Hello there, coffee enthusiasts, and welcome to my table here in the corner of Blue Max Coffee in Forest Park, Illinois. I trust that you were able to find the place okay. At least you won’t have to battle eight inches of snow, which fell over the course of a handful hours, like I had to do last Friday while I was here the first time. Honestly, I was inside Blue Max Coffee for only two and a half hours and, in that time frame, about five inches of snow buried my car in the parking lot. Then, of course, it took me about four hours to get back into the city (normally a 15 minute drive from Forest Park).
The things I do for coffee…
Regardless, I made it home safe enough to come back today to do this review! Care to join me? Feel free to pull up a chair.
Blue Max Coffee got its start about six years ago in Forest Park, one of Chicago’s nearest suburbs and easiest CTA Blue Line destinations. It was originally founded by the husband and wife duo of Lou and Liz Doyle and quickly became a favorite among Forest Parkers. In September of 2008, the Doyles sold their business to local entrepreneur and blossoming coffee aficionado, Terry Griffin. Since then, he has expanded the roasting operation considerably and has been doggedly determined to make Blue Max a staple in the Chicago coffee scene. He even hopes to one day compete with some of the city’s biggest roasters, like Metropolis, Bridgeport Coffee Company, Asado, and Dark Matter.
The other thing that Griffin made a priority was retraining all of the baristas in the finer points of coffee. This has been an ongoing process; just last week, he found this website and contacted me to inquire about coffee professionals coming out to his shop to help him train his baristas in latte art. He was even interested in having me come out to do cuppings with his staff and customers – which you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be doing one of these Saturdays in the next couple of months.
That was the thing that impressed me most about Blue Max – that determination shown by the owner. When Terry contacted me, I had honestly never heard of Blue Max so I thought it was a new business; I was actually surprised when I learned that they’ve been around for so long. When Terry Griffin took over the reins of Blue Max back in 2008, he wasn’t content with just owning a coffee company (a longstanding goal of his) – he wanted Blue Max to be the absolute best it could possibly be, and even now, three years into his ownership and seven years into the business’s existence, he is still striving to make Blue Max the absolute best in Chicago.
And, I’ll be honest here, after tasting a couple of their roasts, I have to admit that they stand a legitimate shot – maybe not at being the absolute greatest coffee roaster in all of Chicago, but at least being one of the best.
So I suppose this is the reason I was so surprised when I walked into Blue Max the first time – if it hadn’t been for the drum roaster sitting in the corner of the room, and for the bags of coffee adorning one of the shelves, I would have thought I was in the wrong place. It seemed to me, at first, that Blue Max wasn’t very serious about coffee because of the strong focus on being a proper restaurant. There’s a hostess, a wait staff, a full-service kitchen – the works!
I’ve had a bad experience with a lot of cafes I’ve been to over the course of this website because I went to a place under the impression that it was a coffee shop, only to be surprised by them being a restaurant instead. The best example I can think of is Kopi, in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood; this cafe props themselves up as a coffee-focused company, even featuring a coffee mug in their logo. I was shocked when I walked in and discovered that it was more of a restaurant and that they only had two coffees to choose from – their regular and their decaf.
Blue Max seemed to be the same way at first glance.
However, it has been my brief interactions with the owner, Terry Griffin, and his staff, and the quality of the couple of coffees I sampled (an El Salvador and an Ethiopia) that made me realize that Blue Max is truly the full package: great coffee and great food, combining for a great experience. The fact that all of their coffees are fair-trade and organic certified is an added bonus.
I’m very eager to see how much more Terry is going to transform this humble little suburban coffee operation – he’s off to a great start. If you’d like to learn more about Blue Max, visit their website; if you’d like to learn more about teaching his baristas in the finer points of coffee (specifically latte art), click your way over to one of my previous posts.