I had the most enchanting coffee experience this morning, when I stopped in at the newly opened Caffe Umbria in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Your read that right. Enchanting!
Caffe Umbria is a west coast coffee roaster out of Oregon and Washington States. They are creating uniquely blended
coffee and espresso beans in the Italian tradition by combining several bean varietals from Latin America and Africa.
First things first. You can get there a number of ways. Take the CTA Red Line to the Grand ‘L’ stop and walk 2 blocks west and 3 blocks south. The Merchandise Mart ‘L’ stop, along the Brown and Purple Lines is just 2 blocks west. Alternatively, take the Brown, Orange, Blue or Pink Lines to the Clark/Lake ‘L’ stop and walk 2 blocks north. The #22 Clark bus will get you there as well.
Upon entering this tiny yet cozy space, I was immediately flooded with fond memories of the many great cafes I visited all over Italy. There is only one high top table and a few window seats in the main space. Another few tables are available in the lobby of the office building next door.
I was greeted with smiles and pleasant conversation from John, Pasquale and the rest of the staff. They were more than happy to walk me through the background of each coffee and espresso bean blend in the store. There are only a few of each which is pretty niche. It’s evident that a great deal of time was put into cultivating and combining the various beans from different countries, in order to make the very distinctive products you will find here. Every blend shares a base of Brazilian beans.
I decided to begin my first experience at Caffe Umbria with something from the espresso side of the menu. I chose the mocha piccante made with almond milk which is a spicy option reminiscent of the Aztec coffee tradition. I chose wisely! This drink was bold, smoothe, creamy and spicy. There was enough hint of chocolate without being sweet. The spice from cayenne (or was it chili?) gave this drink just the right amount of zing to wake up my taste buds and sharpen my brain function. I’ll just say it. This drink made me instantaneously happy 🙂
Although the beans are the star and focus here, Caffe Umbria offers a few pastries from La Fournette, a local Chicago bakery, with locations in Old Town and Lincoln Park. There are some really yummy Italian-focused options such as an almond croissant, and a couple of jam/berry pastries.
However, once I saw this absolutely drool-worthy hazelnut beignet, I knew I had to have it! It was light and airy. The creamy hazelnut filling brought out the flavors in my mocha piccante all the more. Wow!! I was overcome with joy. I am in a new relationship with Caffe Umbria! Should I change my Facebook status to “It’s complicated?”
I sat in the window of Caffe Umbria taking my time enjoying the wonderful flavors and aromas of my mocha piccante and hazelnut beignet. The staff invited me to sample some of their drip coffee blends as well as their hot chocolate. They were all wonderfuI. I will be spending a lot of time here.
I know that there are many coffee options in Chicago. I understand that coffee, like pizza, is a highly individualistic experience. However, the next time you are looking to satisfy your caffeine craving and have a transportive experience, consider checking out Caffe Umbria.
Wouldn’t you like to be properly caffeinated?
Caffe Umbria is located at 346 N. Clark St. They are open Monday – Friday from 6:30am – 6pm and Saturday from 7am – 4pm. Click here for more information.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Brown, Purple or Red Lines or #22 Clark bus to Caffe Umbria Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!