The world’s largest Starbucks, which opens Friday on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile in a former Crate & Barrel retail space, is a five-story, 35,000-square-foot, Willy Wonka-esque temple of coffee, baked goods, cocktails and immersive design. Each floor of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery—the Seattle-based coffee giant’s sixth such ultra-premium location in the world—takes visitors through a different coffee-soaked experience, from grab-and-go coffees and pastries on the first floor to a Princi bakery and cafe on the second to an “experiential coffee bar” on the third, a full cocktail lounge on the fourth and a rooftop terrace on the fifth level.
Chicago’s Reserve Roastery employs nearly 200 people, including roasters, baristas, bakers and mixologists.
Chicago was the first city outside the Pacific Northwest in which Starbucks expanded, opening its first store in the Windy City in 1987. There are now 796 Starbucks units in the Chicago area, according to the company.
Here’s a tour of the noteworthy food, beverage and operational highlights of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago.
1. All coffee is roasted on-site
The main floor holds the roasters, where green coffee beans are roasted fresh in 25-pound batches every day—adding up to 200,000 pounds per year. The beans are all single-origin, and the name of the varietal being roasted at any particular time is posted on the wall. All coffee drinks crafted at the Chicago location use only beans roasted on the premises. The coffee bar on the first floor offers up traditional Starbucks beverages, including lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, while a more complex coffee menu is served upstairs. Seven different brewing methods are employed at various spots at the Roastery.
2. Princi is the exclusive food purveyor
A wide assortment of sweet and savory breads, pastries, sandwiches and desserts, all created by Italian artisan baker Rocco Princi, are baked on-site and available for purchase on each level. It’s the first time a bakery has been incorporated into a Starbucks store, and the equipment is over the top. Several high-end wood-fired ovens line a wall on the second level, and a bakery conveyor transports the baked goods from floor to floor. While many Roastery signatures are on display, Princi created a crescent-shaped brioche filled with creamy custard exclusively for the Chicago Roastery.
3. Immersing guests in the coffee experience
Guests can enjoy coffee in a more immersive, leisurely fashion at the Experiential Coffee Bar on the third floor. Four brewing methods are on offer, so customers can sip the same blend or beans made in different ways. In addition, visitors can order up a flight of specialty coffees, unique Roastery beverage creations and pairings of coffees with boutique chocolates made by local chocolatier Uzma Sharif. Customers here get a good dose of education and experience along with their coffee order.
4. Giving cold brew the whiskey treatment
The barrel-aged coffee bar on the fourth floor is another feature exclusive to the Chicago Roastery. Here, Starbucks beans are aged in whiskey barrels and crafted into alcohol-free cocktail-inspired drinks. The Minted Cold Brew, for example, is a take on the mint julep, starring barrel-aged cold brew, mint syrup and fresh mint, while the Smoked Cold Fashioned includes the same cold brew mixed with aromatic bitters, then smoked tableside. Baristas double as mixologists at this coffee bar.
5. The Starbucks app is limited here
Given the complex operations of the Reserve Roastery, none of the coffee bars accept mobile orders. Nor will they allow consumers to redeem Starbucks app-based rewards. Roastery visitors can, however, pay for purchases via the Starbucks app.
6. Belly up to the Arriviamo Bar
Visitors looking for a stronger drink can order from an extensive cocktail menu at the Arriviamo Bar, also on the fourth floor. The selection was curated by celebrated Chicago mixologists Julia Momose, Annie Beebe-Tron and Rachel Miller to include both iconic cocktails and Chicago Roastery originals featuring coffee and tea. Among the more unusual are the Union Stock with a base of barrel-aged cold brew balanced by amaro, spice, grappa and lemon peel, and the Lake Shore, a blend of oolong tea, tequila, mango yogurt syrup, mango ices and lime inspired by the paletas vendors along the Lake Michigan beach.
7. Gelato on demand
The Chicago Roastery is the only U.S. location with liquid nitrogen gelato for sale. (Milan’s Roastery was the first to offer it.) The gelato is mixed to order, and the ingredients magically freeze up when liquid nitrogen is applied. The frozen gelato flavors are designed to pair with Starbucks Reserve coffees.
8. From cask to cup
The centerpiece of the Reserve Roastery is a 56-foot-tall, perforated bronze-wrapped steel cask in which coffee is sent to rest and de-gas after roasting. It’s the company’s tallest cask. Guests can watch coffee beans being transported into the cask from overhead tubes that snake through the building.
9. Instagram-worthy design elements
The Roastery’s design is focused on sending visitors upward through the multilevel space. It features what Starbucks bills as the Midwest’s first curved escalator, ferrying guests from the first to the second floor with a 360-degree view of the operations below. The Roastery also includes several murals created by Chicago artists, including a five-story homage to Starbucks’ coffee farmers painted by Eulojio Ortega that progresses up every flight of the Roastery’s stairwell.
10. Abundant retail areas
There’s plenty to eat and drink on-site here, but Starbucks—long known for its in-store retail offerings—wants visitors to take home a piece of the Roastery, too. The store has retail areas on each floor, offering up hand-scooped coffee beans, branded apparel, Chicago-exclusive drinkware and even a custom-painted espresso machine designed by Chicago-based artist Mac Blackout.