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With Uptown’s Reserve Bar, Starbucks Takes on Craft Coffee

The Seattle company opened the first Texas outpost of its Reserve Bar chain in the McKinney & Olive tower in Uptown. Here's what you can expect.

It’s 5:50 a.m. and there are already a few people gathered outside this new Starbucks store in the McKinney and Olive building in Uptown. It’s Texas’ first Reserve Bar, complete with expensive espresso machines and Chemex brews and $25 cold brew growler refills. Ryan, who asked to not use his last name, said he’d been waiting for the opening since 4:15 a.m.

“It’s on my walk to work so I stopped one day and asked when they were opening, figured this morning I would stop by,” he said.

It’s the Seattle conglomerate’s latest way to eat into the coffee market, which is, especially in urban centers, rapidly being redefined by upscale local chains. An outpost of Ascension Coffee, for instance, is less than a quarter mile away at the Crescent. Coffee has its craft moment. The 3,100 square foot store feels more industrial and open than a standard Starbucks, the dark woods of the counter tops and the metal fixtures bathing in warm lighting. When the sun comes up, it will flood in through the building’s sprawling windows.

A Starbucks Reserve barista gets a flight of coffees ready. (Photo: Nancy Hernandez)

The Uptown location is the latest addition to the micro-chain of 25 other Reserve Bars throughout the country. They are variations of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which opened its doors in Seattle in 2014. A Starbucks spokesperson said the immersive coffee bars are an attempt to create a more interactive and educational experience between the baristas and customers. But it’s also something of a show—take the siphon brew, a dual-chambered vacuum method of brewing coffee— that dates back to the 1830s, mind you—which essentially uses vapor and gravity to brew the coffee. There is also the $11,000 Clover machine, designed by Stanford engineers, which acts as a sort of French press-cum-vacuum pot. A flight of three eight-ounce glasses of the Clover-brewed reserve coffees will set you back $10.

Customers can also opt for more straightforward coffee brewing methods like a pourover. Also available: The Seattle Roastery specialty coffees, only available here, and, yes, even standard offerings like a caramel macchiato. Know your audience, after all.

A spokesperson wouldn’t comment about revenue projections, but Business Insider reports each Starbucks Reserve store makes about double a typical location. Usually, that translates to around $3 million in annual sales. The coffee chain plans to operate 20 percent of their stores with a Reserve bar by 2021. A second Starbucks Reserve bar is expected to open in the Plano Legacy West Urban Village developments, and another has been confirmed in Austin. But Uptown’s first location is open now, and you probably don’t need to get there at 4 a.m. to get a cup, either.

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