Inside Look: Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea Bar, Chicago

You don’t have to be a coffee snob to find something you’ll like at Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea Bar. The new Chicago café takes an egalitarian approach to drinks, with options from eight different American roasters in addition to fun coffee and tea drinks on tap, like Nitro-fueled matcha, sparkling tea and kombucha. “We wanted to create a coffee shop for everyone,” says owner Michael Schultz. “One that wasn’t exclusive, but approachable for coffee and tea lovers alike, where our guests feel comfortable asking questions and trying something new. Coffee and tea should be fun, not intimidating!”

Whether you prefer Stumptown, Irving Farm or Verve, coffee is brewed via automated pour-over, which yields a consistent cup every time, in less time, and frees up staff to interact with guests behind the counter, Schultz explains. “In today’s world, the most valuable resource we have is time…[the technology] reduces the time it takes to brew specialty coffee by more than half.”

Chicago-based architecture firm Barker/Nestor and Ingrassia Design collaborated on the interior, which like a lavish living room. Reclaimed brick, rustic wood shelving and concrete floors create a slightly industrial vibe, which gets warmed up by lush greenery, cozy banquettes, plush leather sofas and a freestanding fireplace. Elements like the hanging Chemex lights and vintage coffee trinkets add a little fun to the space, making it easy to sink in with a laptop for a few hours or get comfy with a cup of tomato soup and grilled cheese.

As Fairgrounds gets settled in Chicago with a second location to open at the Chicago Athletic Association this spring, Schultz is also eyeing national expansion, with plans to open locations in Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Miami and beyond. Each shop will have a different design to fit into the local community. “Some standards of the brand will carry over from space to space, but the most important driving force behind our brand is that we embrace the communities in which we operate,” he says.


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