JULY 2017 – Some people simply want their morning coffee and don’t really care what comes in the cup. They’re genuinely happy if it’s delivered hot and does the trick of giving them a jolt. Then there are others who completely obsess over their coffee. You may call them snobs, but we like to think of them as aficionados. They love seeking out different roasts and beans from around the world and experimenting with different brewing methods — and plenty of cafes have no problem catering to them. In fact, a host of new places — call them “third wave coffee” if you will — have opened in the last handful of years bringing joy to many serious coffee lovers. The only problem is to experience the variety that’s out there, you have to visit a number of cafes. Well, you used to have to do that, but now that Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea has hit Chicago, you can taste through an array of roasters, both local and from around the country, in one spot.
The first Fairgrounds opened earlier this year in Bucktown and now, as luck would have it, the second location just opened on June 30 on the ground floor of the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. With access from the building’s foyer and Michigan Avenue, Fairgrounds’ design blends beautifully with the aesthetic of the historic entryway with mosaic floors, mahogany wainscoting and marble trim with added modern touches like Fairgrounds signature neon “F” sign hanging behind the counter.
Other stuff behind the counter? A range of robust coffee offerings from roasters including Dark Matter and Metropolis from Chicago, Verve from Los Angeles, Stumptown from Portland, Ore., Irving Farm from New York, Frothy Monkey from Nashville and Colectivo from Milwaukee, which also opened its own sprawling café in Lincoln Park not too long ago. Fairgrounds partnered with Rishi Tea to create a host of inventive drinks, including sparkling tea and matcha lattes. Guests to the café can also enjoy kombucha and cold brew coffees on tap. For food, you can get breakfast items like a scrambled egg sandwich pepper jack cheese and charred tomato salsa or matcha chia pudding and various sandwiches and salads for lunch like turkey avocado sliders or a Southwestern salad — and it can all be taken to go or enjoyed on Fairgrounds’ 35-seat patio facing Millennium Park.
Fairgrounds at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel is open daily between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.