Do you want room for cream in that? (Coffee and Gentrification)


The word has gone out that Pilsen is getting a new coffee shop, a branch of a shop from  from Lakeview, with locations currently in Lakeview and the Loop. The news has inspired a rally of responses – “Awesome!” “Stay away!” “Good coffee, finally!” “Another coffee shop, are you kidding me?” – and shouts of “Gentrification! Gentrification!” in the tone of voice one would expect with shouts of “Fire! Fire!”

And maybe there is a some justification in that.

Let’s be honest – gentrification is a cycle. The arrival of restaurants like Dusek’s and coffee shops like Bow Truss do show that Pilsen’s market is changing – they would not have come if they did not see a market here. But once in the neighborhood they also become forces of gentrification, contributing to the changing demographics and rising prices.

The honest part of me has to admit that in the grand scheme of things, I am a culprit in the process too – I’m the cream in the Pilsen coffee. A white girl with borderline-hipster tendencies, who barely speaks a lick of Spanish; the cream mixing in with the shades of brown. So I can’t really judge the other people who came to Pilsen for the same reasons I did, taking advantage of the cheap rent and great neighborhood environment. (Okay, I did have some other reasons, in my defense…)

But all the while the snarky part is me is sassing-out Bow Truss owner Phil Tadros for calling Pilsen “underserved” in the coffee department. What about Cafe Jumping Bean? La Catrina? Cafe Vio? The Nite Cap? And now, the coffee bar in Meztisoy? The only coffee-related thing that is “underserved” in Pilsen is (as my roommate mistakenly but hilariously called it) Pour-Over-Hipster coffee, see photo below. (The thing they don’t tell you is that in that little funnel through which they pour the coffee, there is a tiny little hipster standing. They pour it over the hipster so that you get all those nice hipster juices, like sweat and hair grease. At least, that’s the image that went through my head when my roommate called it that. Let’s not even talk about the fact that pour-over was a thing long before the hipsters were doing it.) But the pour-over coffee consumer is the niche market Bow Truss is going for – and the niche does exist here. I can’t fault them for the marketing ploy, but I can call them on the bullshit. Bow Truss’s expansion is a savvy business move, not an act of mercy.

The thing is, I actually do like pour-over. To be honest, when Bow Truss opens I’m totally going to check it out. I’ll have one small coffee, with room for gentrification, please. 

Pour-over-hipster coffee

Photo via


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