Located in the thriving district of St Paul, Cahoots Coffee Bar is one of the Gopher State’s hottest coffee establishments, attracting hundreds of regulars and tourists daily. I visited the atmospheric bar in early November to see what the fuss was all about.
Whether you’re a Minnesotan resident or planning a trip to the land of 10,000 lakes, my honest review will reveal all you need to know – from what to expect from your trip to whether it’s actually worth visiting.
Cahoots Coffee Bar: A Background
Cahoots Coffee Bar is conveniently situated in a thriving Union Park District of St Paul and is popular with local shoppers and business folk as well as students at the nearby Concordia University and Macalester College campuses. Similarly, the State Capital’s healthy living enthusiasts often pop in after their sessions at Tula Yoga & Wellness, which is under a quarter-mile away from the coffee house.
The store has been under the ownership of Saed Kakish since 1997 and is one of the city’s longest-standing and most recognizable coffee bars. The small yet iconic venue boasts a timeless community vibe, offering a plethora of beverages and snacks that have been heavily influenced by Turkish and Middle Eastern traditions.
This offers a unique experience while still providing the simple joys of delighting the tastebuds and getting a caffeine hit while watching the world go by, either through the window or from the venue’s patio.
Cahoots Coffee Bar is a hit with locals and visitors alike. It can back this up with a number of awards and accolades.
Among the coffee shops’ rewards is a Charlie Award for an Outstanding Cup of Coffee, a Golden Cup Award for continued brewing quality as per the Specialty Coffee Association of America standards, and an induction into the Saint Paul Neighborhood Honor Roll in recognition of their impact on the local neighborhood.
All in all, I made the journey to Saint Paul with high hopes of experiencing great coffee, culture, and company – not least because other reviewers online had plenty of positive things to say.
Cahoots Coffee Bar: First Impressions
Even before stepping inside, Cahoots Coffee Bar juxtaposed blend of quaint and lively vibes is clear even from the outside. The frontal patio, neon lighting signs, and overhead awning create a simple yet effective vibe that feels very welcoming indeed.
Furthermore, with Whole Foods just a few doors down, the authentic community atmosphere that’s often lost in this modern age is palpable – it’s a significant improvement on the bland tendencies of various chain coffee stores.
Stepping inside the coffee bar almost felt like a step back in time, but in a positive way. The walls and shelves are decorated with various photos, elegant pottery, and ornaments.
Meanwhile, the menu is written on a chalkboard that complements the traditional – almost rustic – vibe to perfection. Even as a first-time visitor, the Cahoots Coffee Bar feels like home.
In many ways, this is the biggest compliment I can give the venue itself, not least because the small baristas and waiting staff provide a welcoming and friendly service.
The coffee bar was still in the transitional phase of setting up its festive décor, so it would’ve been nice to see how the interior design is transformed at this time of the year.
I can only imagine that the wintery vibes would feel wholesome and capture the magic of the holiday season with brightly colored lights, trees, et al.
An outside patio area is also available. Unfortunately, it was a little too cold at this time of the year for my liking, but I did take a sneak peek, and it looked peaceful and pleasant. I can imagine it’s a winner in the Spring and Summer.
Cahoots Coffee Bar: The Drinks
As a coffee reviewer, the quality of the drinks on offer will always be the barometer I use to decide whether a coffee house is worthy of a visit. So over two days, I made three trips to Cahoots – two in the daytime and one in the evening – to sample a selection of coffees.
While I still didn’t have a chance to taste anywhere near the full menu, it gave a more than adequate insight into what they are about.
On a side note, I did try chai tea too. I’m not a connoisseur by any means, but the spiced ginger undertones were an enjoyable way to end my evening visit to the coffee cafe.
Anyway, I tried five types of coffee during the 48 hours. Here’s my verdict on each.
Turkish coffee covers most types of beverages that you’re familiar with. This is because the term primarily relates to the brewing method.
Cahoots uses an authentic Turkish brew by using unfiltered, finely ground coffee beans.
However, the dark Turkish brewed drink is their signature. So my first thought was, “wow, this is strong,” but in a good way.
The baristas will add sugar to counterbalance the bitter tastes during the brewing process rather than after, ensuring that you get a smooth yet powerful brew. However, it is possible to ask them to hold back on this – though I’d avoid it.
Milk and cream are not added, which is why this is always a popular choice for those seeking a stronger drink. I had it in the morning, and it certainly woke me up.
Lavender White Mocha
The Lavender White Mocha house specialty was served hot in a sizeable mug. It looked highly appealing, with a circle of white foam surrounded by the chocolatey mocha to the edges.
After one sip, I could see why the owner was so eager to show off their signature drink.
Hints of chocolate and lavender blend perfectly with the rich, fresh coffee beans to produce a lovely sweet, yet bold aroma as you prepare for that first sip. The unmistakable white mocha taste dances on the tastebuds before sliding down the throat to warm your stomach in a way that only a comforting, fresh coffee with chocolate undertones can.
The lavender-infused white mocha is made from a family recipe, bringing a unique flavor that you won’t experience anywhere else. While trying it in the colder months, the love and passion certainly added something special to the occasion.
Cappuccinos are a go-to drink for many morning coffee drinkers. When I drink one, it’s usually because I crave a bold flavor and a big hit of the coffee.
The Cahoots Coffee cappuccino ticked that box emphatically while still providing an undertone of sweetness from the milk.
Coffee art isn’t personally something that makes or breaks my verdict, but it’s always an excellent addition. The baristas added a little design to the coffee, which adds to the feeling that this is a place where coffee is made with passion.
It added to the texture too. You can always tell the difference between a good cappuccino and an instant one. I’d give this a 4 out of 5.
While Cahoots offers a range of syrups and extras, I opted for a standard cappuccino on both morning visits. Watching the world go by as the luxuriously textured cream and froth hit my lips was a joy.
The rich, flavorsome coffee, supported by comforting surroundings, really did feel like home.
The caffe latte is a trendy beverage around the globe and has a rich history in Europe and the Mediterranean. The latte had a mild flavor and a clear change in color from the darker bottom of the espresso through to the lighter browns and finally into the white of the steamed milk.
This benefits from being presented in a glass mug.
Out of all the drinks I had at Cahoots, this was the one where I went a little adventurous with a dusting of cocoa powder and a dash of caramel syrup. The extra sweetness complemented the taste profile but also took the experience to another level.
Again, the best way to describe it is that it felt homely and comforting.
A poorly prepared latte stands out like a sore thumb, but the beans are fresh, and the milk is steamed to order. All of this creates a smooth textured and flavorsome beverage that’s better than anything you’d make with homebrew.
That’s exactly what you want from a coffee bar.
Regular readers will know that I’d usually choose a caffeinated coffee over a decaf. Still, I thought trying at least one decaf coffee to provide a more comprehensive review of Cahoots Coffee Bar would be fitting.
Let’s not kid ourselves; I could tell that this Americano wasn’t filling mine with that distinct caffeine energy hit. Nonetheless, the taste was fine.
The full body and rich tastes were there to enjoy while it’s clear that the order is made to order – and not only because I saw it being made with my own eyes.
It was hot and comforting on a November evening and topped with a bit of dusting of chocolate, which was a nice touch. But, while it might seem small, having a proper mug makes a difference.
My favorite drink during my three visits? No.
However, this is an excellent substitute if you prefer a decaf for medical reasons, personal taste preferences, or because you need sleep. While I didn’t get to try any of the other decaf options, other reviews are favorable.
In addition to sipping a beautiful coffee, Cahoots Coffee Bar offers various foods that can be eaten at your table or on the go. The Mediterranean Platter was delightful, and I could instantly appreciate why the homemade hummus was suggested in several reviews that I read before my visit.
Soups, quiches, bakery items, sandwiches, and other snacks are readily available. In addition, the frozen treated section includes ice cream sundaes (vanilla, chocolate, rocky road, and mint chocolate chip).
However, I – predictably – went for the ice cream latte.
Was it needed in November? Probably not.
But I regret nothing – it was lovely.
Cahoots Coffee Bar: Other Features
The atmosphere inside the coffee bar is heavily influenced by the fact that it promotes itself as being welcome to everyone.
World music is played to celebrate diverse cultures while simultaneously bringing people together. It does so in a very productive fashion.
Cahoots also sells a host of unique and charming gifts that are ideal as souvenirs of your stay in the Gopher State, perfect for celebrating cultural histories or simply brightening the home. Their offerings include Baluch Tribal Rugs and Saddle Bags made from Aghan wool, French shea butter-enriched soap made by Pré de Provence, handmade arts, collectibles, jewelry, scarves, greeting cards, and more.
The vast majority of items are affordable, while many are one-of-a-kind pieces too.
Finally, the Cahoots Coffee Bar also sells its locally sourced coffee beans in low quantities, meaning you can relive some of the tastes at home. And, yes, I now have a trio of 4oz bags sitting proudly in my home.
The Final Verdict
Cahoots Coffee Bar in the Union Park District of St. Paul, MN, is a unique coffee house with a distinct atmosphere that perfectly captures the region. It blends traditional, wholesome American vibes with the eastern cultures of Turkey and the surrounding countries in both Europe and Asia.
Those charming features are brought to life by the owner Saed, as well as the small team of baristas that welcomed me during my visits.
The atmosphere is pleasing, but the most significant appeal comes from the quality of the coffee. As a confessed coffee snob, none of the other features matter if the quality of the brew isn’t up to scratch.
Each drink I had was made with fresh coffee beans (except the chai tea, obviously) and provided the luxuriously smooth and comforting tastes that every coffee lover adores.
I made three visits during my 48-hour stay in the city. Even if it was partly for research purposes, my eagerness to return says it all.
I have to give Cahoots Coffee Bar 5 stars out of 5.