Big joy at Little Joy
by Jack Coyne
Northfield isn’t, and has never been, a static place. During my four years at Carleton, this sleepy college town has seen a number of significant changes, altering the fabric of the community in both big and small ways. From Econo’s metamorphosis into Family Fare to the Reub’s unexpected closing, the Malt-o-Meal purchase to the Chapati fire, Northfield has seen its fair share of shakeups.
Coming back from two terms off-campus, I found myself in a Northfield I at once recognized, missed, and adored, as well as a Northfield marked by subtle changes I’ve had a strange time adjusting to. One little change making a big difference has been the opening of a new coffee shop at 300 Division Street, right next to campus and just a minute’s walk from the Weitz.
Little Joy Coffee opened its doors this past June, while most students were off campus. With my three years in Northfield behind me, I couldn’t help but feel suspicious of the new cafe, sandwiched between Northfield landmarks such as Chapati and the Cow.
In my first few days back in Northfield, I’d gotten word of the new coffee place from a few friends. One of my sources, another senior, was equally skeptical of the cafe. We’d both spent our time as underclassmen alternating between the Hideaway and Blue Monday. My initial impulse was to stand my ground, refuse to give in. I’d already chosen my prefered Northfield caffeine stop, and traditions die hard.
From the outside, Little Joy can seem intimidating. Coming from Los Angeles, I recognized the boho-chic energy the cafe is designed to give off, and I felt transported back to the West Hollywood cafes where I spent the later days of my summer hiding from the August heat. I have to admit, part of me was excited for the familiarity.
But another part of me dreaded that the modern had made its way to little Northfield. I liked the quaintness of the Hideaway, the quirkiness of Blue Monday. Little Joy, with its open concept coffee bar, elevated menu, complete with white wood on exposed brick aesthetic, felt like an aberration for this Midwestern town. I asked my friend if he thought it’d be any good, and with a shrug he just said “nah.”
But I had to try it. As much as I was suspicious of Little Joy, I was equally attracted to its difference, its uniqueness in being the only coffee shop in Northfield that could bring me back to my teenage years in South Florida, hanging out at the local coffee roaster, and my current life in LA, flitting between bookstores and cafes on my days off.
The weekend before first week, on my way to Econo, I curiously and somewhat begrudgingly stopped in for a quick cup of coffee, just to get my caffeine boost for the day. I got the Haus blend, advertised as “chocolatey and bold,” and quietly made my way further into town, sipping happily as I went. At some point, I stopped, looked down at my cup, and with a sigh acknowledged that this coffee was really good. All my suspicion, all my worry, was misguided. Little Joy wasn’t just talking the talk— its coffee was as good as, if not better than, the drinks professional baristas had whipped up for me in LA, New York, and even Rome. I’m not a huge black coffee drinker, but the Haus blend was impeccably smooth, surprisingly light, and incredibly refreshing. One cup, and I was hooked on this tiny cafe, ready to try the whole menu as soon as I could.
The next time I came to Little Joy, I brought that friend, the one who’d dismissed the place as all talk, all show. We both found the interior as charming on the inside as it had been intimidating from the outside. The space, while still exhibiting that particularly harsh millennial style of clean corners, bright lighting, and minimalist design, felt incredibly warm. Because of the music, helpful staff, and happy customers, the environment of Little Joy is just that— joyous.
My friend and I ended up picking out a game from the many options available to us, and ended up playing a particularly competitive round of mini-corn-hole. The energy of the space was so inviting, so welcoming, so friendly, so obviously Northfield that I was a bit mad at myself for ever doubting the shop’s place in town.
Little Joy, with locally roasted Groundwire coffee (prepped just three blocks down by the same local business that opened the shop), its Brickoven Bakery treats, and Midwestern charm, is a vibrant little slice of the Northfield community, one I hadn’t anticipated, and hadn’t yet seen, but one I’m excited to get to know better. I’m sure I’ll be spending plenty of time at Little Joy this winter, hiding from the cold as I comps.
Some particular favorites of mine from Little Joy you just have to try: the Nitro Coldbrew, which is smooth, creamy, and delicious; the Cascara-Rose Kombucha, served on tap, which is light, tangy, sweet and satisfying; the Re-Animator, a chocolatey, nutty drink made from cold brew concentrate and milk; and the Gibraltar, a heavy, dark, and full espresso drink served with a side-shot of sparkling water to refresh the palate. Also make sure to try the locally made Brick-Oven pop-tarts, exclusive to Little Joy, often made with farm-fresh cherries.
Little Joy brings aesthetic and quality
by Arya Misra
As soon as you walk in through the grey door, you will notice the aromatic blend of coffee, chai and baked goods hitting your nostrils. Big white funky decorations, including a skull-shaped light fixture, hang on the exposed brick wall. As one local Northfielder said: “This place is going to be the new place in town for the next five years.”
Little Joy is a new, hip café in our small Midwestern town. Giant floor-to-ceiling windows illuminating the half-white and half-exposed brick wall space and basking it in glorious natural light, Little Joy, located right next to Chapati, is the destination-to-be if you want your caffeine along with a nice dose of aesthetic pleasure.
As an art enthusiast, I was immediately in love with the place. But as an Indian, the real test relied on the chai. When I say chai, I mean a milk tea with spices, not chai-flavored sugary milk. With my fingers crossed, hoping for some good chai (so I get more of an excuse to bring out my laptop and spend an unreasonable amount of time here), I placed my order. Moment of truth … sip … sip … and VOILA we have a winner! Along with the best chai in Northfield (you can fight me), Little Joy has hands-down the best people.
If you visit Little Joy and are lucky enough to meet the manager, Tim Hollinger, you will receive that special treatment where he spends the time and effort to actually learn your name. As someone whose name no one can truly pronounce, that meant a lot. The Little Joy baristas are a beautiful assortment of local youth and wonderful Carls including Maddy Schilling ’21, Anna Schumacher ’21 (currently abroad), and recent-grad Marley Schrom ’19.
With lively music in the background and lively people in the foreground ready to actually engage with their customers, Little Joy is a lively yet calm experience. And if you want to bask in the glory of the fall sun, before all you see is white, you can head out to the deck for some Vitamin D with your coffee.
If you’re looking for a jolt of energy, Tim highly recommends “’Spro and Go” (a shot of espresso and a coffee, to go) or the “Re-animator” (refreshing flavours will bring you to life). And if you’re a tea lover, the chai and matcha milk teas are definitely something to look forward to. With baked goods, from homemade Pop-Tarts (blueberry has my heart) to chocolate croissants, and roasts (from Jawbreaker Costa Rican red honey to Superconductor) to fulfill your regular caffeine requirement while you crunch out that paper, Little Joy takes care of all your needs.
Whether it is an aesthetic instagram picture you’re after, a refreshing visit to see welcoming faces or just a really good cup of coffee cough chai wins all cough, this cute new place in town has got your back. So whenever you feel big sad, take a quick walk down to Little Joy.