The Extra Kilometer by Zach Zulauf

Zach Zulauf, owner of New Wave Coffee, crossed international borders on an emergency coffee mission for Metropolis Coffee Company.

These are his recollections of that event:

I always liked to think that I would be the type of guy to fly to a foreign country with less than twenty-four hours notice, if asked. We all like to think that we’re that kind of person. But it’s rare that circumstances align to test the theory.

Last weekend I got the text: A Metropolis account in Montreal was out of coffee–the shipment was caught up in customs at the border. Metropolis needed to hand-deliver some beans. Tony’s wife was ready to go into labor at any moment. Would I be willing to head to Montreal with 50 pounds of coffee? Why yes, yes I would.

My shop, New Wave Coffee in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, is new enough that I still remember the fever-dream of those first few months with an uncomfortable level of clarity. It’s a terrifying time.

Of all the thousands of possible calamities that zip through a young owner’s head while they aren’t sleeping at night, running out of coffee has to be at the top of that list. You can run out of milk. The electricity can go out. Limbs can be broken, you can be short staffed. There are endless horrible scenarios. But the shame of being a coffee shop without coffee holds a level derision above all else. So, after a quick hunt for my passport and some hacker-esque travel agency [work] by Tony, and some Saturday morning roasting by Ben Crowell, I was headed to O’Hare with a rigid, blue-plastic suitcase crammed with ten five-pound bags of extremely fresh roasted coffee.

On the flight there, I took a liberal interpretation of the Canadian customs questionnaire in answering that the coffee was neither a “commercial good” nor a “food or plant in whole or in part.” (I mean, is a coffee bean still really plant life post-roasting? And a commercial good? It’s more of a raw material. Sort of like lumber, right? They don’t ask about that). I told the guy I was here to check out the Montreal coffee scene. I was passed through, prompting me to text Tony that “Next time we should try this with cocaine.” Tony texted back, “Are you sure that we didn’t? Have you opened one of the bags?”

People like to say that Canada is bilingual. I don’t believe this is true. As far as I can tell, it’s actually two monolingual countries uncomfortably bonded together. Montreal speaks French. I do not. Hoché Café, owned by Dominic, is located in the “French Neighborhood” of an already quite French city, next to the Olympic stadium. Luckily, Dominic’s English is fantastic, thus sparing us from the desperate levels of my mangled Spanish.

I ended up talking with Dominic for over two hours. His shop is about a month old, and he is in the throws of ecstasy and anxiety which that entails. I could see a lot of myself in him. He handled himself remarkably well. He was far more composed than I was at a similar point. But I think I could see the similar sleepless nights. The rush of anxiety with every single new customer. The rage and terror of every sub-standard shot. It was comforting to see so many attributes that I had displayed myself, and yet realize that I had moved beyond much of them. I don’t think I had realized until that night how much I had gone through in opening my shop, until I sat down with someone else going through the same thing. It was magical to see where I had been, and to know that I wasn’t there anymore.

Dominic and I had a great conversation about the “Art vs. Science” of espresso. We talked about how an aesthetic informs the way you choose to pull a shot. And about how the science of the perfect shot–22grams and 25 seconds–doesn’t begin to tell the full story. It’s minutiae that only a handful of people get into that way, but we were two of the right people.

I told Dominic that he would be very successful. I believe that he will. He’s got the passion and the attention to detail–the rest will come.  I know, in a year’s time, he’ll be moving hundreds of pounds per week. He’s got a phenomenal trajectory. I told him the most important thing is to let the mistakes come, because they will. It’s cheesy, but mistakes make you better. Let your employees make mistakes, because it’s the only path to making good employees. And remember that, as an owner, the goal for yourself isn’t to be a player, but to be a coach. I don’t know if Dominic heard me that night. I know he listened. And I think he got it. But I’m sure someone told me that advice at some similar point, and I’m equally sure I was in no place to hear it.

As I flew home, there were so many images of Montreal still in my head. It’s a remarkable city.  But one of the things that I couldn’t help but wonder was whether Tony had sent me because he knew that I needed to spend a little time with Dominic, or maybe because Dominic needed to spend a little time with me? I couldn’t say for sure. But I had my suspicions. As Dominic said plainly at the end of our night, “You sign up with Metropolis for the coffee, but you stay because of the service.”

Zach Zulauf
New Wave Coffee

The Kitchen Is Open: New Food at Metropolis Cafe

We are pleased to announce that we now have serious, made-to-order food at Metropolis Cafe. Renowned local chef Hugh Amano, of Food on the Dole fame, has developed, sourced, and trained us on this incredible new menu and we’re all happy about it–hope you are, too.

Do you want “Steel Cut Oatmeal with Sour Cherries,” or other fruits, depending on the day? Or, perhaps, a “Metropolis Bahn Mi,” roasted pork shoulder on a French loaf with Nam Prik Pao vinegar, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno and carrot?

We think the “Metropolis Ploughman’s Lunch” will be popular: demi baguette, chunks of cheddar cheese, cured sausage, fruit and greens. The “Grilled Gouda and Caramelized Onion on Rye” is also a seriously tasty sandwich and can be made into a kids’ grilled cheese (take note: we I.D., must be under 13. Kidding. Kinda.).

Now you don’t need to choose between coffee and food: we have both!

Here’s To The Chef!

A huge thanks to Chef Hugh Amano, who has taken time out of his life–literally–to come in and revamp our food program at Metropolis Cafe!

You can find Amano at his aforementioned blog, Food on the Dole, but also on Facebook here, Twitter here, and then you’ll find him in one kitchen or another, cooking or writing–usually both.

You’ll probably see it on your own, but here is a brief excerpt of Amano’s writing that just happens to be about his work on our new menu: “…the food is simple yet well prepared, which should make sense to those of you familiar with the F.o.t.D. ethic and my style of cooking. And it is a cafe, after all. I understand the coffee has to come first, and the food should complement that. After all, they go to great lengths…in the sourcing and production of their coffee, and to them, it’s all about guiding one of the world’s great natural goods into a cup, relying on the quality of the coffee rather than manipulation in the roasting process. There’s a good deal of the terroir concept in their work, and we, as humans, are simply guides, or more accurately, transporters in the process. By now you know that’s my belief in food as well.”

>>Entire Post Here

Metropolis Cafe Featured Artist: Heather Blecher

Located in Edgewater, one of the country’s most eclectic locales, the Metropolis Café is relaxed and without attitude. Our customers come from all walks of life and we love ‘em all. And they seem to love our coffee and tea, our sweet and savory bites, and our accomplished vegan menu. Did we mention art, music…? Stop by–we’ll fill you in.

New looksies are up on the walls at Metropolis Cafe right now, folks, the photography of Heather Blecher.

What catches her eye? “I’m a little bit obsessed with signage and love old hand signs, signs covered in light bulbs, pieces of history that are attached to the buildings,” says Blecher “Those things become landmarks. I’ll spend all day at an architectural salvage yard.

“The juxtaposition of items that shouldn’t be near one another make me excited and a little crazy, and makes me spend all afternoon taking pictures in some very strange places–like the side of the road.”

Blecher also likes to photograph food, usually her own. [Taking photos of food I make] adds to the sense of accomplishment after working hard in the kitchen,” she says. “I try and grab on to the way I felt making it with the photo. It’s not, ‘Look at these beautiful cupcakes.’ It’s ‘Look at how I felt after I made these cupcakes, or a sundae.’”

Her take on photography was defined by creative freedom thanks to her parents (mom was an artist; dad did glasswork). “My mom took photography classes and set up a dark room in our house,” Blecher recalls. “So I started with 35-mm film. Printing, developing, enlarging…and that’s where I developed my eye.”

She works with a Nikon DSR, D3100 digital camera: “I missed what the bigger camera could do, depth of field,” she says.

Her show at Metropolis Cafe features 18 different pieces (a lucky number for Blecher): The highlight of the show, according to Blecher, is “Sculpture in the City,” a photo of Chicago’s ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture in Millennium Park that proffers a unique snapshot of the Chicago skyline. She also notes that the framing gives it a very modern and fresh representation: “It’s 24×36 and mounted on gator board. It stands on it’s own and doesn’t need to be matted. It’s an edge-to-edge image, full of color and texture.”

Putting more and more of her daily emphasis on her photography, Blecher incorporates it into her life instead of separating her art from day-to-day existence. “You shouldn’t over-compartmentalize,” she says. “Life should flow and overlap when you find something you love and it takes over most of your brain, and that’s where I’m at with photography.

The back story is that Blecher was born and raised in Rockland Country, New York, about 20 miles northwest of Manhattan. She moved to New York City in the mid-2000′s and spent six years there before being transferred to Chicago. “I never pictured myself living in Chicago, but I adore it. I love the proximity to the lake, the old building I live in, and the amount of space we have here in Chicago compared to NYC.

Stay in touch with Blecher on her Tumblr account; and on twitter at @ArtsyChicago

» Shop for her photographs HERE!

Why the Clever over the v60?

There’s a pretty spirited debate in the coffee world about which pour-over device reigns supreme. Every pour-over has pros and cons, but in the end, we decided to side with the clever for the following reasons:


The v60 is almost impossible to maintain consistency on and with different baristas making the pour-overs, our risk of serving a bad cup of coffee is much higher with v60.


The main goal of the single cup program is to show customers that they can brew amazing coffee at home. We went with the clever because it is easy to use and harder to mess up whereas brewing on a v60 is a very difficult process and is not very approachable.


Artisan is not how you pour water but is instead your mastery of knowledge over coffee and in the way that you translate that knowledge to customers. The v60 requires so much attention that talking with customers about the coffee is very difficult and therefore makes it harder to pass along our coffee knowledge – which is the point, right?

And, of course, THE VIDEO:

Art At Metropolis Cafe: One Heart One Soul

The featured artist(s) at Metropolis Cafe this month: some of the coolest kids in the world creating art as a way to deal with teen homelessness.

They are participants in Unspoken Words, a summer program that serves as a platform for homeless youth to speak out and raise awareness of their situation. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the exhibit, provided by One Heart One Soul (OHOS), which “provides voices for communities that are subject to social injustice and the organizations that work with them,” says OHOS founder, Mireya Trejo. “The art program helps them be more expressive and they realize this isn’t a one-day, arts-and-crafts thing. It’s an opportunity for them to speak out in a positive and productive manner. They wake up every Saturday and think, ‘What are we working on today?’”

Currently on display at Metropolis Cafe are varied takes on urban art, full of meaning for the artists. “A lot of the pieces are about being discriminated against,” says Trejo. “They speak about their sexual preference, instability in the home, or just their environment.”

OHOS works closely with a teen-centered shelter in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Teen Living Programs. “There are 24 kids in the shelter and anywhere from eight to 13 of them join us every Saturday,” says Trejo, going on to note why teen homeless can use a bit of specialized help. “A lot of shelters allow teenagers and 18 year olds but don’t have programs set for them. At that age, you’re in high school or leaving high school, trying to get a job and financial stability.

“There are adult issues and there are teen issues; we focus on the latter,” she continues. Trejo pioneers programs, it’s what she does, among other things. During the winter, she and other volunteers collect winter wear and allocate it to those in need. She doesn’t sit around much and her philosophy: “I hug the world!”

Heart In The Game

Her hug is contagious, as she’s getting support from a team of people drawn to her efforts and helping achieve the mission of One Heart One Soul: “to draw together members of the Chicago-area community to accomplish projects that will help raise awareness and eliminate misconceptions of often overlooked social issues. Our goal is to provide opportunities for people to become actively involved and gain perspective of the issues existing in their own neighborhoods. We are dedicated to the belief that help from many brings hope to all.”

Members of this team include OHOS board members Jennifer Lopez and Manny Delgado, who Trejo calls the “backbone” of the program. Trejo wanted to put a special thanks out to urban artist Carl F. Kuck, who volunteered to teach a couple classes but decided not to stop there, to keep teaching. “And all of the teachers involved, who dedicated their time and made a difference–Jonathon Pollard, Marco the Poet, Unspoken, and Norma Jean,” adds Trejo.

Like any worthwhile charitable effort, it takes resources to make it happen. At this point, the arts program has another four to five weeks coming, for sure, and possibly that much again if donations flow in to help make it happen. A recent fundraiser at Butterfly Social Lounge featured Kuck painting on the spot and a documentary created by one of the teens dealing with how teen homeless happens and her quest to find a path out of it.

Stepping Up

Robert Morris University also stepped up recently, providing each of the youths with a camera for two weeks, the resultant photos being showcased as pictures of life through their eyes. “That was huge and very appreciated,” says Trejo. “Now the question is, who will step up next?”

Why OHOS and why Trejo? “I started the organization through the winter drive I did in Chicago in 2010 and realized a lot of people want to get involved but don’t know how to do so. I create projects so people will get involved. The first winter drive we did, I had over 75 first-time volunteers and they felt it was simple, enjoyable and a good cause. These are people who have started the habit of volunteering at other places.

“The goal is for this to be successful and duplicated in different communities; right now it’s only in Bronzeville, but there are plenty of other shelters housing youth,” continues Trejo. “Anyone is welcome…YOU are welcome to bring this to a different shelter in a different community.”

Trejo says there are about 15,000 homeless people in Chicago and about 4,000 shelter beds available, so “…there are 11,000 people we go out to look for and interact with on a regular basis.”

Come out Aug. 27 to make a difference yourself: meet the artists, see their work! Place TBD; email to RSVP.

When not working tirelessly for her cause: “I’m a nerd, I would probably go to the bookstore with jazz music playing in the background.

Confessions Of A Chicago Coffee Wife

By: Meghan Sherman

How Did I Get Here?!?! Anyone? Help!

As a kid I never pictured myself standing at a cupping table discussing the flavor profile and acidity levels of various coffees.

I never would have guessed that I would be going on “coffee crawls” and visiting upwards of five coffee shops in one day on a bi-weekly basis.

I wouldn’t have thought that I would be able to talk about or even understand anything about TDS levels, extraction times or coffee particle sizes.

But, Here I Am.

This is not a path that I chose for myself. I do not have a burning desire for any and everything to do with coffee. I never even worked at a coffee shop. I’m a marketer, so my burning desires lie more along the lines of social media, website analytics, customer segmentation and brand strategy. But alas, I fell in love with (and am now engaged to) a boy who loves coffee.

Actually, when I fell in love with him, Chris was a boy who was going to be a math professor and just happened to really like coffee. Then we moved to Chicago and he started working at Brothers K Coffeehouse in Evanston where he was introduced to the Chicago coffee culture and his like of coffee quickly progressed into a love of coffee.

Suddenly, I found myself yanked into a world that I never knew existed. I love coffee, but I will honestly admit that I didn’t know the first thing about it. Did you know that coffee is green before it is roasted? Well, two years ago I didn’t! (I told you I didn’t know anything!) But, I’ve always loved learning, so I was really excited about diving into the world of coffee and being a more informed consumer. I went with Chris to every coffee event to which I was invited; asked as many questions as I could think of; did everything I could to fall as much in love with it as Chris was. I was determined to be a real “coffee person.”

So, You Want To Be A Coffee Nerd

The transition into a “coffee person” has not been easy. I have given up most of the coffee-related products that I loved before coming to Chicago: Starbucks, flavored coffee, creamers, syrups, skim milk, anything iced or larger than 12 ounces–gone. I have been to more coffee shops than I care to remember. Road trips now involve stopping at every independent coffee shop on the way to our destination and critiquing drinks, environment, set-up and so on. (In fact, our oh-so-romantic Valentine’s Day trip this year was a coffee crawl around Milwaukee.)

I have spent hours at latte art competitions trying to help Chris relax his nerves so he can pour the perfect rosetta/heart/tulip/swan. I have attended way too many coffee cuppings, listened to people claiming they taste the flavors of pipe tobacco or coriander seeds in a cup of coffee, and pretending that I understand what they are talking about. I have explained countless times to my parents, grandparents, friends and strangers why a cup of coffee is not just a cup of coffee and why Folgers is not an acceptable choice for their morning beverage. I learned how to pronounce Yirgacheffe. I have even allowed my tiny kitchen to be overtaken with coffee brewing devices.

A slight change of heart

Yet, even after all of this, I still do not have a burning desire for coffee. It is something I love, but it is not my passion. There are days where the last thing I want to talk about is coffee. I still roll my eyes when Chris brings his Aeropress coffee maker and hand grinder to every hotel we stay at. I don’t think that will ever change. In the end, I am not a real coffee person, and considering I am not a barista, I don’t think I ever will be. But, as the wedding approaches and there is more and more talk from Chris of opening his own coffee shop, I have started to develop my own role in the coffee community–the Coffee Wife.

I finally feel like I have found a role that makes sense for me. I am not a true coffee person, but I am the the counter-part and support system of a coffee person and I couldn’t be happier.

So, armed with a substantial amount of coffee knowledge, unending support, a healthy dose of sarcasm and a smile I will embark on this new journey. Not to become a coffee person, but to become a Coffee Wife.

We’ve Got Talent–And A Cause

Good times come free with a visit to Metropolis Cafe on July 23 for our ridiculously fun “Talent Show.” Meander into Metropolis Cafe about 5 p.m. and have our sweet-as-pie baristas create your favorite caffeinated (or not!) beverage.

Now, sit back, relax and support a good cause. We’re hoping for a good turnout of wide-ranging talents–music, comedy, poetry and what have you. There’s still time to sign up if you’d like.

“This show should be one of the coolest things we have done here at the shop and I really hope you will be a part of it,” says Tinu Oyelowo. ”There will be a winner and a prize for the talent show (but everyone is a winner in my book)!

“Thank you so much from the bottom of a barista’s heart,” finishes Oyelowo, who has been bringing culture, refinement and her own huge heart to the goings-on at Metropolis Cafe for years now.

WHAT: Talent show–fun for all! Benefits Testicular Cancer Society/Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
WHEN: July 23, 5 p.m. (talent there by 4:30 p.m., please; 4 p.m. if you equipment to load-in)
WHERE: Metropolis Cafe, 1039 E. Granville, Chicago
WHO: Any and all welcome to perform: singers, comedians, magicians. Keep it clean! Children present.
TIP ON PARKING: There isn’t any. Come early, be patient, find a spot. We’re also right off the Red Line at Granville.

(We Are) Down With The Cause

Besides fun factor, we’re doing this to raise money for Down With The Cause, a non-profit founded by Metropolis barista and music director Jon Lewchenko. Down With The Cause spreads awareness of ovarian and testicular cancer among college students and is closely associated with the Testicular Cancer Society. “We raise money for them and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance,” says Lewchenko, a student at Loyola who’s not afraid to speak his mind but likes to think before he does so.

Lewchenko also plays himself, often with Chicago singer/songwriter Philip Michael Scales. Scales’ band, Briar Rabbit, was named a band to keep an eye on this year by Metromix Chicago, has played solid dates at the Double Door in Wicker Park, and at Taste of Chicago. Scales has found success using various musicians as determined by need and availability, Lewchenko being one of those. “A band takes one concise vision and hard work,” says Scales. I find that a lot of my friends and colleagues are happy to rotate through, love that structure. They can just show up and play.”

The Rules/FAQ

  • Keep it PG/PG-13. There will likely be young children in the audience.
  • You’ve got five minutes to do your thing.
  • We’ll have a microphone, stand and chairs. Need an amp or anything else? Bring it.
  • Feel free to promote a show, or your CD and to sell CD’s, but it’s your responsibility–not ours.
  • Email tinu@metropoliscoffee to sign up and with any/all questions.

Thanks to Metropolis Cafe barista and in-house artist, Ashley Elander for the poster above. See more of her images here. Also follow her at @ashleyeland on Twitter.

A Curious Garden In A Parking Lot

We love it when byproducts of the roasting process at Metropolis Coffee Company become fodder for the greater good and that’s what’s going on at Haymarket Gardens, an “open source urban agriculture experiment” by Dan Scotti and Tim Sparer.

Scotti and Sparer are pouring blood, sweat and tears (i.e. hard labor) into a plot of ground at a unique, high-minded, and large-in-scope urban agricultural site, The Plant (simply put, a vertical farm and business incubator) in hopes of turning a former gravel parking lot for big rigs into a food-producing plot of land. Sounds easy, right?

Maybe not. Seen recently on the Haymarket Gardens blog: “Due to a finger-eating fence, we’ve taken a bit of an unplanned Hiatus this past week, and will probably be extending it into sometime the next week.”

Long days, tired bodies and bloody injuries aside, Scotti and Sparer (who began volunteering at The Plant in the fall of 2010, helping to deconstruct the old Peer Foods building in which it’s housed) have found what farmers and laborers know well–it’s hard work and you work until you’re finished.

They kicked off the project in mid-March and “that was three months ago and it’s certainly been a lot of work to start from gravel and now we have things growing and are expanding throughout the summer,” says Scotti. “We have a couple-hundred plants growing: tomatoes, carrots, melons, beans, squash, and a few others.”

There’s plenty of room to volunteer as the guys have access to about two acres of land and aren’t using all of it at this point due to lack of manpower. Some do volunteer, says Scotti: “We kind of feel bad because people show up with this romantic idea of tending to a garden and we have them picking up trash and moving bricks.”

It’s not all fence building, though, and that’s where our burlap coffee bean bags come into the picture. They’ve been used to line the bottom of the raised plant beds they’ve built in the parking lot. They’ll also be working to reclaim some plots of the actual gravel parking lot.

“The burlap goes under the mulch and the soil to keep the roots from driving too deep into the gravel and force them to use our compost and our soil that’s full of nutrients and not just gravel, says Scotti, who notes they’ve also picked up burlap from Bridgeport Coffee Company and mulch from the City of Chicago. “You can go to various Chicago [Department of] Streets & San[itation] locations and get as much mulch as you want for free. It works in reality and for our mission because it comes from trees knocked down by storms, old telephone poles and such. It’s good mulch that will turn to compost in a few years.”

Can They Hit Pay Dirt? If You Help!

While they’ve gotten their hands dirty, and bloodied, it seems, Scotti and Sparer have also taken the time to try to give the project life online and raise funds to further their goals for the space. It isn’t easy, but their backgrounds help. Sparer has a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and will likely continue his education. Scotti studied film at Columbia College of Chicago, hence the sweet explanatory video detailing the project better than we can here. “We are different people with different strengths and weaknesses, but we both have experience in and a lot for building gardens in the city,” says Scotti.

So, what’s the goal? “Honestly, we’ve always been into urban gardens and to have the opportunity to do it on a larger scale, we said why not,” says Scotti. “In that vein, we’d like to open up some space for people in the community to come and start their own small plots and grow veggies for themselves,” says Scotti, noting that much of the credit goes very directly to Edel.

Want To Volunteer?

It’s always best to check in before you go, but there are usually volunteers working at The Plant, regardless, on Thursdays and Saturdays. Tasks might include building garden walls out of rubble being taken from inside the building. “We use these old bricks that no one’s touched in 100 years and we’re bringing it outside to re-purpose it and build walls around our raised bed and keep some extra water and that certainly is not an easy task with just two people moving thousands of pounds of old brick and concrete.

Intelligentsia on Tap at Metropolis Cafe

A Message from Metropolis’ Tony Dreyfuss

I’ve watched as coffee lovers become entrenched into brand camps. At first blush, this would seem to work to our advantage. We have a great brand, fully backed by the finest coffees that we can find.  We have our own approach to sourcing and roasting, and those differences appear beautifully in the cup. People enjoy Metropolis coffee, and many have become fiercely loyal to our company.  No complaints – we are fiercely loyal to our customers as well.

However, we feel that we are part of a new movement to move coffee forward, in a way that is both accessible to newbies, but also challenging, even for the nerdiest among us. Our peers in coffee are a small sub-set of the specialty coffee industry.

Roasters, Importers, Growers, Enthusiasts, and Retailers. You will find us hunched over workbenches modifying espresso equipment, in the fields in Rwanda checking out a crop of coffee, scraping down a roaster’s blower housing, and working with restaurateurs to tweak the brew. We work collaboratively in so many ways, but then, paradoxically, we compete viciously for wholesale and retail business. There is something about vicious competition that doesn’t sit quite right with me. It occurs to me that, if we work together, we can win more converts to our small but growing sub-set of coffee, and we can reach a tipping point in our coffee revolution.

Brewers Do It. Why Not Roasters?

Coffee nerds are often beer nerds, and I am no exception. I love beer. No, I mean, I REALLY love beer. I am inspired by strong flavors, by nuance, and by the language of beer.  When i visit brew pubs, I am struck, almost without exception, that brew pubs throughout the land sell other brewers’ beers. Not as an homage, but because there are different approaches to beer build craft beer as a whole. In beer at least, collaboration is the new competition. As it should be with coffee, I believe.

That is why we have decided to offer exceptional coffees from other roasters at Metropolis Coffee Company Cafe. We will begin on Thursday, June 2nd, with two coffees from our sister to the south, Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea (of course!).  Intelligentsia is perhaps our most famous peer, and deservedly so. They have pushed the envelope for over 15 years, and we owe a lot to their ground breaking work in the coffee industry.  The two coffees are new crop coffees from El Salvador and Panama, and they will be available both as retail, and on our single cup brew bar.  In the future, you will be able to taste coffees from the finest roasters throughout the land. Go ahead. Buy it. You won’t hurt our feelings!

Does this mean that we believe that our coffee sucks? That we believe that other roasters are better than Metropolis? Absolutely not. It means that a lot of roasters are doing great work, and that if we highlight that work, then more people will be more inclined to seek out great coffee wherever they go. This can only help our tiny industry.

Metropolis Coffee Featured Artist: Jen Pagonis

Located in Edgewater, one of the country’s most eclectic locales, the Metropolis Café is relaxed and without attitude. Our customers come from all walks of life and we love ‘em all. And they seem to love our coffee and tea, our sweet and savory bites, and our accomplished vegan menu. Did we mention art, music…? Stop by–we’ll fill you in.

Browsing the photos of Jen Pagonis on her Flickr page for Pidgeon Feet Photography, she seems to pull the humanity out of objects and the natural world as easily as she does out of, well, humans. She confirms this about her current exhibit at Metropolis Cafe: “Become Who You Are.”

Pagonis says, “It’s pretty much a show about intimate portraits of people I’ve come across,” says Pagonis. ”If I see something in someone’s eyes that attracts me, I ask if I can shoot them.”

Born and raised in Chicago (“I was born at Resurrection Hospital,” she says proudly.), she attended DePaul University; now lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood; and is an intern at Fig Multimedia, just down the street from Metropolis Cafe.

The photos you’ll see at Metropolis Cafe were largely taken around our neighborhood, Edgewater. It’s titled “Become Who You Are” because: “I was walking down Granville to Metropolis on a gray, overcast day,” says Pagonis. “I had my camera and kept running into kids and their mothers, people working–I wanted to have the community on the wall.”

She’s also experimenting with video and photo slideshows, like this 3,000-plus photo collage of a cross-country road trip. Her next projects is more local, photos and possibly video portraits of people wearing certain types of Chicago paraphernalia, from generic hats you’d see at an airport gift shop to surplus-type T-shirts. “I’ll be out finding them, not putting them on people,” says Pagonis. “The people wearing those hats seem to be more working class or are living on the street and they have a story to tell–didn’t have money to get a fancy Chicago Bulls hat.”

That ability, and yearning, to look inside people from all strata of society is a theme in Pagonis’ work. It’s an outlook fostered by a life outlook based on being true to herself and returning the good in other people with more of the same. “People have helped me out all along the way, from camera bags to using their space; helping me hang shows or giving me wire for the shows.” She gives special credit to Marc Hauser, a photographer who’s instructed the self-taught Pagonis in studio lighting and other technical aspects of photography.

Pagonis is also building a portfolio as a speaker on the topic of intersexuality, traveling to Philadelphia and Vermont later this year. She delved into the subject after transferring into women’s studies in college (first in her family to go, by the way), instead of being a digital film major. “I was bored to death at school until I found my way to women’s studies and that’s where I met my community, my people, my friends,” says Pagonis.

She found professional and artistic calling in life on a trip to Italy, where she logged thousands of photos with a manual point-and-shoot and a tripod bought en route. “It was an intense visual experience,” she says. “I would get lost but it was okay because I had my camera and every wrong turn was a new opportunity for a photograph.” Returning home, she happened by the Chicago Photography Center, wandered inside and met instructor Richard Stromberg. “I told him my story and that I wanted to do film photography; he set me up with equipment but I still had to pay for the classes.

“There was a baking contest for a free class the next week,” says Pagonis. “I went home, called my aunt for the recipe for my favorite cookies, baked them and won out of 30 contestants. That was how I began to learn the fundamentals of photography.”

Whether on the road in Italy, San Francisco, or at home in Chicago, Pagonis isn’t afraid to learn the fundamentals or trust her higher instincts. Stop by Metropolis cafe and see what you think.

All of the photos on display are available by contacting Pagonis at or find her on Twitter at @Pidgejen. You can also find her on Tumblr.


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