Walk-Up Windows and Great Urban Places

If you can order a coffee from a window while standing on a sidewalk, you just might be in a great urban place. On a recent trip to Santiago, Chile, I walked out of our AirBnB and just up the sidewalk was a coffee shop with a window facing the sidewalk. The street happened to be Calle Jose Victorino Lastarria in the historic Barrio Lastarria district, but this great urban experience could have been just about anywhere. All you need are a street with slow vehicle traffic, a decent sidewalk, buildings with little or no setback, and a decent amount of pedestrian traffic.

But first, coffee. Barrio Lastarria, Santiago de Chile

Travel the world, and you will find coffee windows corresponding very highly with great walkable places. Among recent coffee windows I’ve seen is this one on Columbia Road in London, near the legendary flower market.

Columbia Road, London

My recent trip to Chile included a stop in Valparaiso, a city I highly recommend visiting and location of the recent Placemaking Week co-sposored by PPS. There, in a single block radius, I found not one but two coffee windows.

Valparaiso de Chile

Coffee need not be the only thing you can order from a sidewalk window. What about ice cream? The Twin Cities have a few ice cream places with walk-up windows. Dairy Queen has a few on the list, like the one on 38th Street. One of my favorite ice cream walk-up windows is Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop in wonderful, walkable Stillwater.

Leo’s in Stillwater

What about waffles? I was pleased to discover this in Salt Lake City a few years back!

Bruges Waffles, Salt Lake City

Not all walk-up windows work out. In this case, it’s a bike-up window, or a “bike-thru,” at the Dairy Queen near Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. I think Dairy Queen wanted to build the typical automobile drive-thru, but in the approvals process was directed to build a bike-thru instead. It has never been used. Time to open it! (OK, maybe not now, but this summer.)

Open the Dairy Queen Bike-Thru Window!

So next time you see a walk-up window, remember, you just might be in a great urban place. Go ahead and buy the cup of coffee. Or ice cream. Or waffle.

(Note: an earlier version of this appeared at Joe Urban. Thanks to locals on Twitter for identifying walk-up windows in the Twin Cities!)

Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is www.joe-urban.com.