Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Best Coffee Shop in Minneapolis for Writers

Location: 2408 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55405, USA
I need to find the best coffee shop in Minneapolis... for writers.

By no stretch am I a coffee snob: I can pick out bad coffee very quickly (it usually exists in business offices) but I don't know where to find a well-made cup of coffee. I know the best cup of espresso comes from Bean Counter, but that's the sum and whole of my expertise. But more than this, I need to find a nice place to hang out and write--on my laptop or in my notebook--because I want to make a go at writing and getting published. It's difficult to do this in my own home because I'm so easily distracted, and I've amassed a good quantity of awesome stuff that I can go straight to, which is terrible for focusing on writing. And so I need a change of scenery, I need to get out and find a local business with an atmosphere conducive to quiet contemplation and the creative process. Vous savvez?

I liked Urban Bean (24th/Lyndale) because the back room is so quiet. There's music playing in the cafe but it's usually pretty low-volume and the genre ranges from indie to downtempo, so it's completely unobtrusive when you're trying to think. What I loved was that there were times the back room could be completely packed with a couple dozen people and all you could hear was typing. People just bonded in tacit agreement to be wordless and noiseless, typing away on their laptops (excellent free wi-fi here), a quietus rarely disturbed by the itinerant cell phone going off. Once in a while you got a clueless college student who needed everyone to know what music they were listening to, and maybe a couple gaggles of young women obliviously planning a wedding reception or social event, but generally it was respectful and quiet here.

Cons: Some staff come off as arrogant and there were some (anecdotal) ethical issues with management.

Recently I've been attending the newest Spyhouse location (24th/Hennepin) which offers good wi-fi and the alternative music selection isn't bad. There's great people-watching if you sit at the bar at the bay windows, though once a crazy old guy sat at a table on the other side of the window and kept staring up at me, when not trying to hit on the young woman at the table next to his. I haven't figured out the best hours to grab one of the comfortable seats: they tend to fill up and the only available seating are tables that have signs posted requiring at least two people to use them. That's a great common-sense ruling but it's awfully inconvenient, at times. I haven't tried their back room yet, but it looks nice and it could be quiet.

Cons: The clientele (not management's fault); popular hangout, crowded seating.

I bothered to pack up everything and hike down Hennepin Ave to see what Plan B was like. My wife loves their coffee and they make some great mixed drinks. The interior is ramshackle and busy, lots of thrown-together furniture that doesn't match, the extreme-casual look that college students reputedly love. The music selection is far from mainstream, so even if you don't like it, it's still good. The night I went, however, it looked like it was being patronized by people who'd been kicked out of other coffee houses for violence or drug-trafficking. Very hard to relax here, I kept glancing up from my writing exercises to eyeball anyone who looked like they might be approaching my table (my bad luck to be sitting so near the unisex bathroom). Still, the staff was friendly and service was efficient, with reasonable prices for good drinks.

Cons: The clientele (not mgmt's fault); comfortable seating is not guaranteed.

There are many other coffee shops I've been to, but not recently, so I've got to check some of these out and see how they fare:

Follow my progress here: Google Maps.

I will also consider small bars and eateries to wheedle out some comfortable places for a writer to hang out and work. I'm only looking at places in Minneapolis; I live in Uptown but am willing to bus or bike out to other neighborhoods, certainly.

I will penalize businesses that don't offer a free, wireless Internet connection. Like noted above, I try not to blame a business for the clientele it attracts, because you can't help who shows up, who lives in the area, what other businesses attract people to the area, etc.

If you, random reader, own or manage any of these places, please bear in mind: my opinion is bullshit and does not necessarily reflect the attitude of any measurable portion of the public. In fact, if I don't like something, odds are a hundred other people love it. I'm the only person in Minnesota who didn't like Firefly and I think fashion is dumb, and both of those things are unspeakably popular.

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