You may not have heard of Upper Midwest Gourmet, tucked into the curve of a street behind Stinson Avenue in NE Minneapolis, but you’ve probably had something they’ve supplied to restaurants, cafes, and shops around the Twin Cities. They roast a variety of top-quality beans for their Flamenco Coffee, and supply local food businesses with everything from ingredients to equipment.
In 2013, they’ve quietly launched their own specialty coffee shop, Up Cafe. This is not to be confused with the lovely nearby shop, Lift Coffee and Treats, which is just a stone’s throw away on Stinson. The space next to the Upper Midwest Gourmet warehouse used to be their showroom. Now Up is like a live showroom, demonstrating UMG foodstuffs and equipment in action. But they want their transition to the public to be gradual, as they audition new drinks and food items. “We’re definitely a work in progress,” said barista Evan when I talked to him last week. “We’re open, but we’re not doing any marketing yet.”
The space is open, bright, and inviting. They have a number of small two-tops, perfect for laptop users, plus a large, warm communal table suitable for group meet-ups. They also have a small but excellently curated selection of pastries. On my recent visit, the Bananas Foster muffin was flavorful and rustic, the inside not too sweet, balanced by a drizzle of caramel on top.
This week, Scott, who’s overseeing the food side of things, will offer a selection of European-style paninis for lunch. Soups and salads will follow. There’s also a cooler waiting to be filled with a variety of UMG’s gelato. They’ll be including fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, and plan a garden once spring comes.
But the coffee is really the star here, in what may be Northeast’s first Third Wave coffee and espresso shop. Reductively, First Wave coffee was canned and available to a mass audience. For Second Wave, think Starbucks, with drinks made from whole beans and mostly to order. The Third Wave coffee movement seeks to elevate coffee from a commodity, like wheat, to an artisanal item, like wine, through greater attention and training throughout the entire process, from beans on a farm to drinks on the counter. At Up you won’t find large batch-brewed coffee, or espresso drinks covered in canned whipped cream and weighted with syrup. The drinks at Up are made from the Flamenco beans roasted just a few yards away, and garnished artfully with steamed milk from Forest Lake’s Autumnwood Farms.
If you’re looking for a quiet space with great coffee and treats, you have a new option. But now that everybody knows, it may not stay quiet for long.
1901 Traffic St. NE, Mpls.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m.