By: Anthony Brousseau
Walk into the newest Caribou Coffee location (or drive through the, well, drive thru) on Vernon Avenue and you won’t see your old favorites on the menu. Don’t worry, though—they’re there. But this Caribou is all about what’s new—and the menu highlights a variety of fresh offerings.
"If you walk in here, we want you to know what we have that others don't," Caribou innovation execution manager Gretchen Hashemi-Rad says. "We're going to serve regular drinks and what you can get at any other Caribou, but here's what you can't get anywhere else."
It starts with the food. New grab and go options include two flavors of overnight oats (the first time Caribou has offered the trendy breakfast option) and two fruit and veggie smoothies blended fresh on-site every day.
“It’s literally only fruit and/or vegetables blended in there,” Hashemi-Rad says.
Those items, as well as new Greek yogurt parfaits, are exclusive to the Vernon Avenue location—at least for now. The store is also the first Caribou to offer bottled kombucha.
Courtesy of Caribou Coffee
There’s more than just grab and go options, though. In the bakery, the highlight is a coffee shop staple finally coming to Caribou—donuts. Three flavors are on offer—glazed, chocolate and blueberry. The glazed are frosted in-house every morning.
“We’re selling a lot of donuts. It’s very exciting,” Hashemi-Rad says. “We’re looking to expand those into some additional stores soon because they’re doing very, very well here.”
And for those who aren’t early risers, the new location has three exclusive lunch sandwiches, made fresh every day. The highlight of the new offerings is the caprese on focaccia, hand-assembled by Caribou’s staff with arugula, tomatoes and a pesto spread that’s made in-house. A turkey provolone bagel and ham and swiss croissant round out the midday menu.
But the reason Minnesota loves Caribou is the coffee, and there are some exciting offerings on the drink menu as well. While not exclusive to this new location, three infused cold press drinks can be found only at a handful of Caribou stores right now. Blackberry sea salt, cocoa orange and chocolate almond flavors are offered in a nitro or still option—order the nitro for a smoother drink, while the still option will satisfy your sweet tooth. Caribou employees say the blackberry sea salt pairs particularly well with a splash of oat milk, which is also exclusive to this store.
Caribou uses nitro technology unlike that of any other coffee shop, according to Hashemi-Rad. Instead of tanks or kegs, Caribou’s taps utilize an "instant infusion" that provides a consistent "velvety, smooth texture," she says.
If you want something a little on the lighter side, try the Nitro Draft Mocha or Nitro High Rise, two "super indulgent" drinks, according to Hashemi-Rad.
Once you’ve filled up on coffee and sandwiches, this Caribou has a dessert option no other one does—local favorite Izzy’s Ice Cream. In addition to cups of vanilla, chocolate and Midnight Graham Crunch, as well as an ice cream sandwich, the two Minnesotan companies collaborated on a series of coffee-ice cream fusions. Affogato (espresso poured over ice cream), cold press shakes and a nitro cold press float will satiate any connoisseur of cold confections.
“We’re really excited, they’re really excited,” Hashemi-Rad says. “They’ve been wanting to do stuff with Caribou for a while and we’ve been wanting to do ice cream forever.”
Many of the new menu items—those exclusive to this location and others widely available, like gluten-free breakfast sandwiches—were a direct response to customer feedback, according to Hashemi-Rad.
"Through customer service, through social media, through our own family members, through friends and family that are like, 'Why don't you have this?'" she says.
And since the store opened for business in late March, the customer feedback has been largely positive, according to Hashemi-Rad.
“It’s been great so far, and it feels weird maybe to say that when we haven’t really officially opened, but it’s been great,” she says.