World's Largest Starbucks Opens On The Mag Mile | WBEZ
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The World's Largest Starbucks Opens Friday On The Mag Mile

On Friday, Starbucks opens its sixth Reserve Roastery in the old Crate & Barrel building on Michigan Avenue. Joining locations in Tokyo, Milan, Shanghai, New York and Seattle, this 35,000-square-foot emporium is also Starbucks' largest in the world, sprawling across five floors of bakeries, cafes, bars, restaurants, shopping nooks and purchasable art by Chicago artists. Here's a sneak peek of the interior, the food-and-drink offerings and the swag: 

Pop into the Reserve Coffee Bar on the ground floor for coffee and a pastry (the croissants are called cornetti because almost all the food is in Italian). Ride the curved escalator (the Midwest’s first, according to the company) to take in floor-to-ceiling views of Michigan Avenue. Heartier fare—pastries, sandwiches, focaccia-style pizza, cakes, tiramisu and tarts—is served at the Princi Bakery and Cafe (pictured below) on the second floor.

Sandwiches at the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Mag Mile in Chicago
Monica Eng/WBEZ

At the Experiential Coffee Bar on the third floor, you can order several specialty drinks (pistachio latte, anyone?) and treats (cold-brew floats) or watch the staff whip up gelato using liquid nitrogen or brew siphon filtered coffee in what looks like a science experiment (pictured below).

At the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Mag Mile in Chicago
Monica Eng/WBEZ

Patrons 21 and older can visit the Arriviamo Cocktail Bar on the fourth floor. Among several Chicago-themed cocktails, the Union Stock ($16) is made with cold brew coffee, grappa and lemon peel—but, no meat parts. Author Upton Sinclair would be proud. I sampled the Roastery Boilermaker ($16; pictured below) with malort and grapefruit, served with a shot of bierschnaps on the side. The alcohol-free All Day Spritz ($10) tastes like fancy kombucha.

At the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Mag Mile in Chicago
Monica Eng/WBEZ

If your current coffee suffers from not having been aged in a whiskey barrel, then you are in luck. The Barrel Aged Coffee Bar, also on the fourth floor, serves drinks such as an alcohol-free Whiskey Barrel Aged cold brew. (Spoiler: Tastes like regular cold brew with vanilla added.)

At the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Mag Mile in Chicago
Monica Eng/WBEZ

When it comes to food, skip the salt bomb-ish mortadella sandwich on olive bread. I preferred the subtle flavors of mozzarella, tomato and arugula on warm focaccia. Also worth trying: the walnut and fig sourdough buns. Although everyone swooned over the liquid nitrogen gelato, I’d spend my money on the Princina tart ($11; below), intense cocoa-dusted ganache in a chocolate shortbread crust. Nurse it for an hour while enjoying the view at a table.

At the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Mag Mile in Chicago
Monica Eng/WBEZ

The roasting experience is on full display, starting with massive containers of green coffee beans. The beans are sent through a hopper and transferred to a 56-foot steel cask (pictured below), where, Starbucks says “the beans go to rest and de-gas.” (Sounds like something I’d like to do.) After degassing, the beans are piped straight to the coffee bars throughout the building—you can see and hear them racing through clear pneumatic tubes overhead.

At the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Michigan Avenue
Monica Eng/WBEZ

Back on the ground floor—past the gift shop where you can buy clothing, key chains, ornaments, posters, cards, notebooks and a $6,500 espresso machine (pictured below) painted by Chicago artist Mac Blackout—you’ll find the Scooping Bar. What’s the benefit of hand scooping? A staffer informed me that hand scooping means you can buy as much or as little as you want or combine beans for a blend of the six they offer. Gee, thanks.

At the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Mag Mile in Chicago
Monica Eng/WBEZ

Monica Eng is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org.

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