Does a grilled cheese made with a croissant sound good to you? If so, I would recommend checking out Workhouse Coffee Bar. Located just half of a block off of the green line on University, the aesthetic in the Workhorse Coffee Bar feels industrial and trendy, yet simultaneously unimposing. Unlike many popular coffee bars in the Twin Cities, Workhouse is an affordable place to get a casual meal, with other hot selections including pizza and soups. Last Tuesday afternoon, a friend and I ordered the snack plate and ended up having enough to take home. The garlicky, freshly made hummus perfectly complemented the toasty pita triangles and green olives. At $6, the pick-me-up was well worth the price. It is also worth noting that the pizzas were listed at $5!
If you are looking for a very calm atmosphere for a heavy workload on a Sunday afternoon, Workhorse certainly lives up to its name. The table area doesn’t allow for large group interaction, and the noise level seems more conducive to solo reading. With around six two-person tables and a couple larger high top ones, you can expect a relaxed vibe. Natural light illuminates the shop, bright enough to read but definitely cozier than the first floor of DeWitt. While tasteful, the décor feels less precious than some coffee shops more designated for the millennial crowd. This is probably why you find a more diverse crowd here than some of the other Twin Cities hot spots.
While I would frequent the Workhorse for its atmosphere, food and pricing, the drinks did not meet expectations. After the 64 ounces of coffee I had consumed prior to arrival, I decided decaffeinated tea was probably the best choice of drink. I ordered a Montana gold ($2.75), typically my favorite tea available around the Cities. Unfortunately the water came out lukewarm, the tea rather tasteless and under-steeped. My friend ordered a Feffer latte ($3.75), crafted to taste like “a pfeffernuesse cookie dressed up as a latte.” But one sip and all I could taste was a mouthful of clove. Maybe a plain old latte ($3.25 – 4.25) or cup of joe ($2 – 3)would have been a better choice, considering they use beans from Bootstrap Coffee, one of the better roasters in the Twin Cities. I certainly will not rule out the joint on the basis of a couple mediocre drinks.
The most unique aspect of Workhorse exists outside of the space. Situated adjacent to the front door, an old fire hose cabinet has been converted into the “Smallest Museum in Saint Paul.” The 2 foot by 3 foot enclave holds a new exhibit monthly, quite impressive for the micro-gallery. (Check out the website http://smallestmuseumstpaul.com to see the current showing). The cute museum makes the ride here worth the time. Although the drinks were a disappointment, I certainly enjoyed my experience at Workhorse.
Workhorse Coffee Bar is located at 2399 University Ave, Saint Paul.