Inside the world’s biggest Starbucks, a magical ‘coffee theme park’ with five floors

The biggest Starbucks in the world just opened up in Chicago, Illinois.

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The biggest Starbucks in the world just opened up in Chicago, Illinois.
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Lara Walsh

  • Starbucks opened its biggest location in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday, November 15.
  • The Reserve Roastery has five special floors that feature specialty coffee drinks, coffee-infused cocktails, pastries, and pizzas.
  • The building has giant copper structures, a curved escalator, and a rooftop bar.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Friday, November 15, Starbucks opened its biggest storefront to date in Chicago, Illinois.

The giant roastery has five special floors (including a seasonal rooftop) and just about everything, from coffee cocktails to gourmet pastries.

Here’s a look inside the world’s biggest Starbucks location.


I visited before the Starbucks officially opened to the public, so all of the windows were covered with paper.

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This location is much bigger than the one in New York.
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Lara Walsh

The building sits on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Erie Street and it’s Starbucks’ biggest location yet at 35,000 square feet.

This is the chain’s sixth Reserve Roastery, with five others located in Seattle, Shanghai, Tokyo, Milan, and New York.


The building used to be a furniture store, but it has been almost entirely transformed.

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I’ve been to this building in the past.
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Lara Walsh

This building used to house a multi-story furniture shop that I’d been to before, so I recognized the floor-to-ceiling windows and central escalator – but everything else looked different.


My first impression was that it looked like a cross between a coffee theme park and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

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There were coffee beans and copper everywhere.
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Lara Walsh

As soon as I stepped inside, I was overwhelmed by the smell of freshly ground coffee and the large crowds of people rapidly ordering pastries and coffees from the Reserve’s bar area.


The middle of the room is filled with glass, copper, and coffee beans.

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This spot has an ultra-modern design that’s unique to the Windy City location.
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Lara Walsh

Set in the middle of the room, the bar offers multiple points of access for its coffee-loving patrons, which I’m guessing will help spread out and manage the amount of foot traffic from the street.


The bar also has a few displays of breakfast and lunch items.

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I saw croissant sandwiches and granola right away.
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Lara Walsh

There are countless glass-covered displays of mouthwatering pastries, cakes, sandwiches, and even a build-a-bowl granola bar from the Starbucks’ Reserve food partner, the Milan-based Princi Bakery.


The first floor definitely looks like it’s made for on-the-go customers or tourists who are popping in for a quick bite.

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There isn’t a lot of seating on the first floor.
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Lara Walsh

On this level, you can order handcrafted coffee beverages and grab-and-go foods, which is pretty convenient for those who are just stopping by.

There’s also a takeout-style scooping bar for coffee beans if you want to bring any of the blends home.


The centerpiece of the Reserve has to be the giant copper-clad casks in the middle of the building.

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I think they give the whole space a very Willy Wonka-esque feel.
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Lara Walsh

In the far-right corner of the space, a group of roasters were tending to a large copper coffee roaster that is connected to a set of six giant coffee-bean chambers.

These chambers house all of the beans the location is currently brewing and they go up through the Reserve’s five stories.


I could also hear and see coffee beans shooting through clear pipes throughout the building when I looked up.

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There was a magical conveyor belt of pastries, too.
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Lara Walsh

The lead designer of the roastery, Jill Enomoto, told Insider that the clear tubes that run through the building are meant to allow customers to hear and see the coffee as it is transported throughout the Reserve location.

At the back of the shop, there’s also a whimsical glass conveyor belt of sorts where you can watch baked goods and other items move around the building.


Near the roaster, there’s also an entire limited-edition merchandise collection.

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Some items cost thousands of dollars.
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Lara Walsh

All Starbucks Reserve locations feature some city-specific merchandise that visitors can purchase, and the Chicago stop is no different.


There was hand-painted merchandise for sale, too.

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Many of the items were dedicated to Chicago.
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Lara Walsh

In addition to shirts, letterman jackets, and mugs, local artist Mac Blackout also hand-painted two one-of-a-kind boom boxes (which cost $1,000 to $1,200) and a $6,500 La Marzocco Linea Mini Espresso Machine.


To get to the second floor, I took the escalator, which is an architectural anomaly in itself.

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The curved escalator is incredibly unique.
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Lara Walsh

The copper coffee chambers are encircled by the curved escalator, which wraps around and leads the eye all the way up to the skylight at the top of the fourth floor.

While on the escalator, I was able to get a better look at the architecture of the building, which is designed to draw the eye upward.

The ceiling panels, which are arranged in a circular pattern, go from light green to dark green, giving the optical illusion that the ceiling is rising.


The second floor — the Princi Bakery and Cafe — was very relaxed.

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The second floor had even more food.
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Lara Walsh

This area had the Princi pastries I saw on the first floor, but with many additional menu options and way more places to sit.

The Milan-based Princi, which also supplies food to other Reserve locations, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, including pizza, salad, and pasta.


There were glass cases of pastries everywhere I looked.

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There was plenty of seating up here, too.
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Lara Walsh

The vibe was visibly different on the second floor, with much more seating, artwork on the walls, and a generally more relaxed atmosphere for people wanting a slower-paced meal.

All of the savory and sweet goods are baked in-house daily, and you can watch the bakers in action because of the floor’s open-concept kitchen and visible ovens.


I tried a few different treats, both sweet and savory.

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The pastries were arranged in neat rows.
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Lara Walsh

I ordered the chocolatey Princina Tart, a tiramisu cup, an impossibly flaky croissant sandwich filled with 20-month-aged prosciutto from Parma, and a buttery croissant with jam.


Everything I tried was delicious, but I especially enjoyed the croissants.

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There were many pastries available.
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Lara Walsh

Princi already has a stand-alone location in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, and I recommend anything that’s served on a pastry as they have some of the flakiest croissants I’ve ever eaten.


The third floor was filled with fun experiences and large crowds.

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In my opinion, this floor had the strongest theme-park vibes.
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Lara Walsh

As soon as I arrived on the third floor, I felt like I was in a coffee theme park of sorts.

The entire third floor of the building is marketed as an “experiential coffee bar,” and a placard on the wall states that this floor is completely dedicated to the “art, science, and theater of coffee.”

I immediately saw baristas showing off a ton of different brewing methods including espresso, pour-over, coffee press, siphon, Chemex, Clover, and cold brewing.

The first thing to catch my eye was a theatrical demonstration of a barista preparing coffee using a siphon, which uses vapor pressure and heat.


The floor’s coolest feature might be the liquid-nitrogen-infused gelato bar.

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It looked like there was magic happening behind the counter.
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Lara Walsh

This station has workers infuse gelato with liquid nitrogen by hand and make a dramatic spectacle of the process with clouds of white vapor. Apparently this process creates a smooth, creamy ice cream without ice crystals.

The affogato station is on the opposite side of the heat-focused siphon station, making for a cool “fire and ice” contrast.


Before going to the fourth floor, I sampled siphon-brewed coffee and chocolate flights.

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Some menus let you sample chocolate-and-coffee pairings.
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Lara Walsh

One of my favorite experiences on the third floor was doing the coffee equivalent of a wine-and cheese-tasting, mouth swirling and sniffing included.

You can even order an entire siphon-brewed flight with curated corresponding chocolates to make it a whole experience.


I made my way to the fourth floor, where I immediately loved the natural light.

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The hallway area was incredibly bright.
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Lara Walsh

Due to the natural light coming in through the clear ceiling, the fourth floor was a lot brighter than the other ones.


The fourth floor’s big draw is the Arriviamo Bar, which pays homage to the Windy City with exclusive cocktails and local ingredients.

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The fourth floor has boozy options.
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Lara Walsh

After all of the spirit-free tastings, I headed to the fourth floor to check out the boozy offerings at Starbucks’ Arriviamo Bar, which is the second in the US (the other one is in New York City).

The menu has five Chicago-exclusive cocktails that are infused with cold brew, coffee, and tea. They cost around $14 to $16 each.


In addition to having specialty cocktails, the bar also serves local liquors.

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There are so many Chicago exclusives on the menu.
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Lara Walsh

The Roastery is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and until 11 p.m. during the week, so I could definitely see myself lounging here with a cocktail after a long day.

And, as a resident of Chicago, I was surprised to see several local libations on the menu, like the Rhine Hall Bierschnaps and the divisive liquor Malört.


I was also really excited to see Starbucks’ first barrel-aged coffee bar.

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If you’re planning a visit in the near future, I’d be prepared for long lines and big crowds.
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Lara Walsh

This part of the bar serves eight alcohol-free beverages that are exclusive to Chicago.

The spirit-free beverages all start with Guatemalan beans aged in Knob Creek Whiskey barrels, giving them a hint of whiskey flavor with none of the ABV percentage.

Some of the drinks you can order include a Minted Cold Brew (which is inspired by a mint julep) as well as a Smoked Old Fashion, a cold brew that’s infused with bitters then smoked with apple chips.

There is also a small gift section in the corner where you can purchase barrel-aged coffee beans or a DIY cold-brew kit.


I could sort of see the rooftop bar when I looked up, but it’s not open yet.

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The rooftop bar will probably be open in the spring when it’s warmer outside.
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Lara Walsh

Next to the elevator was a sign advertising the fifth-floor rooftop bar, which offers views of Michigan Avenue.

Unfortunately, it’s only open seasonally, meaning that Chicago residents and tourists will probably have to wait until the spring to take advantage of it.

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