(My fully punched out Nina’s Coffee card about to be redeemed!)
This post is based on my personal insights & through facts directly from the baristas, owners, & managers sharing how each shop is unique. This is not professional advice, all photos were taken on my own, & I am not being paid by any of these shops to write about them.
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Gooood Morning Coffee Addicts,
Today we’re at one of the top 10 spots of 2021 and one of my favorite locations. Just down the street from my apartment is this beauty of a shop, Nina’s Coffee. Here’s a little preview of what you might see:
(Nina’s Coffee TikTok)
Rich History & some Juicy Folk lore
(Nina’s arches and some seating options)
Nina’s is named after Madame Nina Clifford who some call the richest and most powerful industrial business woman in the underworld. She wasn’t always as powerful though and her name actually used to be Hannah Crow (hence the crow logo).
She is originally from Ontario, but at a very young age her family moved to Detroit, Michigan. She grew up in Detroit, married a man named Conrad Steinbrecher, and lived as a housewife.
In 1886 she was widowed.
A year later (Age 35) she moved to St. Paul & decided to buy two lots on Washington Street along Mississippi River across from the morgue & police station. She lived in number 145 and ran her brothel in number 147.
*I looked this address up and found that it was located on the west side of what is now Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul*.
Folk Lore said she had tunnels all throughout St. Paul connecting to her brothel for more convenient access. As time went on word spread and their reputation grew. Within just a few years Madame Nina’s Brothel became the most popular brothel in St. Paul & continued being so from 1889-1929 making her the most richest & most powerful industrial business woman in the underworld.
Now with the history down, let’s get to it.
What You’ll see here
(View from The Crow’s Nest)
You’ve probably seen photos or have passed by and noticed their pristine exterior, the inside is just as nice. Stepping into this establishment, you’ll instantly notice the big open space with high ceilings, the rush of energy from all of the customers, and the upbeat-rustic city vibe.
Being around since February 18th of 2005, Nina’s is located on the east side of the Blair Arcade establishment. It is right off of Selby and Western and is the go to spot for many in the Capitol Hill/Cathedral Hill neighborhoods of Saint Paul.
I’m here a few times a week, it’s my main space for getting work done. I’ll give you a bit of an inside scoop on what to expect.
58 seats inside between the wooden booths, high tops, lounge chairs, couches, and The Crow’s Nest. That’s a lot of seats and you’d probably expect it to be easy to find a spot. Surprisingly there are days when like today where I still had to make my rounds like a vulture to scout a spot. Luckily, during the other 3 seasons when we aren’t living through freezing temps, they also add 10 tables out front, providing 20-30 more options for you to enjoy your cup of Joe.
I mentioned high energy earlier, I stand by that. It’s rare that I ever see a slow day at Nina’s.
There are people all around from college students from the nearby universities, law students from Mitchell Hamline School of Law, politicians from the capitol, and many writers.
*Fun Fact*: Nina’s is such a popular writing spot, they used to have a book for authors to sign when they shared where they where they completed the majority of their stories or articles.
With the open environment and busy crowd, Nina’s is the perfect spot to bring a friend to catch up. I literally caught up with my buddy Mitchell (congrats on becoming a lawyer!) here last Sunday and will be meeting with my friends Emily and Linzy here this upcoming Sunday.
The two types of songs I hear the most are something similar to something you’d expect to hear in a classy hotel lobby, or relaxing beats you’d play on a rainy day. Again that’s just what I hear the most, but I’m sure it depends on who’s in charge of music for the day because they also add some other fun ones in the mix like Jesse’s Girl or Sweet Child O’ Mine!
*Fun Fact*: June (the owner) was a teacher before deciding to jump into the coffee business. At first she was iffy about buying the space because of how big it was. One day she took her 6th graders on a field trip there to see what they thought over some cocoa. Regardless of the size, the kids knew she was great at building a strong community and knew she could do it. That the extra push she needed.
To this day the Nina’s team still believes in “community first, coffee second.”
(Some of the pastries that Nina’s offers)
I had the opportunity to speak with Keli, Bethany, and June who gave me the run down.
Nina’s has their own espresso blend. Smooth & sweet chocolate, hint of fruit flavor notes. For syrups they mainly use Monin, however they do have a vanilla lavender one they’ve created in house.
For milk choices you have the classic options between whole, oat, or almond. They get their Oatly from Co-op Partners Warehouse, and whole milk from Autumn Wood Farm.
The 3 most popular drinks at Nina’s are:
- The FScott (Hot Scott) (Cold press w/cream, steam & caramel.)
- Madame Nina (Espresso w/local honey, choice of milk, and cinnamon powder).
- The Neighborhood (Caramel & Cinnamon Syrup, & Oat MIlk)
They try to source all of their food locally.
They’ve got gluten-free bread from Sift, Vegan Cinnamon Rolls from Vegan East, cookies from Haute Chocolate, & donuts from Bogarts.
Due to the pandemic, they no longer have a full kitchen, however they do have daily soups from Co-op Partners Warehouse, a small grill, and a very big variety of pastries from Vikings & Goddesses Pie Company. You’ve got a lot to work with here.
A few good things to know
(A late morning catchup with my hometown friends Emily & Linzy)
-Nina’s is always busy, but it is busiest on Fri/Sat/Sun. (I was told it gets busier as the week goes on)
-There’s no Wi-fi Password, just use “Nina’s Guest” Portal
-There is one unisex bathroom located next to the stairs.
-Two bathrooms located in Blair Arcade, ask Barista for pin.
-Current hours are between 6:30AM-6:00PM every day of the week at the Saint Paul location.
-They just expanded & opened a new shop in Stillwater too! (317 Main St S, Stillwater, MN 55082)
Through the genteel ambiance, amazing baristas, delectable coffee options, & rich history, Nina’s emulates an energy that is both exciting & motivating for new coffee drinkers to try and for regulars to come back to. A truly remarkable spot.
I’m giving it a strong 8.6.
A Personal Ask
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We’re still very new to the game and are trying our best to grow. Every last member of our community is a coffee drinker, literally 100% of the following base. With that we ask that anytime you get coffee, tag us @16ozDays & we’ll make sure to repost.
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Hey you made it! Next time we’ll be hitting Spyhouse NE Broadway. Until then if you need some ideas, here are our top 10 of 2021!
Thank you guys so much for taking the time, we’ll see you soon.
(Merchandise Wall at Spyhouse NE)