By Meera Singh
After a few months of trying to find the newest and coolest spots in the Twin Cities, this week I opted for a local favorite. If you walk down Grand Avenue from campus towards the Mississippi for a few blocks, you will come upon Coffee Bene. It is just off the intersection between Grand and Cleveland, adjacent to Davanni’s. Although not a chain, the café feels more like a Starbucks or a Caribou than some craft joints in the Cities. The menu on the wall appears mass-produced, and the food options less bougie and more run-of-the-mill. However, the atmosphere ended up more comfortable and less presumptuous than trendier spots. It’s the perfect spot for students on a college budget.
The expansive space offers multiple couches, chairs, booths, low tables and high tables. Although the brass decor may be reminiscent of a 2000’s suburban home, it has a low-key charm that chains like Caribou do not. String lights line the window next to two adirondack chairs facing the electric fireplace. Lamps and small fixtures accentuate the dim overhead lighting, perfect for solo reading or studying. Accordingly, all of the other patrons were working silently the night that I came, and concentration came easily. For larger groups, there is a community space available for rent, which seems to hold up to 30 people. Even on a busy weekend in late April, I don’t expect the Bene to reach capacity — good to keep in mind if you can’t snag your favorite CC table.
From pistachio muffins ($3) to XL chocolate chip cookies ($1.50) to Umpqua oats ($4.25), Coffee Bene offers pretty much an identical food selection to that of the Grille. However, when I ordered a chocolate chip cookie, the barista asked if I would like it warmed up, a question I have yet to hear on campus. The chocolate chip cookie did not have the same gooey, freshly baked aura of Rustica’s (offered at Dogwood Coffee), but I still consider the $1.50 money well spent. Bene also boasts a wide selection of egg sandwiches for breakfast and bagged lunches to go. Most notably, they have started serving wine later in the evening, as an attempt to create a relaxed, café vibe. The drink menu echoes larger coffee chains in style and price, but with more variety. For example, Bene featured a “Lucky Shake” ($4) during March, as well as an Irish Creme Latte ($3). Other creative drinks include a “Chaider” ($3.29) — a mix between chai and apple cider — and a “Milly Choca” ($3.79) — a mocha on ice with whipped cream. They may not use a chemex or a french press, but my dark, full-bodied coffee hit the spot ($1.99). And if you can’t already tell, the prices are by far the most reasonable in my search thus far. I will most likely be studying at Bene quite a bit in the weeks to come.