Kurt Vonnegut. David Letterman. The Indy 500. President Benjamin Harrison. Indianapolis is home to a lot of famous people and things. Not as famous, but just as noteworthy in our humble opinion, is Indianapolis’s growing specialty coffee community. Although long eclipsed by larger markets in neighboring states, the coffee scene in Indianapolis is refreshingly passionate and non-partisan. The latest addition to this burgeoning community is Coat Check Coffee, a small lobby café already punching well above its weight class.
Located in the actual coat check of the historic Athenaeum building, Coat Check Coffee is a joint venture from husband and wife Paul and Audryalice Warner and their brother Neal. Paul makes Coat Check’s house-baked croissants while Neal overseas the coffee program, drawing on his experience working for Athens, GA’s 1000 Faces Coffee. For coffee, Coat Check works exclusively with Indianapolis’s Tinker Coffee— a decision motivated by the Warners’ desire to have a close relationship with their roaster and not simply carry a nationally-known brand. This attention to detail also carries over to their signature drinks, which exclusively feature house-made syrups and grass-grazed milk.
When I visited, Coat Check was pulling Tinker’s Guatemala, Finca Santa Isabel as their espresso. All of the espresso is ground with a Mahlkönig EK43, modded with a volumetric dosing tool from Titus Grinding. EK shots are notoriously cumbersome, but when pulled well they allow for an extraction not possible with conventional espresso grinders. This shot ranked amongst the best I’ve been served in a café, with a deep burnt-sugar sweetness balanced by a round stonefruit acidity.
Coat Check Coffee might be the new kids on the block, but their careful execution and unique atmosphere immediately place them amongst the best Indianapolis cafés. The combination of house-made pastries and some of the best Indianapolis-roasted coffee makes for a café well worth a visit, even though you may have to hold your own coat.