CHICAGO COFFEESHOP ROUND-UP
(according to Amy, aka – definitely not all-inclusive but hopefully homey and nice!)
In these first few months of marriage, Isaiah and I have had a lot of coffee to drink. We mostly enjoy our morning cup quietly in the kitchen with plenty of milk foam, but sometimes we venture out into our fair city to see what we can find. Chicago has a LOT of coffee shops, and we are slowly working our way through them. Isaiah always orders cappuccino because he loves it unconditionally. Foamy and smooth. I tend to order vanilla lattes, because if I could put vanilla in EVERYTHING, I would. And we always sit and sit and sit, slowly growing roots, reading or staring into space. Sometimes scones get involved. It’s a good good thing.
I’m not going to pretend to be any sort of authority on Chicago coffee shops, nor will I pretend that I’ve been to all the good ones around. In fact, I bet you’ve already been to some of these places and know about even better ones than I know about, in which case, TELL ME ABOUT IT AND LETS GO THERE TOGETHER! (Seriously. In the comments. The new way to make coffee dates!) But, for now, I’m just going to tell you where I’ve been and what it was like when I got there. Because why not?
And now, in no particular order:
1. Star Lounge // Ukranian Village
2521 W. Chicago Avenue. This place is run by Dark Matter coffee, and it is pretty fabulous. I ate a croissant as big as both of my hands (small hands, big croissant), and drank a verrrrrry smooth vanilla latte. We had a small mix up where we went first to The Mothership, Dark Matter’s roasting headquarters at 738 N. Western Avenue first. They have a coffee bar there but they don’t really have chairs, so we were confused. Isaiah got some crazy dark ristretto espresso called “Unicorn Blood” (and it actually really looked like blood, so it freaked me out). It wasn’t until we saw a sign on the door pointing us to Star Lounge that we figured out the deal. Star Lounge has two levels. Downstairs is busy in a fun way and just the right amount of loud, and upstairs is super quiet. There’s also a patio but it was really cold when we went, so I can’t vouch for the merit of that space. But, overall, Star Lounge was a fantastic place to finish Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and to stare into space and people watch and lament the existence of grief and celebrate the triumph of being resilient accordingly.
2. Baker and Nosh //Uptown
1303 W. Wilson Avenue. Okay, I know, they’re more of a bakery than a coffee shop, but I love them just the same. Loaves and loaves of fresh bread, fluffy croissants, big bright windows and La Colombe coffee. If you find yourself in uptown, don’t skip it. Isaiah lived in Uptown this summer and spent most days wandering. Let’s just say that he often wandered to Baker and Nosh. One time we wandered there together for breakfast and I wanted to stay all day. It’s the kind of place with a dish of water outside for the sweet pups that have to wait for their owners to grab a muffin. A good place.
3. La Colombe // West Loop, Andersonville, Wicker Park
995 W. Randolph / 5158 N. Clark / 1552 N. Damen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. La Colombe feels like the ultimate cool coffee shop to me. Maybe it is the sleek wood coffee bars. Maybe it is the elegantly chipped patterned mugs they use, complete with saucer and spoon so that you don’t have to mix with a little wood stick. Maybe it is the big windows, interesting lighting, moody music, and all around good vibes. Whatever it is, I’m really into it. La Colombe tops my list. I like all of the locations, and they’re all a bit different. I have a special place in my heart for the shop in Andersonville due to a fantastically encouraging meeting with a person I really admire who I never thought I’d get to sit down and drink coffee with. I sat at my table by a floor-to-ceiling window waiting for him to arrive drinking their very smooth house blend, Corsica, from my beautiful and chipped coffee cup and I felt happy. And lucky. And caffeinated. Photos below from a recent visit to the Wicker Park location. While we were here we (Amy, Zai, & Shimmy, aka our strange make-shift family) were waiting for one of Shimmy’s first real film-making gigs at Furious Spoon (a spice-tactic Ramen place, I hear) and we chatted and people-watched an adorably hip family and a very swankily dressed professor man and another guy with a good sweater. The Corsica was just as good as it always is. It was special.
4. Dunkin Donuts // The one in my Pink Line station
I like it because it’s pink in the pink line station, and I think that’s kind of fantastic. That’s all.
5. Starbucks on Taylor Street // Little Italy
Yes, it is just a Starbucks, but the first time I tried a Pumpkin Spice Latte I told the barista that it was my first time and he was excited for me. Like genuinely delighted that I hadn’t tried it yet. And I was delighted that he was delighted and it was just sort of a nice Starbucks moment that made it feel like a real little coffee shop instead of a giant corporate coffee monster, so I like the Starbucks on Taylor Street and I have since had one more Pumpkin Spice Latte and I didn’t like it as much as the first one I had (too sweet) so I’m back to Caramel Macchiatos and Flat Whites because no matter how hard I try I never truly abandon Starbucks. How could I when it basically sponsored the planning of the Bornman wedding. I owe it. Thanks Starbucks. I’ll keep being a little bit basic for you. Xo.
Also, the Starbucks on Taylor has a fountain devoted to Joe DiMaggio in front of it which makes it a little bit flashy which I like.
6. Coffee Alley // Little Italy
Coffee Alley isn’t my favorite sort of coffee shop, but it is probably some one else’s favorite sort, so I won’t knock it too much. It’s right in my neighborhood so I pass it all the time, but I haven’t been visiting it very much. It’s cute in a hometown coffee shop kind of way. The kind of way where they cover the exposed brick with plaster but let the brick peek through in a few places to give it a vaguely Italian crumbling-down sort of look. The coffee is good, and it is warm. There’s a nice bar by the window to look out from. Very homey. Good study spot. But I don’t find myself yearning for hours spend there people watching or reading a novel. But, one time there was a POP UP SHOP there. Do you guys know about this black magic? It’s wild. One night coffee alley was coffee alley and then the next morning, BAM, it was transformed to Cafe Bustello and, like, even the furniture was all different. It was uncanny. They changed everything to sell this new brand of coffee for a few days, and then come Monday it was , BAM, back to Coffee Alley, and I hate to say it, but I was a little disappointed. Cafe Bustello was a bit more fun. Oh well. You win some you lose some. Coffee Alley, keep being cute!
7. Hope Cafe // Tri-Taylor
2431 Roosevelt Rd. This is my favorite neighborhood coffeeshop. It’s a short walk from home in a BEAUTIFUL old corner building. The tile right inside the front door is truly lovely, and they use the old bar from a German restaurant for their coffee bar. It is a great place, and fairly new so I think they are still trying to get off the ground a bit. But all of the proceeds go to the school where Isaiah and I live and work, which makes it extra dear to me. I’m currently sitting in their bright seating area while writing this post and drinking a gorgeous latte. Also, I must say their music choices are on point, if that matters to you. Fun oldies that are recognizable but not tired. Right now it’s “Stop in the Name of Love,” a perennial favorite in my book. It’s a quiet place, not too hustle-y bustle-y. Just right for sitting contentedly or getting sh** done!!! And one time I was here there was a giant flock of geese in the back yard to watch smattered with a rogue sparrow or two. If that doesn’t make you want to come here, I seriously don’t know what will. No geese today. I must say, I’m a little disappointed. Migration, am I right?
I’m drinking this. Right now. At Hope Cafe. Be jealous.
A goodly husband in a goodly coffee shop reading some goodly Salinger.
8. Bourgeois Pig // Lincoln Park
738 W Fullerton Ave. This place is COOL, you guys! We arrived with the fantastic and gargantuan task of sorting through 700 wedding pictures, and the Bourgeois Pig was the perfect venue. We got sandwiches, which were good but pricey. Next time I’d just stick with the coffee, which was fantastic. It’s in an old house with lots of nooks and crannies and all the sandwiches are named after novels. It was wonderfully busy, and the patio was hopping due to it being one of the last of the 70 degree Chicago days. We feasted those wedding pictures there and enjoyed a gorgeous cappuccino and considered buying a brownie the size of Isaiah’s hand (BIG HANDS) but didn’t buy it ultimately. We should have. Hindsight is 20/20. This place is my friend Annie’s favorite coffeeshop in the city, and I can tell why. Check it out. Order something named after Hemingway. Maybe read some Hemingway while you’re at it. It’s good for you.
9. Dollop // Loop
343 S Dearborn St. This coffee shop has a bunch of locations across the city, but I’ve only been to the one across the street from Harold Washington Library, another favorite Chicago spot. Listen, this may be my new favorite chicago coffee shop. Let me tell you why. IT WAS PERFECT. Big bright windows. A coffee bar in the middle. Pour-over. Gorgeous baked goods. Candles and pies. Cookbooks for sale. Exceptional cappuccino. Little details, like schoolhouse chairs and lots of lovely wood and scones left over from an earlier patron that Isaiah and I happened to commandeer (one man’s scone trash is another man’s scone treasure?????). It’s just about perfect to hop from the Winter Garden at the top of the Library to the bright buzzy calm of Dollop. Try it sometime. You’ll see. Hopefully there will be a scone for you there.
10 Julius Meinl // Lincoln Square
4363 N Lincoln Ave. We love this coffee shop. It’s like stepping into another land, where coffees come with cookies and have interesting Austrian names and there is classical music wafting all around you and stylish moms with six-year-olds sipping double espresso like it’s nothing. I’ve never been to Europe, but this is how I like to imagine it would be. This is a place to go if you really like to drink your coffee, rather than hastily sip it while doing something else. This is a place to sit and talk, to talk about coffee, to talk about trips you’ve taken, or to people-watch like it’s what you were born to do. Not a place to go flippantly or to take your coffee to-go. It’s fantastic there, and frankly a little fancy. I love it. Don’t you love it when your coffee comes with a glass of water and a spoon and a cookie? Is there anything better than that in the coffee category? I’m not sure that there is. Julius Meinl, good job.
COFFEE. IT’S GOOD FOR YOU.