TWO SIGNS I DON’T BELONG IN THIS COFFEESHOP: it took three baristas five minutes to pour me a mug of coffee. And the only other patron is reading Tim Pawlenty’s “Courage to Stand.” In a town with many excellent cafés, the lameness of others feels like an affront. So let me tell you about the ones I like.
Spyhouse on Nicollet: Art students, restaurant people, transients and low-rent laptoppers (like myself) caffeinate here by day, nodding to Steely Dan, Blondie, Bowie and Stones (The décor is mostly crusty LPs and string-art clipper ships). The vibe is energetic, but with few children or “problem clients.” On the same block, you have your pick of Vietnamese. There is reportedly another location, but why bother?
Diamonds Coffee Shoppe: A maze of mostly windowless rooms in a Nordeast warehouse, this retro-modern spot has the Bohemian vibe of the artist studios nearby (welders, glassmakers, felters), without being too eclectic for the agency types moving into the strip. The furniture is ancient, curling Harley posters serve as décor, and while the food is just OK, the agreeable lady behind the counter makes it from scratch, a rarity.
Urban Bean: This Uptown place tries pretty hard—floor-to-ceiling murals, strict dichromatic palette, way too much merch. But there are lots of tables and power outlets and the owners work the counter like they give a damn. Extra points for scoring a patio table in summer.
2nd Moon Coffee Café: This redundantly named hole in the wall wins for weird juxtapositions. Somali students and grizzled old Communists. Punk Rock Moms Group and Scrabble Club. The mentally ill and the physically disabled. They have to remove ranting people and replace busted windows regularly, and many patrons don’t bother to buy anything. So I forgive the staff for playing Abbey Road a little too often.
Wonderland Park a/k/a Peace Coffee: This sparkling new emporium in lonely Longfellow (my ‘hood) is the headquarters for a local beans-on-bikes distributor. They did it up: high-varnish recycled wood tables (all four legs sit squarely on the floor; nice!), mosaic tiling, giant picture windows, and get this: bottomless cups of mad-delicious brew. Oh come, all ye freelance freeloaders.