Latte Art Throwdown 2010

Groups of people standing on tables, talking tons of trash and sometimes throwing things (none of that, please!).

No, it’s not pro wrestling, it’s our Blindfolded Latte Art Throwdown! Come by our Roasting Garage in Andersonville on Dec. 9 (this Thursday!) to see what baristas and coffee geeks do when they’re feeling all “Mad Max” ‘n’ stuff.

Blindfolded Latte Art Throwdown

When: Thursday, Dec. 9

How to Enter: Show up by 10:00 p.m., pay $5

Where: Roasting Garage, 5545 N. Clark

Anyone can show up and enter: $5 gets you in the competition (deadline for entering: 10 p.m.) and that’s where the fun begins. Because our competitors won’t…be…able…to…see, it’s like pin the tail on the donkey, but the “tail” is steamed milk and the “donkey” is a sweet latte built with Metropolis Coffee Company beans.

Why blindfold people when they’re working with hot liquid?

“You do the whole thing blindfolded–steam your milk, pull your shot and pour your drink,” says Metropolis roaster Zak Rye. “The night’s winner will designate funds earned from the night to his/her favorite charity.” Why? “It’s a leveler, meaning there are some incredibly top-level, high-end, ass-kicking baristas in Chicago–but we want everyone to feel comfortable jumping into the fray.”

The Rules

Standard latte art throwdown rules apply with some modifications:

1. You have three minutes to pour your drink.
2. You only get one pitcher of milk.
3. Judged on symmetry, contrast, originality.

Other than that, the rules are out the door: “These can get pretty crazy and often end with people yelling, screaming and talking a lot of sh*t,” says Rye. “It gets pretty wild.”

Why are we doing this again? “We’re trying to help build the coffee community in Chicago,” says Rye. “Many of the quality-focused shops in the city have been doing this on their own and this is about getting everyone together and working together for a common cause.”

BYO for beverages other than coffee. All funds raised will go to the winners’ charity of choice; could be yours!

Wheelman Roundup: Stornoway @ Schubas, plus MTRPLS in West Loop.

Stornoway @ Schubas

I like a guy who holds his guitar up high. Brian Briggs is one of those, certainly; the nattily attired, well-spoken (and sung) headmaster of Oxford, England combo Stornoway had his black acoustic guitar tucked into the crook of his arm for the entirety of the band’s Chicago debut Sunday night at Lakeview fave (and Metropolis getter) Schuba’s, and it was a look befitting their well-appointed sound.

Maybe it was Briggs’ clipped drawl on the mic, or the way his pals would join in at nearly every turn with a harmony or second vocal, right around the point when the sound went from intelligent folk music to raucous swing, like a band of buskers who happen to also be first chair reps in the local symphony. Maybe it was the numerous moments of trumpet, violin, cello (!), or all three. Or maybe it was Stornoway’s apparently innate ability to channel the entire scope of buttoned-down pop made by dudes who aren’t American. But there were a lot of times when Briggs and his pals sounded like the Housemartins playing Crowded House covers in Andy Partridge’s belfry. And this wasn’t a bad thing at all. Let’s hear it for the high guitar holders.

Metropolis in the West Loop

Sometimes people stop me on the street when I have the hand truck out of the back of the Sprinter. Sometimes they flag down the Sprinter itself. (Gutsy!) But the question is often the same: “Hey man, where do I get Metropolis coffee in the West Loop?” You know the West Loop. It’s that stretch of restaurants smashed between meat packing houses, loading docks, and pricey condos. And while we hit Mac & Min’s on Madison, if you’re not in the mood for a po’boy, you can also find Metropolis at the Morgan Street Cafe. The friendly spot rocks all kinds of local flavor — our coffee, plus pastries, sandwiches, sandwiches and other treats. And check out the decor in these shots. How are you going to check a Starbucks when there’s a place with graffiti like this on the inside?


Viola Madness at Metropolis Cafe

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.

Roger Chase

Max Raimi

Yokiko Ogura

Harmonious takes on new meaning (blended with madness!?!) at Metropolis Cafe on Dec. 5 when up to six violas, that most harmonious of orchestral instruments, spring to life.

Come by Metropolis Cafe on Sunday, Dec. 5, at 3 p.m. for this family-friendly musical affair (RSVP on Facebook). Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) violist Max Raimi, brother and uncle to Metropolis Coffee Company co-founders Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss, will bring world-class classical music to life. We’re proud to be the setting for such a cool event. Max is excited, too: “So often in classical music there is a barrier between performers and audience, but in a situation like this we are able to interact with the audience and the audience is able to interact very directly with the music.” Audience participation encouraged, says Raimi.

Raimi will play along with fellow CSO violist Yukiko Ogura, and they’ll be joined by Roger Chase, a world-renowned British violist currently on faculty at Roosevelt University here in Chicago.

They will play a family-friendly program featuring an all-viola version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that was featured at Chicago Bulls games in the Michael Jordan glory days and a unique take on Christmas carols, as you have never heard them.

Three young violists will join the ensemble for your only chance in a lifetime to hear six-viola versions of the old “Spiderman” TV jingle and “Mr. Sandman,” transcendently ethereal in viola sonorities.  Admission is free, although you are encouraged to purchase some delicious Metropolis Coffee.  A unique event at a unique venue—don’t miss it!

More from Mr. Raimi on why you’ll enjoy Viola Madness:

Why the Viola?

“In a way, the viola is the ultimate classical instrument in that it beautifully harmonizes with anything. Most instruments blend well with other instruments or they don’t. The viola fits into the texture and sound of almost any other instrument, so six of them together is a really beautiful, blended sound. The only thing I can compare it to is a really good choir where they are matching each others’ sound perfectly.”

Beginnings of Metropolis Coffee Company?

“I remember the first time I tasted a batch of coffee Jeff and Tony had roasted and just thought, this is better than anything out there and they’re just starting out. It’s kind of cool in that wherever I go, people are excited to hear I’m part of the family. Tony and I have always been close and I remember visiting Tony in Portland maybe years ago when he was manager at Peet’s Coffee and I’d never known him to be as passionate as something about coffee. Jeff has always been fearless about starting companies. You could just tell they’d make a good combination right away.”

Your Next Gig?

“I’ll be playing a show (also with his CSO colleague, Yukiko Ogura) at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fullerton Hall on Feb. 27. It’s a concert of music mostly composed by me throughout the last 20 years. It’s meant to be played by two violas. I’ve played with Yukiko before and she played brilliantly and I wanted to hear her do it again.”

Cafe Artist of the Month: Sierra Dufault

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.

It’s a special art exhibit on display at Metropolis Cafe through the end of 2010. The featured artist is one of our own highly valued baristas, Sierra Dufault (Sierra on Tumblr).

A creative jack of all trades, Dufault lives art as part of her everyday life, doing so across multiple creative formats. Formerly a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Dufault is an illustrator, painter, singer, film director, actress & BARISTA!

We’re not sure how she gets the time because she’s also a productive member of a creative company, The Inconvenience. Focusing on art, theater, music, and dance, it’s a wide-ranging, culturally-inspired group, the kind we love. Catch them monthly at the Viaduct Theater with other local artists.

As far as her current exhibit, there are 18 pieces on display, much of it acrylic with collage and marker work on top of that. All pieces are for sale and are available upon purchase.

Who Is Sierra Dufault?

She is, in her own words, “…originally from the great and misunderstood state of Texas.” Dufault has lived in Chicago four years now, but began to root through her artistic passions early in life.

“I grew up in Midland, Texas, a small Texas town, with hippie parents and a mom who owned a vintage clothing store,” she recalls. “I connected more to drawing and living in my own head. Started off from there, always doodling and creating and making things up. I’m still always drawing on random bits of paper and what not.

“Boredom is my own personal hell,” she finishes with emotion. Up until 2005, she considered herself a “girl who did art,” but while hosting a show, she was approached by a lady advising art school.

Dufault thought it sounded interesting, but not necessarily possible. However, it ended up this lady worked for admissions at SAIC. After sending in her application, the same lady called a month later: Dufault had been accepted, and it was time for her to move to Chicago. “At SAIC, I ended up studying film editing, sound editing and screen printing–and doing independent comics and publishing,” says Dufault. “I’m taking time off of that right now, working to get my degree.”

Dufault is working, creating, painting and “figuring stuff out,” she says. “I’m working on graphics and watercolors, and also creating a bunch of characters. I always enjoy when artists have characters, like Mike Mitchell,” who made a name for himself with his ‘I’m With Coco’ poster for Conan O’Brien (see it here). “He went to school here in Chicago and I was able to talk art with him at a chance meeting,” she continues. “I guess it’s the whole idea that, no matter where you’re from and who you are, you might identify with a character I’ve created.

Her other artistic design influence of the moment, Lisa Frank. “She did designs for pencils, school supplies, T-shirts…so many people my age (she’s 28 years old) had the folder she did with unicorns on it, or something else of hers. “I like the idea of being iconic, but also accessible because I feel strongly that art is for everyone.”

Sierra, Meet Metropolis; Metropolis, Meet Sierra

When Dufault was accepted at SAIC, she said yes. We met her soon thereafter. “I needed a change and so I came up here for a week and stayed at a hostel and Metropolis Cafe was one of the first places I went to when I came to Chicago. I got off the train from Midway and our room wasn’t ready, so we went to Metropolis,” says Dufault.

As mentioned, she is now a barista at Metropolis Cafe. She worked at Starbucks for five years before coming to us and has quickly become a part of the team. “Metropolis feels more like a family; it’s so busy and insane, but at the same time, it’s not ‘hurry up and make these drinks and get the line moving.’ We still have conversations with people and are part of the neighborhood.”

And where is she at with her beverage philosophy these days? “I’ve been having a lot of fun making tea mixes and my favorite drink, a Syncha Cherry Rose,” she says. “It’s green tea mixed with blueberry rooibos and it’s pretty fantastic.” She’s also in the running for a future Drink of the Month at the Cafe. Her best shot at being featured so far: the Huckleberry Chai.

Now you know Dufault, her inspirations and her influences, her plans and her origins. Now, stop in at Metropolis Cafe, see her art, see her and see yourself out when you’re finished–preferably with art by Dufault.

Cafe Artist of the Month: Miss Panic

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.

Canvas is just a generic term for any surface upon which Metropolis Cafe’s featured artist, Miss Panic, decides to place her decidedly non-generic art. Iconic female figures (mermaids? ghosts?) get the treatment; we’re not sure what kind of treatment. Nothing is out of bounds for Panic, though what’s in her work seems to be there for a reason.

Her different types of “canvas” include leftover pieces of paper, broken skateboards and anything that takes her artistic fancy and will hold paint. She’s also been experimenting with materials she uses, including coffee, red wine and whiskey. Some of the pieces on display at Metropolis Cafe were actually created with Metropolis Coffee as an ingredient.

“I’ve been in Chicago for a year and a half, and started using organic ingredients in my work because I was inspired by the city, differently than I was by rural North Carolina,” says Miss Panic. “My style changes depending on how much time I have, but I’m constantly doing art, whether on a piece of paper, or a piece of wood I found in the alley. Some friends bring me their broken skateboards; I work with whatever’s around me.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot of changing within myself, being comfortable in my own skin, and Chicago has been a part of that–of making me feel proud of myself.”

It’s not all her adopted city, as Miss Panic also credits her tendency to happen past antique malls and vintage sales. Inspiration is everywhere, she says: “The show, ‘Ren & Stimpy‘ inspires me with the colors and how gross it can be sometimes,” she says. “I just started a really [messed] up mermaid series with halos and snaggle teeth and…I’ve always put quotes in my stuff to see how the audience feels about certain things.”

Feelings are rife throughout her work, no doubt. Check it out at Metropolis Cafe through Oct. 3 or on her website [explicit]. The pieces currently featured at the cafe can be purchased on-site or bought over the phone if willing to pay for shipping.

Metropolis Cafe: Live Music All This Week

Located in Edgewater, one of the country’s most eclectic locales, the Metropolis Cafe 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.

Hosting nightly performers through this Friday, Sept. 24, Metropolis Café is getting it’s evening vibe on for 6 p.m. shows by some favorite Chicago acts all this week.

They cover a range of musical genres, but all possess an independence and quality of work that fits in well with the serious efforts we put into being a quality Chicago coffee shop.

(9/22): The Stratford Stepson a.k.a. Bob Spoerl

The Stratford Stepson (here for MySpace profile) is a folk rock musician who enjoys playing music that sounds somewhat like the Kinks, Beatles and any other mid-60′s British sounding group.  Spoerl tries to diversify his set list, but always reverts back to the sound that baby boomers go bonkers for and that some kids in his generation find archaically appealing. The Stratford Stepson (Bob Spoerl) is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and writes news stories during the day.

Also, follow Spoerl on Twitter. And read his blog, Philosophy of Music.

Thursday (9/23): Albie Powers

Featured on NPR’s urban grease monkey show, Car Talk, Albie Powers’ song, “Elbow Grease,” is just one of the hundreds of songs he’s written over his more than three decades as a songwriter-musician. “I write very descriptive old time ballads and waltzes and perform them as stripped-down acoustic music,” says Powers, who plays four instruments, mostly composing on piano and guitar. “I write a lot of history-based music with very cinematic lyrics.

“All my songs have protagonists and my characters always evolve. And there’s a definite infusion of humor–everything isn’t so serious. It boils down to structured storytelling. I’m not an abstract lyricist. Everything fits for a purpose.” Bands he likes: The Wyos, Crow Medicine Show and “tenpin alley stuff.”

Also see Powers at Red Line Tap this Friday night. He’s playing with Phil Goldman, on mandolin, and they should go on around 11:30 p.m. He also teaches songwriting, is a serial entrepreneur and holds down a busy family life in suburban Highland Park.

Find Albie Powers on MySpace!

Friday (9/24): LeAnna Eden

LeAnna Eden is a singer/songwriter from Milwaukee, Wisc. She has been writing songs since she was seven but didn’t start performing her own music until this past year, when she turned 21. She holds herself to a strict open mic regime and tries to perform at least three times a week. If you’re ever in Milwaukee on a Monday, make sure to check out Frank’s Power Plant in Bayview–good local beer, musicians and fun.

Recaffeinating a decaffeinated relic.

Hey, that’s a pretty distinctive holding page. Drink in the roasted browns, the burnt siennas; it’s 1970s nostalgia rendered into HTML. That’s right, Brim is back. Or, it will be if River West Brands has anything to say about it. The Chicago company specializes in the acquisition of dead brands, iconic chunks of America’s shared advertising past that have since faded into obscurity, bankruptcy, or the forgotten back room of some larger entity. In Brim’s case, the decaffeinated brew was shelved (or rather un-shelved) when creator General Foods got gobbled up in a series of mergers which eventually landed it in the bowels of Altria. That behemoth also bought Kraft. Which controlled Maxwell House. Which itself was a retail coffee force and certainly a stronger brand presence than that brown and orange decaf favorite of the 70s advertising epoch. Hence, Brim’s end.

But not really. River West recognized that a product such as Brim retains a certain brand residue, an ongoing recognition rendered from the collective memory of a thousand ad spots during “The Six Million Dollar Man” and reruns of “Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” So RW picked up Brim, as it did Coleco (!), Salon Selectives (“Like you just stepped out of a salon…”), Underalls pantyhose, and even the retail apparel brand Structure. (What’s next, Chess King?) Its intent? “We recognized the opportunity presented by dormant brands in 2001, and have been working to systematically transform these brands from orphans into valuable assets ever since,” RW explains on its Web site. “We are the first company ever to successfully acquire and exploit brands in this new emerging asset class.” Corporate speak aside, River West seems to be onto something. In an age where branding is everything, why shouldn’t rebranding get into the act, too?

The company acknowledges these properties’ “deaths,” too, or at least their existence in a sort of brand purgatory: their site’s splash page features a line of logo-imprinted agriculture warehouses, as if re-cultivation is just a season away.

Let’s take a spin through some Brim favorites of yore. Sidenote: why did lots of 70s adverts feature similar setups to 70s porno scenes? “My first solo flight! Come on, let’s have some coffee…”

Brim was chosen as the official coffee of the 1976 Olympic Games. Check out this crazed woman, who might’ve been putting something else in that decaf:
This one seems like a UK spot; it features an actor-sung jingle, and the revelation that Brim is blended with grain to reach its fullest flavor:
“Barbara, you make a great cup of coffee. Now where do you want this rooster vane?”
–Johnny Loftus

Kegs for Kids: A Craft Beer Tasting Party

Kegs For Kids: It’s not what you think. Yes, there will be stand-out, one-of-a-kind kegs from more than 30 different brewers on ice at our Roasting Garage on Sept. 25.

But the kegs are only for the kids insomuch as funds from this event will be delivered to Peirce Elementary in Andersonville, a Chicago Public School (CPS). And the kegs, they are one-of-a-kind; many are being created just for Kegs for Kids.

The tasting public will receive a sheet right off the bat with the beers and descriptions, and then can choose to taste them in order or skip around. Did we mention unlimited sampling?

Basically, our co-owners, Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss, have teamed up with Hopleaf owners Michael and Louise Roper to support the school in hopes of keeping local friends/patrons local instead of exiting to the suburbs when their kids reach a certain age.

“We live in Andersonville and own a business here,” says Michael Roper. “There’s no such thing as a healthy neighborhood that doesn’t have good schools. We want to create an environment that’s nice for doing business and kids who are engaged in school and learning tend not to be the ones spray painting the back of my building, etching my glass or breaking into the place. Read more ›

Wheel Man POV.

Some shots from around the city. A roundup of where the Wheel Man has been.


Z&H Invades Hyde Park; U of C’ers rejoice.

Having already established themselves with the original location on 47th St. in the Kenwood neighborhood, Tim and Sam of Zaleski & Horvath MarketCafe will undoubtedly make a lot of students and faculty at the nearby University of Chicago happy with their second location, just opened in the old University Market space on 57th St. in Hyde Park.

The shop opened its doors — including the big, street-facing garage door — for the first time on Aug. 19, and if the proud grin on Tim’s face as he worked the gleaming new La Marzocco that’s the centerpiece of the fantastic front of house coffee square is any indication, the hard work of he and his dedicated crew over the past few months is already paying off.

When I visited on a sunny afternoon last week, folks sat on stools along the shop’s open air street side, sipping Metropolis and drinking in the atmosphere. It was kinda idyllic. As for the rest of the shop, it follows the considered example of the original Z&H — a neighborhood market featuring a range of local and regional fare, artisan cheeses, and, nestled in the back past the seating area, a full deli with both bulk offerings and those famous and tasty sandwiches.

Congratulations once again to Tim and Sam on their new location.



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