Visiting The World’s Largest Starbuck’s: The Chicago Roastery

March 6, 2020

When I heard that Starbucks was building a massive new customer experience called the Starbucks Roastery Chicago, I wasn’t sure what to think.  On the one hand, I’m not generally a fan of overly touristy experiences, or crowds.  On the other hand, I love good coffee and foodie experiences in general.  So COLOR ME INTRIGUED.

So on one of my recent work trips to Chicago, @sjems5 and I decided to swing by the new world’s largest Starbucks.  I saw an article calling it a “coffee theme park”, which made me laugh…and it’s not wrong.  Doesn’t mean it’s bad, either.

Amazing whiskey barrel-aged cold brew at Starbucks Roastery

Read my entire Chicago food & drink guide here!

What is Starbucks Roastery?

At 35,000 feet, this Chicago store is Starbucks’ largest in the WORLD.  Yeah, let that sink in…

The store’s five floors include amazing coffee (duh), interesting cocktails, locally-made chocolates and baked goods, retail, and more.  It opened in November 2019 on the famous Michigan Avenue, and has drawn crazy crowds and a lot of press since then.

We visited on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when (thankfully) the crowds weren’t quite as nuts…meaning there were no lines.  Side note:  We parked in the general vicinity but didn’t realize that they do discounted parking nearby…just make sure to get your ticket validated (more info here).

We visited on a cold but beautiful Chicago night, dodging snowflakes and basking in the twinkling lights lining the streets.

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What to do there

You could spend quite a bit of time exploring the whole thing, though we really only were coming for a drink.  I’ve shared a few of the things you should see or do on your visit, and then at the end talk about whether I think this is a “must-visit”.

Explore the different levels

There are five levels to the store, each offering something a little different.

The first floor is retail, as well as a more simple coffee bar.  The second floor has Italian baked goods from Princi, and they look so good!  The third floor has an Experiential Coffee Bar, with fascinating drinks that make it look like a mad scientist’s laboratory.

It was late when we visited, so we made our way to the bar on the fourth floor instead, for a cocktail.  There is a fifth floor rooftop bar, but only open when weather allows.  Since we were visiting in December in Chicago, that was a definite no-go.

Welcome to the world's largest Starbucks

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Goggle at the giant copper “cask”

The Chicago Roastery will be small-batch roasting some of the rarest coffees that the company has from all over the world, and any coffee roasted here will only be served at this location (and you can buy some to take home if you want).

The centerpiece of the entire experience is a 56-foot “cask” with copper tubes that allows the beans to rest after roasting, and moves the beans between floors.  It really is quite majestic (though difficult to get a good angle on for pictures).

What it's like visiting Starbucks Roastery in Chicago...the largest Starbucks in the world! I decided to give it a try, and provide my thoughts on whether it's worth a visit. From awesome cocktails to the pastries, small-batch roasted coffee, rooftop bar, and more, there's a lot to see! Starbucks Reserve store in Chicago USA #starbucks #chicago

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Have a delicious (likely caffeinated) cocktail

Since we’d just stuffed ourselves at the giant Time Out Market, we were in the mood for a cocktail.  So we rode the curved escalator up to the fourth floor and bellied up to the Arriviamo Bar.

Having a cocktail at Arriviamo, the bar in the world's largest Starbucks

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@sjems5 couldn’t resist their Irish Coffee, which you assemble yourself.  I went with their Roastery Old Fashioned (which included, naturally, some coffee).  Both were delish!!

A DIY Irish coffee at the bar...the world's largest Starbucks (Starbucks Roastery Chicago)

A cocktail in the world's largest Starbucks...what to do in Chicago

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We also accidentally were served someone else’s drink (which we mistook for the Irish Coffee at first)…I think it was the Brandy Corretto, and it was also great.

Drinks at Arriviamo, the bar at the Starbucks Roastery Chicago

What to do in Chicago - have a drink at the Starbucks Roastery Chicago

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Taste the unique whiskey-barrel cold brew

As we sat there sipping our drinks, we overheard our neighbors losing their minds over what they were drinking.  Nosy things that we are, @sjems5 and I asked them what was up, and they told us that they had ordered the whiskey barrel-aged cold brew and that it was AMAZING.

Despite the fact that we were so full that we could barely breathe, we couldn’t pass that up and ordered our own to share.  And WHOA was it good.  Delicate, cool, kind of a round and creamy mouth-feel, with a slight hint of sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the coffee.  Heaven in a glass. 

It’s a good thing I don’t live nearby, because I would be spending way too much money on this!

Trying the amazing whiskey barrel-aged cold brew at the Starbucks Roastery

So is the Starbucks Roastery Chicago a must-visit??

Obviously I didn’t get to experience *everything* that the store has to offer, and so I like the idea of trying different pieces over time.  For me it was kind of sensory overload, even on a less-crowded night.  But I’m an intense introvert so that’s not out of the ordinary 🙂

I thought that the cocktails were excellent, and I want that barrel-aged cold-brew IN MY LIFE ALL THE TIME.  Seriously, so good!  I’d love to go back and try the pastries as well.

Overall I think it’s worth a visit, particularly if you can manage to go at an off-time rather than waiting in line.  If you only have a couple days in Chicago and it’s your first time, I don’t think this would be on the “must-do” list, but for a longer or return visit it’s definitely got a lot to offer!

beautify Chicago winter night

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Have you visited the Starbucks Roastery in Chicago?  If so, I’d love to know what your favorite things to eat and drink are…because I’m sure there’s a return visit in my future!

Other dreamy coffee experiences you’ll love:

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What it's like visiting Starbucks Roastery in Chicago...the largest Starbucks in the world! I decided to give it a try, and provide my thoughts on whether it's worth a visit. From awesome cocktails to the pastries, small-batch roasted coffee, rooftop bar, and more, there's a lot to see! Starbucks Reserve store in Chicago USA #starbucks #chicago

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