5 things to know about Fairgrounds, the North Loop's whimsical new coffee shop

There are couches—but also swings hanging from the ceiling.

There are couches—but also swings hanging from the ceiling. Stacy Brooks

Do you remember childhood visits to the Minnesota State Fair that would culminate in the blissful moment when your parents handed you a roll of tickets, pointed you in the direction of the Midway, and told you to go have fun?

That’s the sense of freedom and adventure Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea founder Michael Schultz hopes to evoke with his craft coffee and tea shops.

The Chicago-based company is coming to the Twin Cities with a location in the North Loop; the opening date is this Saturday, July 14. If you stop by, you can support a good cause—Fairgrounds will be donating 20 percent of all opening day sales to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), a nonprofit organization that funds research toward a cure for epilepsy.

Here’s some more stuff you should know before you go.

5. Coffee and tea get equal billing
While bright-green matcha lattes have become ubiquitous (blame Instagram), Fairgrounds takes it a step further. They’ll swap in matcha for espresso in any of their specialty drinks—try a matcha cortado, cappuccino, Americano, or mocha.

There’s also a menu of “elixirs” that highlight various teas and coffees. Some evoke cocktails, like Grandpa Irv’s Espresso Old Fashioned; a few are coffee shop classics, like an affogato; others sound like something you would grab on the way to yoga (Soul Detox and Power Flower Milk Tea, we’re looking at you). We enjoyed the Rainforest Remedy, a refreshing blend of matcha, frozen pineapple, and coconut milk.

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks

4. It’s all about trying something new
“Fairgrounds is a celebration of diversity and choice,” explains Schultz. Many coffee shops feature beans from only one roaster; at Fairgrounds, customers can sample a rotating selection of coffees from local and national roasters including Spyhouse, Colectivo (Milwaukee), Stumptown (Portland), Verve (Santa Cruz), and more. Can’t pick just one? Opt for a flight of three eight-ounce pours.

And if you’d prefer something chilled, there are 12 different taps with a seasonal selection of sparkling tea, cold brew, nitro, matcha, and kombucha.

3. The food gets plenty of attention
Although it’s advertised as a coffee and tea shop, Fairgrounds’ food menu would classify it as a cafe, too. Breakfast is served all day, with everything from a classic lox platter to a meticulously topped acai bowl. There are sandwiches, salads, soups, toasts, and snacks—the funnel cake fries have an ethereally light texture that can only be described as addictive.

There are plenty of options to delight vegetarians (we especially enjoyed the spicy Seoul Bowl and huevos rancheros tostadas), plus a couple of vegan and gluten-free items.

2. The decor will make you smile
“You’ll notice the balance and energy in the design,” says Schultz. He points out the swings dangling from the ceiling: “You can sit on a swing while you wait for your pour over!” Other whimsical touches include a rug painted on the tile floor, complete with fringe, and vintage Minnesota State Fair memorabilia. The bright shade of blue throughout the space is inspired by a Thunderbird owned by Schultz’s grandfather.

Besides the swings, seating options include plenty of tables, cozy armchairs by the fireplace, and a 20-seat sidewalk patio.

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks

1. You can bring the kids
There’s a kids’ menu with some delicious-sounding choices for discerning young foodies, like tomato soup dunkers made with challah bread and oven-roasted turkey and cheddar sliders on brioche buns. Kids’ meals are served in lunch boxes, with a choice of fresh fruit, veggie sticks, or chips.

A pile of Etch A Sketch toys by the counter is meant to encourage families to play together and interact without devices—although Schultz notes with a laugh that the first thing kids do is look for a power switch. “They think it’s some kind of red iPad.”

Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea
120 Third Ave. N., Minneapolis