Posted by Adrienne on December 15, 2006
What an appropriate beginning location for this project. Blue Moon was the first coffee shop I discovered and visited upon moving to the Twin Cities just over a year ago. My previous home was Madison, Wisconsin, where the coffee shops are eclipsed in number only by bars. And so of course the first question to my new Minneapolis roommates was: where’s the nearest coffee shop? Six blocks east, two blocks north to the Blue Moon. Walkable. To my Madison-infused mindset, this was the only way to negotiate a cup.
This was my first full day in the city, my first morning experiencing my new home. I remember taking in the sights of Lake street as I made my pilgrimage – not very inspiring. Empty store front after ugly parking lot after fast food joint. Though the glow of newness glossed over most of that, I was relieved to finally arrive at a small store front on the corner of Lake Street and 39th Ave. Its purple awnings, welcome sign, and glowing star lamps in the window enticed me to think I had found my new anchor.
And I was not disappointed.
The warmth of the small space, the feeling of entering a friend’s house, is the first clue that you are welcome here. It is cozy and warmly lit with small lamps of various sizes encircling the perimeter. The decor is colorful, haphazard, casual and homey. Yellow walls, purple ceiling, exposed brick and ducts. Older mismatched couches and chairs create social enclaves toward the back of the shop, while a crowd of small study tables and a long church-style bench inhabit the front half. Moon and star lamps and Christmas lights abound, and the large front window allows natural light to filter through hung stained glass panels. The barista’s area occupies the middle of the room, making it accessible from all parts of the cafe. The refrigerators hum homely over the faint music, which generally varies from basic coffee shop music to light R&B.
This coffee shop is truly a neighborhood living room. It is not the type of place that someone would drive across town to visit; it is filled with neighbors and regulars just wanting a relaxing place to talk or study or just enjoy a warm cup. Benches sit outside along the front window and, when the weather is warm, tables and chairs also occupy the sidewalk area on the east side of the building.
The coffee itself is enjoyable. I must state here that I do not consider myself an expert on coffee. I’ve been a coffee drinker for the past 8 years but while I can differentiate between disgusting corporate sitting-around-for-six-hours coffee and a decent coffee shop-brewed cup of dark roast, I could not describe for you the nuances of acidity and body found between fancy organic blends. Coffee, to me, is not like wine. I savor a delicious cup and I could give you a Top Three Best Coffee Experiences Ever, but I will not sit and wax poetic about the specific taste variances. Coffee is coffee and I like it. I don’t think coffee at an indie coffee shop is necessarily any better-tasting than coffee found at a Starbucks or Dunn Brothers (unless said coffee is Fair Trade, and thus morally superior because gosh darn it we need to start acting more responsible about global trade – but that conversation belongs in a different blog). This blog is not about coffee or reviewing coffee shops – it is about independently-owned coffee shops and the community space it provides for the neighborhood. That being said, the coffee drinks at the Blue Moon are definitely delicious and well-made. Along with a large variety of delicious teas, the Blue Moon also offers children’s drinks, baked goods, sandwiches to go, and a few frozen snacks.
The immediate neighborhood of the Blue Moon is residential on both sides with Lake being a thin vein of businesses that slices through the heart of the Longfellow neighborhood. Just a few blocks north runs the newly-constructed Greenway, a bike path for commuters that runs from the Mississippi River in the east, through Uptown, and on to the western suburbs. A few blocks to the east lies the river, flanked by an award-winning park space with miles of biking and hiking trails that connect up to all the major parks around Minneapolis. The location is ideal for residents who want a quiet place in the middle of the city. It’s a five minute drive to downtown. Ten minute drive to inner Uptown. Five minute walk to a nice park.
Unfortunately the businesses near here have not flourished in ways that areas like Uptown have. They are functional, those that have stayed, and basic. Unfortunately there are also plenty of empty store fronts; perhaps a repercussion of the numerous months of intense road construction along Lake Street in the general vicinity.
Lake Street is known to be one of the more culturally diverse areas in the city, though not as much this far east of Midtown. It is more difficult to put your finger on how to describe this section. It is not a cultural treasure, it is not a food mecca, it is not strictly residential. It just kind of…is. There are a few jewels along this strand however – the Town Talk Diner, the Craftsman Bistro, the Birchwood Cafe – with the Blue Moon being one of them.
The closest coffee competition is a Dunn Bros Coffee nine blocks to the east which tends to draw the young urban professionals that live in the new condos built along the river. In contrast, one only has to glance at the flyers posted on the back walls of the Blue Moon to realize that the crowd here is a little more mellow, liberal, alternative and dedicated to patronizing the local shops. On any given day you will find hip couples with children, students with piles of books, and retirees enjoying a cup.
One of the most unique and noteworthy aspects of the Blue Moon is the fact that it is considered a local hangout for gays and lesbians, which is something that one might not even realize upon the first few visits. One might observe the piles of “Lavender” magazine near the door, or the Indigo Girls concert posters in the back; but then again, most indie coffee shops in the Twin Cities have these same traits. You might also notice the rainbow flags interspersed around Longfellow neighborhood, which is considered to be politically progressive and socially inclusive. But the cafe’s website (http://www.glbt.com/bluemoon/bluemoon.html) notes the GLBT association by providing a link to the Twin Cities GLBT Life website. It also indicates that GLBT community-associated poetry readings take place at the Blue Moon on occasion.
While the Seward neighborhood to the north has its share of cafes, Longfellow, which is south of Lake Street, has no immediate casual spots. Without the Blue Moon there would be a gaping hole in the tapestry of Longfellow.
My first experience at the Blue Moon was my first initiation into Twin Cities life – and it was memorable. After being drawn into the warm atmosphere and quaint style, I went to the counter to indulge in a good cup and a muffin for my first morning in a new city. Unfortunately for me, and many customers I’m sure, the Blue Moon does not accept credit cards. I had no cash for my purchase – but instead of going away empty-handed and heavy-hearted, the angelic barista smiled and said, “No worries; you can come back tomorrow and pay us back.” Such trust! Such faith in the honesty of a stranger! I was blown away. So THIS is the type of city I’ve come to reside in, I thought to myself. I’ve come to the right place – but I wouldn’t have known had it not been for the Blue Moon.
|Review Quick Info|
|Cup of Coffee Cost||$1.50 (large)|
|Type of Food||Cookies, bars, pastries|
|Decor||Cozy and quirky|
|Crowd||Seward meets Lake Street|
|Barista Attitude||Friendly as can be|
|Hours||Mon - Fri 7am - 11pm; Sat - Sun 8am - 11pm|
|Power Outlets||Some, but not enough|
|Address||3822 E Lake St, Minneapolis MN
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© Copyright 2006 Adrienne Bockheim.