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Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea Bar Debuts Next Wednesday On Robey Hotel Block

By Alisa Hauser | March 23, 2017 11:54am
 Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea is opening March 29 at 1620 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea is opening March 29 at 1620 N. Milwaukee Ave.
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Rendering (Provided); DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser (Exterior, Michael Schultz)

WICKER PARK/BUCKTOWN — Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea Bar will open next Wednesday two doors north of The Robey hotel, with a fifth of its sales that day being donated to Wicker Park's A.N. Pritzker School.

Fairgrounds will also give Chicago Public Schools teachers a discount all year long, says owner Michael Schultz.

"We will have a standard 10 percent discount for all CPS employees. We like to support schools, teachers and education, it's ingrained in our culture," Schultz said at the storefront, 1620 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Schultz said that he and his wife, who previously taught kindergarten at Pritzker School for nine years, lived in Bucktown from 2002 to 2009 before moving to Lincoln Park.

Located along a stretch of street that both Wicker Park and Bucktown boosters lay claim and neighbored by a Sprint wireless store and perfumery Le Labo, the sunny 40-seat Fairgrounds offers seating at a counter overlooking Milwaukee Avenue, booths and a communal table.

Making space for families with small children was important to Schultz, a father of three, so the layout offers enough room for strollers to park next to tables without blocking any walkways.

On the opening day menu, guests can select from eight different roasters for pour-over coffee as well as cold-brewed coffee served on draft. Non-coffee drinkers can enjoy Rishi tea, sparkling teas elixirs, specialty beverages and granitas, in addition to kombuchas.

As reported last December, Fairgrounds plans to distinguish itself from the pack by serving coffee from several local and national roasters, such as Dark Matter Coffee (Chicago), Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Portland, OR), Verve (Los Angeles), Colectivo Coffee (Milwaukee), and Irving Farm Coffee Roasters (New York).

"When you go into a Starbucks, you are locked into Starbucks [coffee]. I think it's weird to be locked into one thing. Palettes are becoming more distinguished and we are pioneering in offering consumer choice, which will be disruptive to the industry," Schultz previously told DNAinfo. 

Schultz said Fairgrounds' approach is similar to how many bars serve several kinds of craft beers, not just one.

Food options include hot and cold sandwiches, salads, snacks, pastries, breakfast tacos, breakfast bowls, and a number of grab-n-go options. Matcha green tea will also "be whipped to order for a healthy dose of antioxidants" and incorporated into drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.

A hospitality veteran who operates cafes inside Downtown office buildings, Schultz said Fairgrounds is his first standalone shop.  He's hired about 20 people to staff the Wicker Park/Bucktown location, which will soon be followed by another spot inside the Chicago Athletic Association hotel in May, he said.

Schultz said Fairgrounds' name is a play on the idea of fairgrounds, particularly state fairgrounds, being a place where people can gather, as well as coffee grounds.

"Cafes are a place for people to gather and talk and spend time together," he said.

Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea Bar, 1620 N. Milwaukee Ave. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

For updates, visit Fairgrounds' Facebook page.