An "immersive, theatrical experience" is opening in Chicago on Friday, but it's not a Broadway show or some performance-art piece, unless you consider swirling milk foam on a venti latte particularly artistic. The world's largest Starbucks—or what USA Today calls something "between a shrine to beans and a Willy Wonka's of coffee"—makes its debut in the Windy City as one of the coffee giant's Reserve Roasteries. These special locations are described on the chain's site as "experiential shrines to coffee passion" where "master Roasters, mixologists, and baristas ply their craft to coax perfectly flavorful, often unexpectedly artful expressions" from not blends, like other Starbucks serve, but rare coffees roasted on-site in small batches.
About 200 employees will man the five-story, 35,000-square-foot building at the intersection of N. Michigan Avenue and Erie Street, housing three coffee bars (including one featuring coffee beans aged in whiskey barrels), a cocktail bar, and fare from Italian bakery Princi. Eater Chicago gives a rundown on some of the edible offerings, including pizzas, pastas, paninis, and plenty of pastries and other confections. The walls are adorned with pieces from local artists, and there's also a rooftop terrace that will open in nicer weather. "This roastery is a representation of the relationship that Starbucks has had with the city of Chicago," CEO Kevin Johnson said Tuesday at a presser. "Chicago has been a market where we innovate and try new things." Other Roasteries are in Seattle and New York, as well as overseas in Milan, Tokyo, and Shanghai. (Read more Starbucks stories.)