Not all cafes are created equal.
I think that goes without saying, but I also feel it’s an important point to point out.
Now, I enjoy the convenience of a Starbucks as much as the next guy, but when I want to go to a cafe, I want that place to have some soul.
It’s so hard for big corporate entities to have a soul. As a former Starbucks employee (I don’t think my skills warrant use of the direct term “barista”), and as someone who knows some amazing people who work for that organization, I know that the people who work for that company make it what it is, and they are some bomb folks…
…but when you go to a Starbucks, they all look similar, have the same curated playlists, offer the same fare…there’s no soul. In fact, I would argue that everything is carefully thought out to make it as sterile and uniform an experience as possible.
That’s not soul.
Furthermore, I don’t want my coffee fast. If I need my caffeine speedy, I will make it at home. I share the European concept of cafes, they’re a social place, for a social experience.
While living in Germany, it took me some time to get used to the slow experience of a cafe. If you were looking to spend anything less than an hour, you better get it to go, and you’re still looking at a 10-15 minute experience. 10-15 minute experiences would drive your average Starbucks customer up the wall.
Now this isn’t a bash on Starbucks post, they get their fair share of my money, but I take my cafe experience seriously, and today I encountered a cafe that got me excited. I started taking notes for this post while waiting for my food.
I biked out to Steelworkers Park today, in the South Chicago area. It was an item on my Fall To Do list, and with temperatures reaching 50 degrees, I figured it a perfect day. It was very windy, and chilly, but sunny. Check my Instagram tomorrow for pictures.
There’s no better ending to a fall bike ride, in my opinion, then warming up in a cafe, so I looked to Google Maps for some guidance. In doing a search, South Shore Brew caught my eye.
Upon walking in, I was greeted by some Luther Vandross filling the cafe. There were a handful of patrons in the establishment. I love a place that doesn’t use music as background noise…no, Luther was upfront and present. I appreciated that.
I was greeted by a delightful smile and hearty welcome from behind the counter. I did not know it at the moment, but I was speaking with one of the two proprietors, Jennifer Barnes. The space is beautiful, quaint, with tons of floor to ceiling windows, giving it a very airy feel. The sun was shining bright at that point, so I was more than willing to soak it in.
There is a quote on the wall near the entrance that sums up the impetus behind South Shore Brew:
“We pay homage to the African American footprint that was here before us in varying ways in our coffee shop. We knew that this area was lacking in coffee shops, not a lot of restaurants. And so we figured why not move to this area and build something that the neighborhood could be proud of, extending on the legacy that’s already here.” ~ Love, Cory & Jennifer
Jennifer asked me if I was a first-timer, and upon my affirmative response, gave me a run down of the menu and their pastry options.
Immediately, the “Roasted Apple Brie and Pecan Panini” caught my eye. That sounded yummy. That sounded daring.
“That sounds amazing” I said.
“It is!” she responded with a smirk.
Well, the gauntlet had been laid down. To accompany my panini, I ordered a Pumpkin Pie Chai Latte and a slice of vegan apple crisp for the road, which is currently in my refrigerator for after dinner.
The drink was superb. Not too sweet..just right. I had it with Almond milk of course, because I didn’t want to be pooping the rest of the night.
Now the panini..man, that panini was on point. That panini made me think “man, I need to play around with apples more in the kitchen”. It made me want to buy a little panini griddle thingy and make my own paninis on weekend mornings. I would give it two thumbs up and it also made me think I don’t eat enough brie.
Is brie high in lactose?
I grabbed a Chicago Reader off of their periodical shelves and sat and enjoyed my drink and the atmosphere. Great music throughout my entire visit…mostly 80’s and 90’s…songs I hadn’t heard or thought about in years. It was fabulous.
I think the true sign of a great establishment is whether it makes you feel good to be there, and whether you plan on visiting again. South Shore Brew got me on both points.
I’ve attached some pics below. Also, I dove into the panini so fast, I forgot to take a picture of it. My bad. However, I encourage you all to just go on over to South Shore Brew and try it for yourself. Once I’ve tried the apple crisp, I’ll offer thoughts on it down in the comments.
Finally, here are some news articles that dive deeper into the founding of the business, and the proprietors, Cory & Jennifer Barnes:
- Block Club Chicago: South Shore Brew Bringing Community-Focused Cafe To Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Old Office Building
- Chicago Tribune: South Shore Brew Celebrates Grand Opening with Chicago Dignitaries
- WBBM 780AM Newsradio: New Coffee Shop Opens In South Shore In Hopes Of Bettering The Community
What is your favorite cafe in Chicago? Elsewhere? Have you been to South Shore Brew? What are your thoughts on the place? Tells us all the haps down in the comments.
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