As a self-proclaimed coffee snob, I was over the moon when I heard that the world’s largest Starbucks would replace the Crate and Barrel on Michigan Avenue. I am happy to report that the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, located at 646 N. Michigan Ave., did not disappoint. Starbucks managed to create a Disney World for coffee lovers.
Before my sister and I could enter the roastery, we had to wait in line outside. The store lets people inside periodically to ensure that there was plenty of room to explore inside. On a Friday morning the wait was about 10 minutes. Once I stepped inside I was transported to a welcoming, cozy atmosphere. The first thing you see when you step inside is the gigantic roaster that supplies coffee beans to the entire building through a 56-foot cask.
Besides the coffee bean roaster, the first floor also has a gift shop with merchandise custom to the roastery and a Starbucks coffee bar. The coffee bars on the first and second floors feature authentic Italian baked goods designed for the roastery by Rocco Princi.
While the first and second floors were charming with hipster vibes, the real magic happens on the third floor, which houses the experimental coffee bar. The experimental coffee bar pushes the boundaries of coffee preparation and the methods of brewing it. With the opening of the Chicago Starbucks Roastery, a new Starbucks original was introduced: nitrogen infused sweet cream gelato.
While the first two floors both had delicious looking treats and drinks, I wanted an experience unique to the Chicago roastery, so my sister and I ordered our drinks from the experimental coffee bar. I chose the Undertow ($6), an espresso suspended above chilled half-and-half and vanilla bean syrup. The espresso was too bitter for my taste, but once I stirred the drink I found that the Undertow had the perfect blend between sweet vanilla and rich espresso.
My sister ordered the Affogato ($9), two shots of espresso poured over nitrogen infused sweet cream gelato. The gelato was sweet and silky and fused perfectly with the espresso to create a flavor that was indescribably delicious. My sister described it as “coffee ice cream but lighter.” My only complaint was that it was a bit expensive for drinks that were smaller than a tall at a normal Starbucks.
While waiting in line to order at the experimental coffee bar, we were offered a free sample of the Brazil California Estate blend—sold at all Starbucks roasteries, brewed with a Chemex pour-over. The blend was light with a subtle sweetness; I enjoyed it even though I rarely drink black coffee.
Overall, visiting the Starbucks Roastery Reserve was an amazing experience. The staff is friendly and the roastery fits right in on Michigan Ave. Anyone who loves coffee would love the Starbucks Roastery Reserve. The roastery is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.