Omnivore - Coffee north and south in Grant Park

Grant Park Coffeehouse and Octane offer different appeal


So, Grant Park now has two coffee shops. There's Octane Coffee and the Little Tart Bakeshop at the north end of Cherokee Avenue in the Jane Complex. At the south end, across from the zoo, is Grant Park Coffeehouse. I like both.

Octane is the roomier, with obsessive baristas and, thanks to the Bakeshop, some fantastic pastries like this ginger-apricot scone I snacked on Sunday with their signature latte. I was sorry to miss lunch, available later after 11 a.m. Among the dishes were a soup of local rutabagas and green apple; a salad of wheatberries with watermelon radish and goat feta; and a sandwich of bacon, tomato pesto, and escarole. There was more, including a veggie sandwich. I've left out references to local sourcing.

Whereas Octane seems to attract a younger adult crowd — I'm trying to avoid the "hipster" word and the reference to skinny jeans — Grant Park Coffeehouse seems to get a much more diverse clientele, including baby-strolling parents, zoo visitors, and kids of all ages. There are only two tables, a sofa and a short counter.


GPC features pastries made on the premises, too, with a recent accent on savory breakfast items. Generally the food is cheaper and heartier, like this bowl of lentil-veggie soup with half a grilled cheese sandwich and a triple-espresso macchiato. Cost was slightly less than the scone and latte at Octane. Ice cream at GPC brings in the after-school kids, whereas the booze at Octane brings in the evening adults.

Both coffee shops have free wifi but GPC provides electrical outlets, even though the table space is so limited.

I have one complaint about both. You can roast in either shop. Octane's rear wall is nothing but windows facing south. I've had clients stop there on the way to see me and heard the complaints often. GPC, on the other hand, just feels overheated, maybe because the space is small and the ovens are busy.

Sometimes I want a grilled cheese and other times I want possibly the best croissant in our city.