Coffee Shops with Benefits

Light- or dark-roast? Far more intriguing choices--like booze!--await at a new generation of coffeehouses.

When I think about all the rights granted to us by the Constitution, I am most grateful for our Right to Absolute Convenience. Think about it. When we were ruled by the British, milk came out of cows. Now it comes out of every gas station, that one kiosk in the airport, and can be five-fingered by anyone with big enough pockets visiting Mrs. Applegate's kindergarten class during the morning snack.

Yet America has sadly gotten off-track. For one thing, does Mrs. Applegate stock a larger size of floor mat for those who have mastered their numbers and letters but are also in need of a nap, lest we grow cranky? She does not. When did it become fashionable to penalize Americans for mastering the alphabet? I am disgusted. Furthermore, some mornings I open my mail and find so few discount coupons for Lasik surgery that I have no call to get out my forklift. For this we had Betsy Ross drawn and quartered?

To add insult to injury, I had a great idea. I would insert a monitor inside your refrigerator. When it sensed that you had nothing on hand for dinner, my employees would greet you, as you approached your home, with a hot broiled chicken, a roasted cabbage, and such delights, impaled on a white-hot iron spear, which would be flung at you through your car window. Needless to say, this large iron spear needed to be white-hot to ensure your dinner's correct temperature. I'll tell you what. A fear of lawsuits has destroyed a once-great country.

Gigi's: Café society is back
David Fick
Gigi's: Café society is back

Location Info


Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar

308 Prince St.
St. Paul, MN 55101

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Gigi's Cafe

822 W. 36th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Mill City Cafe

2205 California St. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Northeast Minneapolis

Or so I thought, until I discovered that the Twin Cities now have no fewer than eight coffee shops with beer and wine licenses! And a few that sell actual liquor. Dang. How did this happen? Remember when anyone attempting to introduce a new beer and wine license into a neighborhood was greeted with the sort of response more appropriate for those attempting to introduce neighborhood children to the King of Pop? Times sure have changed.



Black Dog is roomy, artsy, laid-back, and so utterly convenient that it is in constant danger of being taken for granted. Like, did you know that before people figured out how to get the fleece off of sheep and spin it into socks, man was forced to walk around with his feet inside the bloody carcasses of freshly killed lambs? Well, of course not, but you get the idea. The idea being that you will be hard pressed to find a better salad, pizza, and glass of wine in any coffee shop than you will find at Black Dog, and we should all stop taking them for granted.

Why, just the other night I popped in for one of Black Dog's "special salads" ($7.50) and a personal pizza ($4.95). The salad was special indeed: a mound of fresh red leaf lettuce, crumbles of tender, fresh chèvre, a handful of good olives of every hue and size, little islands of cucumber slices on the edges of the plate, and a nice, understated balsamic dressing. The pizza was made on a homemade flatbread, a sturdy, nicely rich and thin crust topped with good cheese, chunky tomato sauce, and fresh basil. I've had far, far worse pizzas at three times the price in local white-tablecloth joints. With my pleasant dinner I got a glass of Château Laulerie 1999 Bergerac ($5.25), a brassy, strong French wine with plenty of acid and likeable red fruit.

Black Dog has a nice little selection of beverages: In addition to all the good coffees, they have beer, including Guinness in the draft can, and a dozen nicely chosen wines in the $20 a bottle/$5 a glass range. Or you can try any three wines in a tasting flight for $10, or get a carafe of wine (almost three glasses) for a half-bottle price.

While I sat in Black Dog, I took a good look around at the other patrons, and was treated to a spectacle of utter economic diversity. At one table, two elderly friends convened over bowls of soup. The man was explaining the fine points of buying medication online to the woman, using Black Dog's wi-fi. At another table, some members of the board of a nonprofit arts organization argued about what had been said at the last meeting: One of them had a beer, another had a thick Odwalla juice, the third primly nursed sparkling water. A stylish sort of artist with flame-colored hair and high, spiky heels gave her cell phone withering glances while she sipped a glass of Chardonnay and waited for a stack of takeout. In the corner a couple on a study date sat, shoulders touching, fingertips on separate keyboards. An artist from a nearby studio came in and blew off steam to the Black Dog workers about his rotten day. I ordered a nice slice of sour cream coffeecake and ate some of the delicious little cinnamon strudel bits with my fingers. I considered how Black Dog is exactly the kind of space, the kind of restaurant that perfectly nurtures life as we lead it today. I resolved to do more remembering of Black Dog, and less taking it for granted. BLACK DOG; 308 Prince St., St. Paul, 651.228.9274,

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