Mental Spaces–Cortado

Hello, my beautiful humans of honors! I’m so sorry that my food & bev blogs have been on hiatus. With our social media pages gaining so much traffic (thanks, to you all!) in the last few months, our Outreach Team has been quite busy–but you don’t need my excuses. This blog is back to the basics: coffee shops. That means, oh yes, I get to go into Coffee Talk mode, à la Linda Richman. Let’s get to it.


Welcome to Coffee Talk, I’m ya host, Katie Kiesewetter. On today’s blog, we’re going to talk about the newest member of Iowa City’s café society: Cortado.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, Iowa City is home to many amazing coffee shops, and we each have our own favorites. Because I frequent the Northside for work and for play, I have a steamy affair with High Ground Café. HowEVER, that doesn’t mean I don’t cheat on my London Fog or Iced Muchacho every once in a while. Sorry, babies…

Ugh, I’m getting a little verklempt.


Talk amongst yourselves–I’ll give you a topic: “Fox News is Neither a Fox Nor News.” Discuss.

There I’m better.

I visited Cortado with my little schnuckums last Saturday. We were downtown early in the morning so I could get some solid exposures for a photography assignment. We desperately needed some caffeine. Upon ordering, we knew this place was legit because Nathan always asks for a Cuban-style macchiato or cappuccino. Java House can do it. High Ground can do it. Starbucks asks if you want it upside-down (not a real thing), room for cream (never necessary), and heaven forbid a size bigger than a small, WHICH IS NOT A REAL THING FOR A CAPPUCCINO OR MACCHIATO.


Anyway, the gentleman who served us was a supreme barista, and he used to work with a few of my friends at the Waterstreet Coffee Bar before it closed. He knew. He knew the Cuban-style.


I, myself, was a bit basic that morning; instead of my classic black light roast, I tried their vanilla latte. As you can see, I was busy working on sending Valentine cards to my family, so the vanilla wasn’t too far off of what I was trying to achieve. Also, yes, those are Charlie Brown Christmas stamps… Stamps are radically expensive if you think about it, so I’m not about to update them seasonally when I’ve got a perfectly good booklet featuring my boy, Snoop.

Some of you are probably wondering where the name ‘Cortado’ comes from. I did, too. One of the aforementioned friends from Waterstreet told me it is a drink. Instead of attempting to summarize some jargon, here is a gift from Wikipedia: A cortado is a beverage that consists of espresso coffee mixed with a roughly equal amount of warm milk to reduce the acidity. Importantly, the milk in a cortado is generally not frothy or foamy, but more dense. Wonderful. I didn’t try it, but their reviews are spectacular.

It’s V cute inside. I’m always a fan of big type painted on walls, and those red and gold stools are seriously to die for. If I were a faster runner, I might have stolen them. (That sounds bad, doesn’t it?) Luckily, my soft, non-athletic, pudding body does not allow for a top speed over that of a light jog, so your stools are safe, Cortado.

If you’re hungry, Cortado does offer a good spread of sandwiches and salads as well as breakfast items. Their pastries are amazing. Unlike many, Cortado makes an authentic, French-style ‘pan au chocolat.’ What everyone is really buzzing about, though, are the butter croissants. They are the authentic, flaky, giant things of the streets of Italy, and if you are a pudding-bodied pastry fan like me, you must lightly jog as fast as you can to get one.

The atmosphere was buzzing. Lots of people were there to chat and hang out. At the very back of the café was a group of guys watching some serious fútbol. All-in-all, this place offered some glorious people-watching opportunities for a creeper like me. Additionally, because Cortado is in a historic downtown building, the ceilings are high and the floors are wooden. That means, my quiet little mice, you studious Honorables with “no-noise” study preferences better stick to campus libraries or the Blank Honors Center if you’ve got to get things done silently.

I have heard some rumors that WiFi is not available at Cortado based on the principle that a lot of people use coffee shops only for WiFi and do not purchase more than a $1 beverage. (I’m looking at you, couch loiterer near the back of Java House scrolling through Facebook for five hours and only drinking water…) Whether you’re for or against this principle (and whether or not this fact is even true), a café without internet offers a nice screenless atmosphere to study and write.


Taking a turn for the academic, after my letter-writing was finished, Nathan and I studied a bit for our midterm exam for Paris & the Art and Urban Life (sans internet, of course). This class is one of the best I’ve taken in a very long time. Co-taught by John Beldon-Scott, the Director of the School of Art & Art History, and Jack Johnson, a lecturer in the French department, this course covers the architectural, cultural, and artistic history of Paris. I’m taking it for one of my upper-level art history requirements, and Nate’s got it in the books for his French minor. The course itself is taught as a long lecture in Art Building West, but Professors Johnson and Scott have been to Paris so many times that they each have adorable anecdotes of all the things they’ve seen and done. It’s honestly a lot of fun. Not to mention, Professor Johnson has such a subtle romantic way about him when he reminisces about the times he’s been to Paris with his wife, Professor Dorothy Johnson, who was the instructor for my Mona Lisa to Modernism course two years ago. Amazing. Great guys. Great couple. 10/10, do take.

Back to Cortado, I’ve got another little hidden detail to share that you won’t be able to see unless you take a trip to the bathroom. I found this photo when I was browsing their Facebook for some background info:


They wrote, “EVERYBODY is welcome here.” Great. Job. I love inclusive businesses. I love gender neutral bathrooms. I love Cortado. #LoveTrumpsHate

I’ve noticed that Cortado’s business hours have changed a bit as the weeks go by. This is common for young businesses, so instead of putting something semi-permanent in this blog, I’ll just send you to their Facebook:

Do give this place a try. With their location right downtown at 28 S. Clinton, it’s super convenient to stop in if you are coming from / going to class at Van Allen Hall, Phillips Hall, or anywhere on the Pentacrest. Go enjoy the gorgeous lighting and tasty drinks!


Basic Rundown:

Style- Casual, Bright, Metropolitan Café
Food/Drinks- Coffee & Espresso; Breakfast: Parfaits & Sandwiches; Lunch: Sandwiches & Salads; Pastries
Pricing- Very Cheap! Everything >$10
Location- Downtown
Accommodations- Great Lighting / Cute Décor / Gender Neutral Bathrooms
Ideal Mental Space for- Breakfast or Lunch with Friends, Exam Studying,  Writing, COFFEE & ESPRESSO DRINKS


I have to go and watch a Barbara Streisand movie now. Oh, Barbara. Her legs are like buttah. I’ll see you next time on Coffee Talk… I mean, Note to Self.


by Katie Kiesewetter, Junior

Areas of Study: English; Studio Art (Graphic Design); Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies

Hometown: Farmington, IL


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