OUT And About
BY BRIAN G. SCHOMMER
Mike Ditka, of Chicago Bears fame, said “Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions” in the 1995 film “Kicking and Screaming.” Another quote about coffee, although maybe less famous is, “if it wasn’t for coffee, there would be a lot more deceased people… because I would end up killing them.” The person who said that is the same one who is writing this article. “But wait… the readers were told that your personal opinion would not creep into ‘Out and About,” the more focused and detailed may recall of a past edition of this weekly feature. Well, originally this was the discussion, but Publisher John says to make it a bit more like the writer has been to the places being talked about (which he has, but maybe was not conveyed as well as it could have been). It has long been a goal to write the following: “The views and opinions of this feature may not be the opinion of any ‘Journal’ newspaper owned or operated by Paperboy News, LLC and are solely the views of the author of the feature story.” Disclaimer complete.
So, if you are a coffee drinker, you probably relate both quotes, at least to an extent and especially on Mondays. That much needed extra kick to get going is not only welcomed, but often viewed as a Godsend by those who more than a little bit relies on the stimulus provided by the wonderful concoction known as COFFEE. The coffee industry has new concepts, franchises, and shops of all kinds opening on a regular basis all that offer various blends, roasts, and brews of the world’s third most consumed beverage, behind water and tea. Most “coffee” shops serve tea and water… so the beverage world might just revolve around coffee shops. Who knew, most in these parts may have thought it revolved around bars.
Where do you go to get your coffee? If you are openminded enough to try a few different spots, here are a few that this guy finds favor with. Two are in Hastings and one is just up the road in Cottage Grove. The coffee and specialty drinks are similar at all of destinations. The difference makers are ambiance, customer service, and atmosphere. There is no order of preference in this review, although there is a from the “south to the north” thing for those who might plan their route in this manner. We start in Hastings near the corner of 10th Street and Highway 61. You might know the area best from a particular landmark known as Todd Field at McNamara Stadium. In the Schoolhouse Square, you will find DUNN BROTHERS… our first “Out and About” coffee shop.
The Corporate/Franchise type ownership model on the outside all but goes away when you go to place your order. You are greeted by the smell of freshly roasted coffee and while the “vibe” is definitely corporate, there is plenty of “cool” vibe going on as well. There are some great specialty drinks and for those who are particular about their little cup of happiness, the staff takes great pride in making sure your specific wants are taken care of. Take that as golden word from someone who regularly orders a Caramelized Almond Latte with caramel and almond syrup (sugar free on both) and almond milk, NOT SO HOT. Rarely do the seasoned staff ask, “what will ya have?” Generally, it is “what size?” That service outweighs what might be lost with atmosphere.
If you are looking for a true “hometown” coffee shop with a “chill” vibe and similarly awesome service and equal yummy coffee (along with some other yummy treats), checking out FROTH & CORK is a MUST. Family and locally owned, this place has an incredible atmosphere and even has some spots that make it super kid friendly as well. The line can get a bit long and parking can get tricky, which is also accountable to the fantastic products they offer, and it is worth the wait. The sandwiches are delish, and they have an awesome rewards program. Froth & Cork is not a second place here… with Dunn Brothers, this coffee freak rates them #1A and #1B, and interchangeable depending on the time you have. Dunn Brothers adds a bit of convenience with a drive through.
Cottage Grove does not have a lot of options other than the corporate shops and unless you need to go shop at that big box store with the Red and White circles, their Caribou Coffee off 80th near the Hy-Vee grocery store is about it from my experience. However, that experience has been awesome the few times the venture was made. Corporate by all standards, the service was extremely friendly, and they dealt perfectly with the pickiness that is a caramel latte, sugar free with both caramel and almond… don’t forget the almond milk AND NO SO HOT. The few associates I have met at this shop shared that, hands down, it was one of the best Caribou shops they had ever been too. Opinion: Caribou is the McDonalds of coffee shops. Not a rip on Caribou and will certainly be seen in plenty of them over the course of time.
If you are a convenience store, straight up black or even a little room for cream and sugar, that is fine. If you are a coffee snob (been called worse), these are a few options for you when you are “Out and About.” As long as there is coffee to be brewed and drank on Monday morning (and any other day that ends in “Y”), there will be another “Out and About” feature next week.