Though the coffee roaster is from Germany and the artists whose work covers the walls are from Spain, Blue Max Coffee, which opened in November at 26 Lathrop Ave., is all local.
The owner, Liz Doyle, is a six year resident of Forest Park, who lives three blocks away from the restaurant and manages it along with her husband, Lou Adamek. “It’s always been a dream of mine to operate a business in the community where I live,” said Doyle, who once managed the Mellow Yellow restaurant in Hyde Park.
Doyle, a self-described “coffee enthusiast,” said she first looked on Madison Street for a location for the specialty coffee house she first imagined two years ago, but decided the out-of-the-way location on Lathrop, surrounded by trees and next to the Montessori learning center, was perfect for a “peaceful community coffee house.”
For now, coffee is being provided by Chicago’s famous Intelligentsia coffee company. Within the month, Doyle is expecting to receive a Probat drum roaster, which she describes as “the old fashioned way of making coffee.”
At that point, she said, the coffee house will slowly begin to phase out Intelligentsia coffees in favor of its own unique roasts.
Starting Monday, the coffee house will begin serving breakfast and lunch, with most entrees priced in the $4 to $6 range.
Doyle also has some big decorating plans for the site on Lathrop, which was once home to The Lathrop House restaurant. She said she soon plans to install a deck in the restaurant’s spacious backyard, and will plant an herb garden for outdoor diners to overlook.
The coffee house’s interior was designed by local artist Sally Canning, while structural renovations were handled by Doyle’s two sons, both carpenters. The front of the space features large leather sofas, but the majority of the seating is in the rear sunroom, which also includes a children’s play area.
The Blue Max logo and signs were designed by Painted Board Studio owner Jennifer Taylor.
The walls are decorated with artwork selected by Barbara Weigand of the Oak Park artist representation agency Arts Warrior, who will rotate the artwork on a regular basis. For the first display, she chose abstract paintings by three Spanish artists, Yolanda Martin, Amalia Martinez and Guadalupe Masa.
Weigand also handles artwork for Macdaddy’s hair salon’s Forest Park and West Loop locations.
Doyle said she is “not at all” intimidated by the recent opening of the Forest Park Starbuck’s on Madison Street.
While Doyle said she respects Starbucks for spreading the specialty coffee craze across the nation, “Our model is really so different, in terms of the way we make our espresso drinks. We don’t use fully automatic machines, we focus on the art of making espresso. Also, they don’t do a whole lot of whole bean coffee sale in their shops,” she said, noting that her coffee shop would be selling only organic, fair-trade coffee beans.
Doyle said she hopes the Blue Max will eventually have the chance to host a variety of community events, including church groups, lectures and musical performers.