CoffeeHouse Tour 2014: Delanie’s Coffee on the South Side

Part of my 2014 Adventures in New Experiences is a little mini-resolution to try at least one new coffeehouse each month.

For January, I chose Delanie’s Coffee on the South Side. It in the 1700 block near our favorite restaurant (Cambod-Ican Kitchen) so we’ve walked by a dozen times. Usually a soon to be expiring parking spot prevented us from stopping in, but Friday I made sure we planned ahead.

Delanie’s occupies two levels of a midblock building near Carson and 18th. It has a modern open-space feel to it, but many amenities familiar to coffeehouse lovers. There are tables on the first floor along with a spacious coffee bar. They serve the usual array of drinks and boast a decent little menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, wraps and soup du jour. Plus, baked goods.

I tried the dark roast which was strong and surprisingly not-bitter considering it was after 7 PM when I ordered, a quality most coffeehouses cannot boast. Ledcat had hot chocolate which she pronounced “okay” and we shared a tasty peanut butter blondie that was moist and reasonably sized for the price.

There were a total of six of us who occupied tables for the hour we were there. Two men worked on their laptops with headphones (you can see one of them good-naturedly waving in my photo.) A couple say with their drinks in the upholstered chairs, but left after 20 minutes or so. Several other people came in for a drink to go which is a reasonable amount of traffic on a snowy cold night in January. The tables were sturdy with basic wooden chairs. The living room chairs were really uncomfortable – we perched on the edge rather than actually sit back which is a good way to get us out of there in an hour.

The barista was nice, but not engaging. I like a little chattiness and even a suggestion for a drink for a newbie, but she certainly wasn’t rude or anything like that. The menu is written in the ubiquitous chalk like style which I loathe – it is difficult to read from a certain distance so if you don’t know “your drink” order, there’s a lot of squinting. This is where a chatty barista who notices my hesitation can upgrade me from a black coffee to a pricier boutique drink with some gentle interaction. Another missed opportunity was the fact that the barista did not ask if we followed them on Instagram – they have a special right now for followers. Remind me that you use social media because I literally posted 3 photos to Instagram when I sat at my table and that was a missed marketing opportunity for your business. Even a sign near the register would be good.

The “fixins” station was covered in flyers and brochures which was a bit awkward – I just want to pour the cream, not worry about ruining someone’s color postcards. Those items should be somewhere else to create a little more space for those of us who need cream or sugar. This was definitely something I would find annoying if I were in a hurry to fix my coffee to go. All that atmosphere of spaciousness should not be offset by a cramped little stand.

Another few things I did not notice – any sign of recycling bins or a plentiful supply of electrical outlets on the second floor. They do “recycle” the coffee sleeves, but I suspect that’s actually for reuse not true recycling. There was also no evidence of “for here” mugs as an option.

All in all, it is a decent little place and convenient for the nearby restaurants. I find Big Dog a few blocks away a little more appealing, but moving the car for a cup of coffee isn’t always practical.  The biggest drawback is a common flaw among local small businesses – the lack of sustainability efforts. There’s just no reason not to recycle and offer customers the opportunity to recycle. The owner reportedly owns multiple businesses on the South Side so he could certainly take advantage of scale to bolster his sustainability.

Delanie’s probably does well for a morning and lunch business. If I happened to be on the South Side during the day, I might stop in if I could find parking because I know the food prices are reasonable. But there’s nothing about the business that really pops and says “You should come back!” I just didn’t feel any sort of hook beyond the cool space itself and the things I listed above are enough for me to not have include Delanie’s at the top of my list of spaces to frequent.

To be fair, I probably would return to eat but only if I happened to be on the South Side. I think it is a welcome business presence on that stretch and Lord knows an “entertainment district” can use strong coffee, even at 7PM.