At Bridgeport’s new Jackalope Coffee & Tea House, the outfit’s fresh-faced enthusiasm hits upon entering. The shop’s bright primary colors provide a burst of energy that, accompanied by a cheery “Good morning!,” wakes one up even before the first sip of coffee.
Opposite the front door, the counter is split by a small, four-shelf pastry case. On either side, large round signs bear sketched antlered jackrabbits–siblings amid the various artistic renderings of the shop’s namesake that hang on the walls.Â A collection of camp–a blowup moose head, a stenciled hello-kitty pattern, a colorful skull on the back wall–is scattered among the mythical beasts. A second room, bathed in red and blue, contains chalkboards and a fireplace.
The cafÃ© opened its doors a month ago, and though “new coffeeshop smell” is nowhere to be found, it’s clear that the final touches are still sliding into place. On my second visit, a man was hanging a faded “Welcome to Bridgeport” banner celebrating the neighborhood’s 1950 centennial. During my first, a barista explained the intricacies of the espresso machine to two attentive trainees, both named Alex.
But the coffeehouse has hit the ground running. If coffee makes the cafÃ©, Jackalope has a solid foundation, crafting Metropolis beans into above-average lattes. My drink, a product of the barista lesson, was excellent–strong hot espresso capped by a thin layer of tight foam. For those who prefer their coffee flavored, the seasonal pumpkin latte serves up fall flavor without a cloying aftertaste. Another fall special, caramel apple cider, teeters on the brink of tooth-aching sugariness, but, like the carnival treat it emulates, is balanced by a burst of tart apple. Still, a serious sweet tooth is required to make it through a full cup.
The pastry case, filled with offerings from the nearby Bridgeport Bakery, yielded a personal-sized pumpkin tart whose flaky crust and hearty filling made for a sweet breakfast. Less satisfying was a slightly saggy croissant that lacked trademark lightness or sheen. The clear star was the simple, delicious bacon bun–a fluffy, slightly sweet pastry housing a fistful of chewy, thick-cut shards of savory bacon. Brought home and drizzled with maple syrup, a leftover bun had my taste buds humming.
Tucked just off of Halsted on 32nd Street, Jackalope is the sort of place one can imagine becoming a neighborhood institution. Indeed, during their short tenure they’ve strived to engage the local community. The store’s Facebook page is almost as busy as the shop itself. Posts promote new additions and feature shout-outs to other local businesses, while patrons and friends chime in with enthusiastic reviews. Of the dozen or so customers that came in during my first visit, almost all were greeted by name. The warm welcome accorded to strangers and new regulars alike is enough to make one feel like an honorary Bridgeporter.
I exited the shop into midmorning sun, after catching a “Have a good one!” from behind the counter. As I strolled down the sidewalk, a gangly, grey-haired patron hummed, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” as he unlocked his bicycle.
Jackalope Coffee & Tea House, 755 W 32nd St. Monday-Friday, 6.30am-7.30pm; Saturday 7am-7pm; Sunday 8am-6pm. (312)888-3468. jackalopecoffee.com