It’s on my second visit to Misfit Coffee that I start to suspect I’m doing something wrong.
Ordering goes easily enough. I opt for the hyper-caffeinated Horchata Del Noche even though it’s mañana, because I need its punch-the-hangover-right-out-of-ya combination of horchata, espresso, and nitro cold brew. Finding a seat’s no problem, either; it’s busy, but a few of the angular barstools, their backs shaped like copper stealth bombers, are up for grabs.
Only when I slide my laptop from my backpack do I realize I might be making a mistake. No one else has a computer out.
Misfit doesn’t look or function like almost any other coffee shop in the Twin Cities. More and more, the spaces serving your morning brew are as sharp and shiny as the MacBooks lining their tabletops—all blinding white walls and high ceilings and honeycomb tile.
Not here. Especially after dark—Misfit’s open until 10 p.m. daily—it feels more like a bar than a cafe, right down to the floorplan: a corridor-like layout with the bar to the left, a line of two-top tables on your right. Strips of neon line the back wall and dangle horizontally throughout the room; low red light radiates from beneath the bar. The bathroom? We won’t spoil that for you. You really should see it yourself. And the music is loud—not nightclub-loud, but definitely not cafe-quiet. Close your eyes, and you might think you were in a coffee-scented record shop, or a Forever 21 with a much better playlist.
“We don’t want to be a study spot—every other coffee shop is quiet,” Misfit founder and owner Marcus Parkansky tells me plainly when I pull up a seat at the concrete counter a few days later (this time sans computer).
Since opening on the corner of 24th Street and Lyndale Avenue early last month, his goal has been simple: provide a place for people to connect to one another. And counterintuitively, it can be harder to do that when there’s less noise. You feel like your conversation is disrupting those nearby, or that the tables around you can hear your every word. So Parkansky takes a page from the bar book and turns up the volume: “Then everybody has to talk a little bit louder, everyone feels a little freer to share their voice. Yeah,” he grins, “we’re going to play music a little bit louder than we maybe should.”
Even in a city with so many coffee shops doing so many different things, that makes Misfit live up to its name. And we haven’t even gotten to the weird-ass drinks yet.
Ever combined cola with your coffee? Misfit does: The Spro-Da-Pop is a mix of Mexican Coke and espresso that team up to create a delightfully fizzy (if strange) sugar and caffeine kick. It sounds sort of abominable on paper, something a delirious college student would make to keep the party going after the vodka and Red Bull ran out. Unfortunately, the Spro-Da-Pop is good. I almost wish it was less enjoyable, because something I absolutely don’t need is an excuse to drink Coke at 8 in the morning. At least I’m not alone: Spro-Da’s been on the Misfit menu since it opened as a mobile coffee truck three years ago. One die-hard drinker likes them so much that once, when Parkansky’s distributor was out of Mexican Coke, he brought them a 24-pack.
That’s not even the zaniest-sounding-but-actually-good drink that might just lower your skeptically arched eyebrows. There’s the refreshing Misfit Palmer, a more caffeinated take on the classic Arnold that subs nitro cold brew and cold brew concentrate in for tea. Soooo Green appears simple at first—matcha, milk, and mint? Sure!—until you realize the subtle kick comes from jalapeño and serrano peppers. Like coffee beans with fruitier notes? Perhaps you’ll enjoy the Coco-Nana Cold Brew, which marries actual banana, dark chocolate, sea salt, and more to create a sweet sort-of smoothie.
The menu is sprawling, with 14 of the semi-bonkers specialty drinks in addition to your standard pour-overs and cold brews and teas. It’s going to change seasonally, though—act fast if you want to try a Sassafras Blast (heavy whipping cream, cold brew concentrate, horchata, nitro cold brew, root beer).
If that’s not enough, Parkansky’s really pulling to get a liquor license, potentially extending those late-night hours past 10. Beer and wine shouldn’t be an issue, but he wants to go all-out: They’re essentially making booze-free cocktails as it is, and these weirdo concoctions would really work well with a splash of something stronger. (If you’re conflicted about Spro-Da-Pop now, imagine how you’ll feel should liquor enter the mix.)
Is it a little gimmicky? I mean, maybe. But it’s a good gimmick. And for it to work, the espresso has to be on point; the coffee brewed to perfection.
You might not like everything. Parkansky gets that.
“If you make a face—and we know the face you’re making—we will happily make you something else,” he laughs. “But if you come in here like, ‘Should I get a latte?’ I’ll be like, ‘Please don’t.’ This is your time to get something you can’t get anywhere else.”
To be clear, you can get a regular-ass latte, just as there’s no espresso police stopping you from commandeering a table and connecting to the wi-fi. I’ve returned to Misfit since accompanied by only my computer, happily fueling my keyboard-clacking with a Spoonbridge Cherry Chai or Guava Green Tea. I’ve seen others doing the same.
But if you find yourself with a work-free afternoon? Snag a counter seat, order a bizarre beverage, and start talking to one of the perennially chatty baristas.
“What we appreciate as much as good coffee is having good people around and having good personalities and good experiences and conversations—making people feel like they’re worth something when they come in,” Parkansky says. “We’re just here to have a good time.”
Click here to see a photo slideshow of Misfit Coffee