If you're like me you're very loyal to your friends and you appreciate them even if you don't get to see them that often and after a long hiatus you find yourself just wanting to catch up with them to see how they're doing. La Colombe (Andersonville) is that friend, the one that you text every couple of months to meet up for...coffee. There are a number of La Colombe shops scattered throughout the city but this locale has a unique appeal that's due in part to the vibrant energy you find throughout the Andersonville neighborhood and the corner of Foster and Clark is at the epicenter of it all. It goes without saying that the coffee is consistently good and if you're into hot chocolate's and mochas (that's not going to send you into a diabetic coma) you'll love this place. Aside from the coffee, La Colombe is a great place to get work done, meet with a classmate, hang out with your kids, take a break from the cold or edit photos and upload content to your blog.
After a short hiatus, I'm back on the trail to explore Chicago for it's best cafés and coffee houses and quite frankly I'm a bit overwhelmed. The number of coffee shops sprouting out of thin air is crazy and I wonder what they will do to be different, to be innovative, to be THE spot that everyone wants to spend a part of their day. I was shooting a show at Gallery Café and was relieved to find out that it truly lives up to it's namesake! It features a rotating gallery of art by local artists that's curated regularly and would make any photographer happy to see their work on display for the Wicker Park neighborhood to see. I chatted with owner Geno who took over the helm a few years ago and wanted to give the neighborhood staple a facelift without losing it's roots...this meant an active schedule of art classes and workshops, in-house coffee roasting and a boost of tech with a coffee printer for personalized lattes. This is probably enough to make this a place that people would want to stop through to immerse in a bit of art, have a pastry and then take a pic of their personalized latté so they can post to IG ;-) If you're on North and Wood and you want some thing different from the mainstays on Milwaukee...Gallery Cafe is THE spot.
There are a number of coffee shops in this part of town but Heritage Outpost sets itself apart with a few unique subtleties. Firstly, it's nestled in the lobby of an apartment building (which may have once been a hotel?). So, foot traffic is heavy but not overwhelming...in fact, it's one of the quietest cafes I've visited on Chicago's Northside. Huge windows make this place a great spot for afternoon reading, drawing or organizing your monthly bills. Coffee offerings are direct and to the point with welcomed Soy and Almond milk alternatives on tap. If you're planning on discussing the latest episode of "INSERT FAVORITE SHOW HERE" with your bestie, I would probably find another spot but if you want a quiet place to get some real work done then grab a spot on the sofa or one of the workbenches and make yourself at home for a bit. Oh, there's also a cool tandem bicycle clinging to the wall for the two-wheel enthusiasts.
So, where can you find wine offerings, books and games that you can actually read and play, an intimate bar for chatting up your date (or co-worker), a quiet corner for writing in your journal and even a space for a small gathering to discuss your brilliant idea for an iOS app? Kibbitznest Books, Brews and Blarney. If you follow me you already know that I'm on a journey to find the best cafés around the globe (but especially Chicago) perhaps in hopes of finding some divine inspiration for my own rendition of a place to enjoy a cup and share ideas and communicate. This spot comes pretty damn close to that ideal! We were a bit early to see a screening of "Logan" and had some time to spare so we figured we'd find a somewhere to have something sweet. Well, we found the sweet spot between bar, cafe and library...a place that encourages it's patrons to talk, take photos and focus on interacting with and engaging each other. How do they encourage? By leaving their routers and WiFi at home! Of course, they won't discourage you from blazing open your MacBook or posting to IG on your iPhone but you'd better have data to spare. We were fortunate enough to stumble in on a night that they were hosting a private event and the owners were graceful and took us on an impromptu guided tour, showing us the best the place has to offer. Would I recommend this spot...uhmm, yeah! Caution, if you're looking for a Starbucks substitute you might want to consider some place else but if you want to explore a spot that I would consider the antithesis of a "chain" coffee shop by all means pay Kibbitznest a visit, in fact bring a book, a camera and chill for a while.
Located in the lobby of The Freehand Hotel this unsuspecting café offers a cozy environment for patrons looking for a place to study, eat a better than decent meal and enjoy a real mug of coffee. The espresso drink selection was exceptional and paired well with the food menu that was equally as impressive. To be honest I didn't know what to expect when I arrived but my experiences with hotels have often times lead to quality coffee but a lackluster environment, Café Integral scored high in both categories. There was an interesting split between tables more suitable for serious study and an area for lounging and more casual engagement. We found a very comfortable sofa with a matching coffee table to enjoy our almond milk lattes while taking photos of the unique decorations. The decorations included a vintage piano and Spanish inspired carvings and plants. As with most cafés there is a price to pay for internet access even if it's not monetary...but I think most of our used to pimping out our e-mail address for an hour or so of access to the inter webs. Would I recommend this spot? Absolutely, just be sure to take an Uber because parking in River North will blow your coffee budget.
City Grounds Coffee Bar! So it was time to find a place to read and edit photos and I had heard about this coffee bar from a friend that boasted about the cool patio. We got there late afternoon on a Sunday on what turned out to be an unseasonably warm day for November. The famed patio was packed, as I expected, and I could see that there were groups of people eagerly awaiting an opportunity to swoop down on the next available sofa. So we decided to grab a seat inside and ordered an Americano and a Latte…that was probably a bad idea because the coffee was a bit of disappointment. At this point we’re having mixed feelings about the space but we really like the patio and although the upstairs is “library” quiet its’ very comfortable and reminds me of well-furnished living room.
Most weekends we're always on the look out for good places to have coffee, edit photos and do a bit of reading and research. So I Googled "top Chicago cafes" and The Coffee Studio floated to the top of the list. I have to admit that when we arrived I was expecting to see another cafes that I had driven pass countless times on Clark st. That being said I was happy to drop my bags at a well lit table and get to work. The atmosphere is bright, the coffee tiene fierce and most importantly the baristas were on top of their game. If you're wondering around in Andersonville and have grown tired of 'Kopi' and 'La Colombe' The Coffee Studio is a welcomed alternative.
It's becoming increasingly easy to find places to grab a quick (and decent) cup of coffee. While getting my car serviced at a local VW dealership I walked a few blocks and found a "popup" coffee stand sponsored by Bowtruss. It was a cool spot nestled at the apex of the Mariano Park Plaza in the heart of the Gold Coast. This area is always bustling with activity whether you're in the area for breakfast or on a late night bar crawl. Bowtruss has never disappointed in the quality of the coffee and the staff has always been easy and friendly...in fact, these guys were happy to let me take a few snapshots of them while they prepared a fresh brew. If you're in the area I'd highly recommend this location.
So, I'm finding myself spending a lot more time in the Logan Square neighborhood since my family has relocated. Of course, this means I'll have a reason to sample all of the interesting coffee houses the spawning (or sprawling) neighborhood has to offer. I have to admit that Gaslight isn't the most inviting space but it is centrally located at Fullerton and Milwaukee which makes it an easy stop. The staff was more than adequate and the espresso (Mocha) was strong enough for my taste. I don't see this as a place I'd come to often or even bring a friend but if it's mid day and your traveling across town this is a great place to take break, have a coffee and continue on your busy schedule. I do recommend sitting at the bar, the coffee aromas are a bonus and the street view can be a welcomed distraction.
I usually discover the best places by accident, when I've been diverted from my original plan. "Ipsento" found me while walking my dog on a Friday morning as I waited for the local dog wash to open. I was impressed with it's clean, almost elegant, layout and t's location is quite ideal as it faces the newly finished 606 trail at Milwaukee. Right away I got the impression that this spot could easy double as a late night meeting place and upon my second visit (after 8pm) my suspicions were confirmed. I've always liked the idea of a true coffee BAR...a place that had the feel of a bar but served excellent coffee drinks until close. A final highlight was the soundtrack. Yes, soundtrack. It was as if they were streaming my Spotify playlist, making me less inclined to plug in my earbuds and get lost in my iPhone.
Born and raised in Chicago, I can say that I've been here a very, very long time and so has Kopi. My first time here was in the mid to late 90's and as a youth I didn't fully appreciate it's traveler's appeal but after having an opportunity to bounce to a few continents I now value it's unique character. Grab a traveller's guide from the book shelf, order a "Hot Sipping Chocolate (w/ a shot of espresso) and relax on one of the colorful throw pillows in the front window.
I've probably been to dozens, if not hundreds, of cafés in my lifetime and each one is as unique as the individual tone of the human voice. "Next Door" speaks to the business minded, productivity inspired individual that's looking to get ahead...whether it be in real estate investing or social media marketing strategies as this spot offers free workshops and meetups. I've hosted a number of personal meetings here in one of the many private (or semi-private) booths and two of the rooms even offer multimedia access. That being said, it is after all a café, a place where people expect to drink coffee, right? This is where this place falls short...simply stated the coffee and pastries are somewhat lacking but I guess that's really not why people frequent this Northside coffee bar.
The University of Chicago has paid my bills since the late 90's so I guess I have an allegiance to this fine institution of higher learning. This relationship has allowed me great access to many of its hidden jewels, including "Grounds of Being", a small (tax-free, cash only) café that makes it's home in the basement of the Divinity School. Local restaurants provide a plethora food dishes while university students brew a full array of espresso drinks. While there is a strong theme of religion on the walls and ornaments the feel is more "Course in Theology" than "Sunday School".
Division street boasts a number of trendy eateries and in recent years more and more have surfaced. Caffe Streets plays on the "street" theme by making use of ornate streetlights to illuminate the work of it's knowledgeable baristas. I crashed this place on a busy Saturday and enjoyed a punchy Americano while charging my camera batteries.
Working on a final project for my capstone course I needed to find a place where I could work and actually have a decent cup of coffee. Osmium on Belmont left a delicious taste in my mouth. You can grab a seat at the bar with your laptop while Dilla beats play over a more than adequate sound system. In addition, the Dark Matter coffee is aways a crowd pleaser. Staff, on point and inviting. The only downside...they close @ 9pm.
Sawada, Sawada, Sawada...trendy, inspired by Japanese culture with an infectious urban feel that makes you wanna just go there just to hang out and tell your friends you were there.