restrictions apply–just be sure to tell us what gives your coffee shop top bragging rights.

Please respond by no later than December 1, 2015 to be eligible for the gift card contest.

Living With Less Together: the Fun Side of Sharing Your Urban Life

Macy's store in background with a Skyway connection and steps going up to it from Nicollet Mall. It is autum and the trees on the mall are turning. People are traveling on the mall.
Dark kitchen cabinents along a corner wall with stainless steel appliances. A breakfast bar is set for a meal in the foreground with orange counter stools. Hanging glass lights are over the bar.

Can less be more? A well-appointed compact kitchen in a unit at the Grain Belt Apartments.

When John and I moved to the edge of downtown Minneapolis in the fall of 2013, I was shocked at what we found there.  The area was fast becoming a ghost town, with retail stores shuttered and some of the mainstay restaurants we were familiar with, sitting empty.

Only eight years prior, I had been working in the center of downtown for a nonprofit, connected to the Minneapolis Public Works department, focused on helping downtown Minneapolis businesses thrive through behavior change methods related to multi-modal transportation options.  In short, it was my job to get employers excited about encouraging their employees to get to work in ways that didn’t involve driving a car into downtown alone: car/vanpooling, bicycle commuting, and taking transit.  My service was funded by a federal congestion mitigation grant, and was doing some important, effective work to limit ozone emissions.

My job took me through the downtown skyways and office towers several times each business day, for meetings, commuter fairs and other functions, while I served the needs of more than 250 employers with whom we had built relationships.  Avoiding the skyways during the noon hour, I learned that it was too congested to make it to my appointments on time. due to the elbow-to-elbow congestion. The retail stores were so prolific, and tempting, in those days. I set a weekly spending limit for myself to stay within my budget.

This downtown neighborhood had been even more robust when I was a child in the 60’s and ’70s, when my mother took me shopping in the “big city” from our nearby rural Wisconsin home. The street scene on the Mall was always busy and populated with business people in suits and shoppers like ourselves. Dayton’s (now Macy’s) was THE premiere store and there was almost a hushed, museum-like quality when we walked by the Oval Room or had lunch into the Oak Grill.

Walking down Nicollet Mall in November of 2013, thinking I would be walking back into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season I had seen in 2005, I was stunned to witness that downtown Minneapolis was beginning to look a lot like the vacant downtown St. Paul from which John and I had just moved.  Granted, we had come to accept that all neighborhoods change and that, at times, they don’t change into what works for you, so you move on.  But I was truly worried about the abandonment of what I had always found to be a vital and lovely urban center.

Feeling safe on Nicollet Mall quickly became a memory as I found myself dealing with panhandlers whose bold approach rivaled those I had encountered in other major cities.  Shouting matches and physical fights broke out around me so routinely on the Mall that I found it was easier to simply walk through the skyways to reach places like Target and Macy’s.

I was worried.  Had we made the right move here?  Giving up a car and moving into a smaller apartment to simplify our lives by being closer to more retail and public transit options?  The retail was fast disappearing. Frustration set in when Office Depot closed and I was back to ordering supplies for my office online.  Public transit was plentiful, but not as safe as it had felt when I last worked downtown.

When I heard of City of Minneapolis’ and Mayor Betsy Hodges’ ideas to transition downtown from an employment center into an urban neighborhood, I was excited.  Not only did the plan make sense to me from the standpoint that it would buoy our urban center, it posed an exciting prospect for individuals in a world where resources are shrinking.

The “land use” geek inside of me, fostered by the years I worked on transportation initiatives for the City of Minneapolis and

Roof top public area showing outdoor upholstered sofa in front of a fire pit. Downtown Minneapolis buildings are in the background.

Though we don’t live here (yet…) the Nic on 5th in the heart of downtown has some very cool shared amenities on their rooftop including fire pit and hot tub. Best part? We can spend our money on starting a mission-based business and get to use amenities like this because we’re willing to share!

Minnesota State DOT, fueled thoughts in my head about people finally “getting” the practical, and flat-out FUN value of living together in less space.  The idea of moving people closer together so that they can share resources more effectively isn’t a new one.  But it is one that can free people up to live less complicated, richer lives. Being a mother who raised a daughter as a single parent, and someone who has always sought jobs that had a higher “paycheck of the heart” than cash value, it had always been easy for me to see how each of us could have MORE by living with less and sharing what we have.

Urban living, in either apartments or condos, allow people to pay for less while having more. Smaller homes mean less furniture, lower utility bills and less to keep clean. Building amenities, like the patio with gas grills and fire pit, fitness center and well-appointed community room and kitchen, which John and I share with our neighbors at the Grain Belt, give us access to luxuries we may not have be able to afford on our own. (HINT: apartment living gives you the freedom to try out new buildings and areas too!)

Perhaps what I love most about this kind of urban living is what occurs when you share space and resources with your neighbors.  We’ve met so many people of ages and backgrounds very different from our own, over the BBQ grill, in the elevators or taking in the Tour de France via the TV in the community room, in the buildings we’ve lived in.  Friendships have been formed and our lives have been fuller, and more fun, as a result.  So much so, it’s hard for me to even entertain going back to living in a single family home.

Living without a car took some getting used to, but we find it’s easier to share short-term use SmartCars with our neighbors and take advantage of free parking on the city’s streets. (See Car2Go Twin Cities.)  We also love the fact that we get to drive premium vehicles we don’t have to worry about maintaining, for out-of-town trips, visiting relatives or just seeing fall colors. (See HourCar.) AND we love supporting mass transit by taking the bus or the train, making it possible for others who can’t afford cars to get around, who those who chose to bolster our environment or simply want to spend their money in other ways. (See Metro Transit.)

Our suburban friends say they don’t get it.  “How could you live that close to other people?”  “Where do you put all of your stuff?” or “I need to know I can jump in my car and go where I want when I want!” is what we often hear from them.  Then, quietly, when none of our other suburban friends are in earshot, they’ll say, “Your apartment looks awesome and you seem so happy.  I would LOVE to unload the house and all the junk we’re hanging on to and do what you did!”

It’s not rocket science: when you have less stuff to store, keep up and pay for, life gets simpler.  John and I made this choice partly because being single parents positioned us to be good at it before we met, and partly because we saw the value to continue in that direction with our life choices as a married couple.

Everyone’s needs are different, and so their choices must be too.  But doing it together with less, can be easier and more fun.  Just say ‘n.

The Wonderful Intangibles of Life in NE Minneapolis

Button with the words: Nordeast is Beautiful

As the packing boxes disappear, John and I are enjoying being the newbie residents in the nations top-rated arts district.  New neighborhoods are fun to explore, and, extravert that I am, having fresh faces  to meet and greet is an extra treat.

We’ve also discovered that we live on one of the most happening streets in the neighborhood: 13th Avenue.  After the night-life focus of the North Loop, it’s been refreshing to have a choice of quality indie coffee shops, gift shops stocked with unique local art, a cool little bookstore which sponsors concerts and discussions, a real barber shop and loads of massage and yoga  options.

But aside from the wealth of small, locally owned businesses that suit our lifestyle preferences, there are a wonderful handful of less tangible things that have already made us fall in love with Nordeast.

1. Mature Tress and Gardens: Living in a neighborhood with a large tree canopy, lush lawns and Peonies, Irises and Spirea

A bush of pink Peony flowers in a lawn.

June looks lovely in NE with a profusion of old fashioned flowering shurbs, like fragrant Peonies.

, (which that I haven’t seen since living in a small rural Wisconsin town as a kid) is so relaxing. We feel so lucky to walk amongst all this greenery on summer evenings.  We are equally amazed by the smells we experience now, like mowed lawns, upturned garden earth and damp foliage after it rains.

2. Children: Sitting at the window counter at Mave’s, a local coffee shop, I was mesmerized by the kids playing in the school playground across the street.  How long has it been since I lived in a neighborhood with residents younger than 20?  I’m not sure I can recall.  But I do know that being around kids makes me feel less serious about the day to day, and reminds me that there are things to laugh about and enjoy.

3. Friendly People: John and I were both floored by the open warmth and friendliness of our NE neighbors.  Every day we are greeted by almost every person we meet on the sidewalk, and easy conversations spring up between us.  This is something we had not experienced in prior neighborhoods. The baristas in our new coffee hang out inquired about our situation when they saw us return for the third time in one day.  When they learned they were feeding us because we couldn’t find our dishes, they kept progress notes one our unpacking and still ask how things are going.

4. A Sense of Community:  People, quite simply, seem to love living in NE and like living with each other. Community bulletin boards with classes, concerts and other events are managed by local store owners.  Anyone can contribute to them and share what’s happening with anyone who wishes to join in.  Folks also help without thought or hesitation.  When John’s Car2Go rental stalled in inconvenient location this week, he was surprised to find that someone seated on a nearby porch had joined him in pushing the car out of the street.  It’s not uncommon for people to offer to help you with your packages or offer a hand in other ways.  It feels like the best parts of Mayberry, and the little farming community a grew up in, rolled into an urban setting.

After only a few weeks, NE has worked its magic on us.  It’s going to be a wonderful, intangible, summer.

UD Moves to NE for a New Urban Experience

Artist's rendering of the new Grain Belt apartments, with the old brewery in the background.
Artist rendering of the Grain Belt apartments with the old brewery in the background.

UD welcomes a new apartment, new neighborhood and new NE Minneapolis!

After an enjoyable 18 months as North Loop residents, John and I will be moving on to our next urban living experience this coming week: Northeast Minneapolis.  The old Grain Belt brewery complex is beckoning us with the larger unit, more picturesque view and quieter, residential neighborhood experience that we’ve been craving.  One of the adventures of renting in an urban area with so much rental construction is having the option to live a slightly nomadic existence, trying out new neighborhoods and different types of apartment homes.

Last evening, we met friends for pizza and drinks at Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lodge, walked the neighborhood for a bit after and finally landed on the lush and lovely patio of Mojo Coffee Gallery in the California Building. (Delightful cup of cappuccino, by the way!)  Having lived in NE Minneapolis about 10 years ago, when it was first designated an “arts district” by the city, it was fun to reflect on the growth and changes in the neighborhood since then.

The northeast I knew 10 years ago was still populated by descendants of some the neighborhood’s original eastern European immigrants.  Churches were still sponsoring community events, in fact, I still have and use some of the hand-embroidered sack cloth towels I bought at a church bake sale, around the corner from the home I was living in at the time.  Art was just getting going in the neighborhood and Art-a-Whirl was starting to gain popularity.

What was awesome about living in the area back then was that there was some type of art gallery opening or event almost every weekend.  Attending these became a wonderful pastime to share with my daughter, who was 12 or 13 at the time.  Some of the galleries were located in spaces that had been long abandoned by industry, making them equally entertaining viewing, next to the art being featured.

Psycho Suzie’s was a much smaller prospect at that time. It was located in an old drive-in restaurant which is the present location of what I call Psycho Suzie’s II: Betty Danger’s.  Back then, the patio looked a lot like their present tiki bar, which feels like Gilligan’s Island, and the interior that always made me expect to meet Jack Lord in an episode of Hawaii 5-0. The bouncer, I remember fondly, as a tough but slight-of-build British biker gent, who, despite his diminutive size, kept everyone in line and managed an extremely tight parking lot. Like most people, I loved the blatant cheesiness of the whole thing, along with the amazing pizza the establishment still serves today.  The present Psycho Suzie’s location was a sports bar I frequented with friends, to munch fries over a beer and play an occasional game of pool.

It’s a new NE for me, and I’m very much looking forward to getting to know it, and my new neighbors.  UD welcomes your input on places to go and things to do in what has become the number one rated art’s district in the US!

Dining in the trendy North Loop? Don’t overlook the places that got it all started.

Photo of the Sapor Cafe sign painted on their window with the reflection of North Loop warehouse buildings on the glass.
Photo of the Sapor Cafe sign painted on their window with the reflection of North Loop warehouse buildings on the glass.

Creating inspired comfort food and serving them in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. That’s Sapor in the North Loop’s Freespirit building.

Living in an emerging neighborhood has its culinary delights.  After settling into the North Loop for a little over a year, we’re sharing a short list of our favorite bites and sips. As the Loop fills with the newest and trendiest spots in the city, I find that I’m drawn to the amazing few that got everything started. These are NOT listed in order of preference, just in order of my thought process.

1. Bar La Grassa: A neighborhood institution, but I was certain there was no place that could replace my favorite St. Paul Selby Avenue hideaway, La Grolla, for quality Italian. Nestled in a cozy table near the window, John and I have enjoyed romantic meals watching the snow fall on Washington Avenue on bitter winter nights.  Best part? The waiter taught us how to split salad and pasta portions to make our dates more affordable, and keep our waistlines in check.

2. Sapor: As the Loop fills up with night life, sports and sushi bars, it’s becoming more difficult to find “adult friendly” dinning. (Adults over the age of 25 that is.) Sapor is relaxing, with fun and inventive food options like handcrafted hot dogs in the summer.  We never feel rushed to leave to make room for the next diner in line, and enjoy getting to know a wait staff who take the time to talk. Friends from our building love to take their two year old there because there’s room for her to move, and the staff is relaxed about kids. Sadly this favorite will be closing in June.

3. Dunn Brothers in the Dock Street Flats: This version of our local franchise has endured change as neighborhood institution and also a move from their former building (now Shinolo) to the new Dock Street Flats apartments across the street. The North Loop DB delivers a solid cup of Joe every time and a pretty darn good crafted espresso drink.  I made a surprising discovery a few weeks ago.  Pressed for time, and hopping between appointments, I stopped by and ordered their tomato basil soup and grilled cheese with bacon.  It was fresh, tasty and a far cry from the packaged sandwiches offered at chain coffee houses. This is now my destination for quick lunch meetings with clients and friends.

4. Freehouse: By the tone of this blog you can probably tell that my husband and I didn’t move to the North Loop to join in the

Free House dinning room with metal beer kegs used as ceiling fixtures and dinning tables set for service.

From breakfast to beer, Free House keeps us coming back for unique entrees and excellent service.

festivities at the local breweries, that said, we can’t get enough of Freehouse.  Newest joint on my list, it has one of the most fun and fresh menus we’ve encountered and the wait staff is quite simply amazing.  Never having partaken of pork belly in a salad before, and salivating over the mere mention of their “Breaky” line up, I periodically also enjoy their hand-crafted brews.  The outdoor patio is fun and relaxing in warm weather.  This place just keeps bringing us back.

Photo of the bar at the Monte Carlo, with a backlit, full wall bottle display and marble counter.

You can almost see the Rat Pack of the Twin Cities, the WCCO television news crew, seated in this room as they were 40 years ago.

5. The Monte Carlo: This midcentury modern fine dining classic deserves an award for simply surviving the bleakest era of the warehouse district, (when the North Loop was known only as the dark corner where Sex World and Dejavu resided) but when you sit down to their crab salad sandwich, order a steak or allow a waitress in an elegant uniform, not seen since the 1960s, fuss over you on the outdoor patio over Sunday brunch, you understand why they’re still here.  With a wealth of vintage Twin City celebrity’s autographed photos on the wall, you know you’ve rediscovered the coolest place in down that nobody knows about.  I simply love imagining that I can still see Dave Moore, Bud Kraehling and the old ‘CCO gang at their table in the back. (If you have to ask who they are, you may not be cool enough to hang at the Monte Carlo.)

The North Loop Move: Our Transition to a Simpler Life

A lap top computer open on a table in a community living room.
A lap top computer open on a table in a community living room.

Lynn’s  new virtual office in the Solhavn Living Room.

Six weeks has passed since John and I loaded up our remaining downsized possessions, left our beloved Lowertown apartment in the Cosmopolitan and migrated to Solhavn, a new residential building located in the emerging Minneapolis North Loop neighborhood.  Exciting, adventurous, exhausting and scary, we’ve learned a few things by making the transition to a simpler, more streamlined existence.

1. It’s easier to see what matters. As our sporty Mazda 3 rolled away and the leather sofa was carted off, what remained were the positive impressions of the people we had sold them to and the fact that we had each other.  No matter how difficult we thought it might have felt to let go of our “stuff” we realized that waking up together was the most important thing.

2. Life is easier with less.  Coming from good German stock, and having the subsequent “everything-must-be-spotless gene” in spades, owning less furniture (we purged 13 pieces) means that I have less dusting to torment myself over each weekend.  Our home is furnished with comfortable essentials, minus the fussy surfaces that really didn’t serve us well and soaked up precious time in upkeep.  There are also far less under utilized sporting goods, clothing and housewares to store, dialing down the “my stuff/your junk” tension in our marriage.

3. Living close to work and interests and having good telecommute options, enhances daily life immeasurably. Traveling less between work, hobbies and home has made the stress level go down significantly in both our lives.  Even without  car ownership, I have a number of options available to me to travel the less than one mile to my company’s new office. On some of the dangerously cold days this winter, it’s been easy to set up my virtual office in the Solhavn living room.  John walks to the downtown studios to record commercials and we both hop the city bus with our skis in tow to take a quick 10 minute ride to the Wirth Park Chalet.  When summer arrives, our options will only increase with the Cedar Lake Bike Trail and Mississippi River Parkway at our doorstep and three Farmer’s Markets at which to shop.

4. People think we’re cool. One of the unexpected boons of downsizing, going carless and moving into a building and neighborhood that supports green living is that a number of people, from our friends and acquaintances, to my daughter and future son-in-law,  fawn over our choices.  Our building’s general manager shared with me last week that she told her mom the story  about our downsizing move to the building with the hope of inspiring her to do something similar.  Liv and her betrothed, both confirmed carless Chicago urbanites, revel in the idea of having less in order to live in a new building with cool, eco-amenities. They quiz us about our carsharing options and the building’s composting system when they visit.  All these kudos have us feeling like rock-star level urban hippies! (And we’re liking it!)

5. Doing something different is fun and inspiring!  Without a doubt, moving is an extremely stressful process.  But to John and I,  living a life devoid of adventure would be worse. Though we’ve only moved across town, the North Loop feels like a

A man and woman seated at a counter smiling.

Our first weekend in the North Loop we made friends at the counter of Mill City Cafe over Sunday brunch.

totally different planet than our old neighborhood.  People dress different, have different hobbies and interests (there are many more like-minded athletes in our new building) making the new friendships we’re forging interesting and exciting.  We’ve been so inspired by the change that we’ve volunteered to start a Yoga Club and an Urban Gardening Club in our residential building!

Change is hard, but has its rewards. Let the new adventure begin!

The Black Dog Coffee House: What We’ll Miss Most About Lowertown

Photo of Sara Remke, Black Dog owner.

Without a doubt, Sara’s smile and warm welcome will be missed when we move to the North Loop next week.

With only a week remaining until our move on the Urban Deluxe countdown calendar, the last pieces of sale furniture making their way to new homes, donation-making and packing in its last stages, John and I are taking a last look around our Lowertown St. Paul neighborhood to say our goodbyes.  One of the most difficult parts of our life to let go of will be our second home at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar.  Nestled on what was once an obscure backstreet, but will soon contain the maintenance hub of the Central Corridor Light Rail system, the Black Dog has been where we have met friends, listened to great music, enjoyed a constant rotation of innovative and local art as well as gotten to know friendly baristas and proprietress, Sarah  Remke.

After leaving a secure job to dive into start-up, mission-based entrepreneurship, the Black Dog was my office. Sarah and her crew know the story of how I started my company, and all about my staff, many of whom live with disabilities.  They have supported and encouraged my work, evening donating gift cards to our first company picnic.  They have become a part of the story of our life here in many ways and it will be an adjustment not to have them be a part of our daily routine.

John and my weekly Sunday ritual of attending meditation and the dharma talk at the Clouds in Water Zen Center, then migrating down the hall for a leisurely dark roast (for me) and triple shot espresso (for John) at the Black Dog, will be over after this weekend.  It is with tears in my eyes that I think of that and write this blog entry.

What can make a place that special in the hearts and minds of a neighborhood? That could be difficult to say, but I’ve got to try.

First, we’re certain that the Black Dog has, hands down, the best coffee in the city.  They’ve got an amazing cup of standard brew and unparalleled espresso.  This has been perfect for us as a couple because both of our signature drinks are covered.

Colored sketch of musicians with instruments playing on the Black Dog stage.

An artist’s view of the Black Dog, where great music, wonderful art and friends always greet you.

My daughter, Liv, is a formally trained barista in Chicago where her place of employment sent her to a “coffee college” to learn how to roast beans and create what she calls “real” coffee beverages. (Timed-frothing and all the technical trimmings.)  “There are very few coffee houses I’ve been to where I feel that they probably know more about making good coffee than I and my coworkers do,” Liv said just last month when she was visiting us, “and one of those is the Black Dog.”

Second, local art and music abounds here; that kind of atmosphere takes you out of yourself and calls you to be something better every time you’re around it.  Part of the reason we moved to Lowertown was to support the arts community and immerse ourselves in it.  However, I don’t think we’ve always understood how much being around local art and music has prompted us to discuss and think about things we might have otherwise ignored in the world around us. That experience has made us grow as people and happens every time we walk through the Black Dog’s door.

Third is that the Black Dog truly is the place where everyone knows your name, or at least acknowledges that you are part of the community.  There are neighbors we only interact with at the Black Dog, many of whom we never exchange names with, but whom we greet weekly and speak with often.   That type of feeling is something you can’t force or manufacture; it comes from an atmosphere where people are welcomed and respected.  Whether the day has been bad, or good, the Black Dog is a place you can go to relax and, with the nod of a head from a neighbor or barista, know you’re accepted.

Lap top computer open on a table with a cup of coffee next to it.

A view from my Black Dog virtual office, stationed at  a familiar table near the window.

Fourth is that the Lowertown artist community holds court at the Black Dog every day of the week.  To those of us who work jobs that are far less creative and live lifestyles not quite as avant-garde, you value being able to eaves drop on stimulating conversations about who sold one of their pieces and who just got an exhibit somewhere. I’ll admit it. I live vicariously through these folks when managing staff  issues and trying to pay the bills for a struggling little startup seems overwhelming.  Drifting away on their conversation, I can imagine myself living in the Tilsner, throwing a pot on a wheel or boldly placing paint strokes on a canvas while preparing for the next Art Crawl.

There will be no replacing the Black Dog Cafe in our new neighborhood, but we look forward to keeping the people, and the coffee, we’ve enjoyed in Lowertown deep in our memories into the future.  We also gently remind ourselves that, despite that fact that we are now carless, the rail line just outside the Black Dog’s door will connect our new Minneapolis North Loop home to Sarah, the baristas and the coffee in just a few short months.