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.
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.
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.
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.