Intelligentsia

Overall Rating: 8.800


Address: 53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Cross Street(s): Btwn Dearborn & Federal Sts.
City, State ZIP: Chicago, IL 60604
Neighborhood: Loop
Phone: 312.253.0594
Hours: M-F 6am-5:30pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar (Chain)
Cafe Rating: 9.00
Barista: 9
Savvy: 9
Ambiance: 9
Presentation: 9
Consistency: Consistent
Espresso Machine: Synesso
Coffee Rating: 8.60
Aroma: 8
Body: 8
Brightness: 9
Crema: 8
Flavor: 9
Taster's Correction: 1.0
Size: S
Primary Taste: Chocolate-like
Coffee Beans: Intelligentsia
Cup Manufacturer: ACF
Price: $2.75
Last Update: 12/27/2013
First Reviewed: 04/05/2005
Notes: Coffee Sales; Coffee Accessory Sales

Review
This downtown location opened in 2003 inside the old Monadnock Building - Intelligentsia's first real foray downtown. It draws in well-heeled downtown business clientele, but there are also the occasional students. Inside, the decor is reminiscent of a classic European café: small marble-top café tables with spindly wooden chairs, elegant counters and ceilings, walls covered with antique Italian espresso machine ads, etc. The barista skills here are solid. (You can even vote for your favorite barista of the month.) In early 2009 they replaced their two yellow, three-group FB70 La Marzocco machines with a three-group Synesso, and with it they serve espresso with a medium-dark brown, mottled crema of average thickness. (They also had a Clover "bar" with a single machine that since gave way to a Hario V60 drip bar.) It's not as exceptionally creamy as the Lakeview/Broadway location (though its crema can be as exceptionally dark), but it works really well. They serve the espresso notably short as a proper ristretto: there are barely three sips in the Intelligentsia-logo ACF cup. But sometimes the body underwhelms relative to the potency you expect. Outstanding, complex aroma. Dark colored, somewhat rich, and slightly syrupy with a borderline sweet flavor of dark chocolate and hints of caramel. While it can also exhibit some smokiness, it generally has a weaker flavor depth than the Lakeview location. Still, this is one of America's better examples of espresso - even if in recent years it seems to have declined from its best shots. Be careful of the cappuccino: their old "medium' was a gargantuan 16oz., and their newer regulation sizes (4.75-oz cups) often have patchy, clumpy milk frothing that doesn't integrate as well in the espresso. Doughy croissants and baked goods: all the more reason to stick to the coffee.