Traipsing Around Town: Experience Art, Mystery and Intrigue at Spyhouse Coffee Shop

By Taylor Uggla

Recently I have been giving extra attention to my obsession with all things vintage, so when I heard about the 1960s-inspired Spyhouse Coffee Shop I knew it would be the perfect fit. Located on a corner of Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis not far from the heart of Eat Street, Spyhouse provides the perfect atmosphere for anyone desiring to combine the modern and the retro.Colorful paintings by local artists line the brick walls of the shop and from the ceilings hang vintage lamps, the most striking incorporating rich hues of melon and rose. The counter is placed in the middle of the space, and crowded all around it are house plants, chrome tables, green plastic chairs and sofas. Trying to find a seat is like walking through a maze, and I never actually found a legitimate one when I was there.

However, I didn’t really mind sitting squeezed between strangers. I had to balance my meal on my knees, and each time someone walked by I feared my coffee mug would fall from its precarious perch on the arm of the sofa, but for me it only added to Spyhouse’s charm. After all, people-watching resides at the top of my list of fun things to do, and this coffee shop provides endless opportunities for observation.

When I first arrived I saw a couple dressed all in black and holding hands walk out the door, looking like they’d just stepped out of a Jack Kerouac novel. Students and older customers alike sat around stuffed in turtlenecks and tall boots, typing away on laptops, writing in notepads and carrying on animated conversation. A passionate game of chess was being held at the counter by two weathered men, and the counter boy’s hair sat on his head so large and uncontrollable that I found myself unable to look away. He kind of looked like a cooler version of Napoleon Dynamite. I think I could have literally sat there for hours and been content with nothing to do but look around.

Of course, enjoying items from the menu wasn’t all bad either, although I do have to warn you that customers aren’t the only intriguing aspect of the place. When I went to Spyhouse, I ordered the hummus plate and a bowl of soup. Both were delicious, but interestingly enough I was never told the flavor of the latter. “Well, it’s a vegan soup,” the counter boy said. “It’s good, you know.” He offered me no more information, but since I was starving I decided to try it. It came in a big white bowl, steaming and chunky in texture. Curry-like with a hint of spice, it was both sweet and tart. My date and I loved it, and it became a fun little mystery-soup experience.

I’m also quite pleased with Spyhouse’s coffee selection. Perhaps it’s the kid in me, but I enjoy ordering drinks with fancy names like the Tokyo Rose, a syrupy blend of espresso, raspberry, white chocolate and steamed milk. I’d recommend the Mata Hari, a latte with honey, cinnamon and almond, as well as the Mexican Mocha, which contains espresso, steamed milk, dark chocolate, cinnamon and honey. Fair-trade coffee and wide range of teas exist for those with less complicated tastes, and if you predict an all-nighter you’ll have to try the Spychaser, coffee and chocolate mixed with 3 to 6 shots of espresso. I don’t think anything else could keep you more awake.

Spyhouse also offers sandwiches, daily specials, chips and salsa, granola and yogurt. You can buy a plain or flavored croissant, and choose from desserts ranging from cake to lemon poppyseed bread. This café is definitely vegetarian-friendly, and portions do not come small. You might want to get there early if you want to be able to choose from everything on the menu (most of the pre-wrapped sandwiches disappear by 9 pm), but you won’t regret giving it a try. After all, it’s rare to find a place with such interesting options-where else can you get an artichoke sandwich?

So, drive over to Spyhouse the next time you feel like stepping back in time a bit. It’s the perfect blend of yesterday and today, and definitely more fascinating than some of our neighborhood cafes. Visit when you’re feeling a bit out of the ordinary.

Spyhouse Coffee Shop
2451 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404