Exploring The Great River Road Part I: Maevas Coffee, Alton, Illinois

Driving to new places alone still fills me with anxiety. The payoff, though, is those moments where I find myself standing in the midst of something beautiful or staring at a landscape that fills me with wonder. Something inside of me feels like it grows a little bit bigger or something. I can’t quantify this feeling or put a monetary value on it, but it’s so worth chasing.

This weekend, I cruised down the Great River Road to Alton, Illinois and then to Grafton. Driving the Great River Road felt wild. Towering limestone bluffs lined one side of the road, while the wide river flowed along the other. The road was smooth and wide and the river curved and glittered. I felt like I was transported somewhere far, far away.

Motorcycles and fancy little sports cars passed me on the left. Soon enough I’d catch up with them around the next bend when I found them pulling off from the side of the road to take a photo or pause for a view of the river. We all had the same idea.

Before I hit the river road, I researched places to stop for food.

Blogger @Chibbqking, who has explored the stretch of the Great River Road in Southern Illinois, shared with me a post in which he tries fried Buffalo fish at O’Jan’s Fish Stand in Grafton. His blog post also mentions a fish stand down the street called Beasley. Combined with his advice, the STL Magazine article “A River Runs Through It: A Dozen Spots Along The Great River Road,” and TripAdvisor reviews, I had a rough itinerary.

Before I reached the Great River Road, I stopped at Maevas Coffee, Alton’s only independent coffee shop.

MAEVAS COFFEE

Maeva's outside

As I drove through a quiet neighborhood and pulled into a gravel parking lot lined by resting party busses, I wondered if my GPS had led me astray. Then, I saw it; the sign for Maevas above a doorway of a big brick building. Yup, I was in the right place. I saw several families pull into parking spots and head inside.

The split-level entryway glittered with artwork and mosaics and smelled of essential oils drifting up from an aromatherapy studio downstairs.

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Walk upstairs and find the coffee shop on your right. The hallway running alongside the coffee shop, bathrooms, and other studio/office spaces is also decorated with artwork. I admired this Little Free Library across from Maevas.

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Everywhere I turned I noticed something unexpected. A knight in shining armor guarded the corner, a little pet bed sat next to a small desk, and barnacles decorated the toilet.

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While I waited to order my drink, I admired the big glowing salt lamp near the register and candy sugar skulls for sale.

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Maevas includes the Dirty Chai Latte on their menu and I knew we going to get along just fine. It’s my favorite coffee drink in the whole world. Oftentimes, I have to request it as a chai tea latte with a shot of espresso.

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The drink tasted a little spicy and not too sweet. I knew there no way this was a boxed chai mix. My suspicions were confirmed when I checked their menu online and read about how they make the chai concentrate from black tea and spices.

Maevas posted an update in early March about their efforts to transition from commercial flavor syrups to scratch-made. In fact, the same woman who creates their soups and quiches also makes the syrups. The little cheese tarts seemed like a steal at $3.75. Even people following gluten-free or vegan diets could find a treat from the bakery case.

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I regretfully passed on the pastries in an effort to save my appetite for lunch, knowing I’d be back again for one.

In conclusion, Maevas is truly one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever visited. The entire building is enchantingly decorated, the homemade pastries are beautiful, and the coffee drinks are made with care. Even though the baristas take coffee and tea very seriously, they aren’t pretentious. An establishment could serve the best food and beverages, but if they’re served really pretentiously, I’ll think twice before returning. Here, I felt very comfortable sitting for a while.

Maevas is going to be par for the course now, anytime we head towards the Great River Road.

Next / Exploring The Great River Road Part II: Buffalo Fish at Beasley Fish in Grafton, Illinois. 

Update 6.17.2016
I returned for more. The seasonal Iced Strawberry Tamarin latte is a beverage I think about every day. I’ve never tasted anything like it. What makes it really special is the flavor of Maeva’s house-made syrup made with strawberry puree, smokey bergamot, and balsamic vinegar. It sounds really, really bizarre. Somehow it all works. The latte is sweet, but not too sweet, and sweet with fresh strawberry.

maeva's Collage

I also tried one of their quiches. The barista warned me that it would take about 15-minutes to heat. He popped it in a small convection oven. The quiche’s crust is buttery and flaky. I loved the sweet and savory flavors of the sausage and what tasted like little bits of apricot. At under $5, it’s a steal.

5 Comments

  1. I am going to love this series! Thanks for sharing a fabulous place with me. I love the sugar skulls—-what a fun thing!

  2. I love the quaintness of Alton and bummed I didn’t stop at Maevas and even more bummed that my in-laws aren’t in the area anymore so I could do exploring with you!!

  3. I agree that if a place feels right & service is good, the food doesn’t have to be the best ever. Looks like a fun coffee shop.

  4. What a fun stop! I can’t believe that Maevas is the only independent owned coffee shop in Illinois! That seems crazy to me. I wonder why there aren’t more? I’m a chai fan as well so I’d love to try their version sometime. And you know I love their Little Free Library! I’m looking forward to your series along The Great River Road 🙂

    • Thanks Val! It’s actually the only independent one in Alton. Coffee Cat’s chai is so good. It tastes similar to theirs.

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