When you’re as busy as most Chicagoans, you need your coffee. Thankfully, there are plenty of coffee shops and bars to fulfill all your caffeine needs. Of course, there’s a Starbucks on nearly every corner, but who wants that same old chain coffee when hidden in nearly every neighborhood is a spot where you could be sipping coffee brewed from silky-smooth, house-ground artisan beans? Here are 11 of our favorite spots (in alphabetical order) in the city and suburbs to get a killer cup of joe — guaranteed to impress even the biggest coffee snobs.
Stumptown Coffee beans shine at this northern Evanston locale, with consistently good pours and an inviting workspace. They offer treats sourced from local vendors like Hewn and Amanecer Taco Shop, as well as Frìo gelato for hot summer days. While other spots may be more trendy, this place is wholly committed to the community: Their art, food, and space foster an environment dedicated to enriching the neighborhood. Try: Nitro Cold Brew or Cinnamon Honey Cortado. 2006 Central St., Evanston, 847-475-1381
Note: A new location is opening in Old Irving Park on Aug. 14, 2017, at 3982 N. Avondale Ave., Chicago.
This place is serious about their espresso. Don’t be fooled by the basic menu — with each handmade drink, the finish is smooth, never burnt, and perfectly robust. The space is simple and clean, complete with a second-floor loft and outdoor seating to watch the daily comings and goings of people on Damen Avenue. They now serve their own pastries, perfect for a small bite while you catch up with a friend. Try: A classic 6-ounce cappuccino and the Lavender & Caramelized Ginger Shortbread. 1644 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-366-8377
Note: The café is in the midst of a move to Logan Square (2779 N. Milwaukee Ave.) scheduled to open on Sept. 1, 2017.
With the first opening in New York City, Café Integral has a Chicago location tucked away in the Freehand Hotel, with specialty Nicaraguan coffee and food featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients. Take in the cozy atmosphere with several couches, dim lighting and a beautiful ceramic tile mural by local artist Carol Payne. Try: Single Estate Nicaraguan Chemex Pour-Over and the Avocado Toast, topped with pickled shallot, farm radish, sprouts and chili oil on local sourdough. 19 E. Ohio St., Chicago, 312-940-3699
Two powerhouses pair up in this Evanston location to bring together coffee, tea, and one of the largest selections of locally-sourced, seasonal and scratch-made pie around. From your classic espresso drinks to the rich Nutella Mocha, the coffee will keep you working all through the day — with the bonus of fast WiFi and tons of seating. While the menu spans a variety of foods including sandwiches and salads, don’t miss the savory quiche, hand pies, pot pies and classic sweet pies. Feeling overwhelmed with options? While single slices or whole pies are available, you can also try a “Pie Flight” with a half slice of three different flavors. Try: Sugar Pie or Chicken Pot Pie with a Dirty Chai. 749 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8863
Whether you need a quick coffee from the drive-thru or like to sit and sip for a while, the coffee at this independent family-owned shop (which was voted Best of 2017!) is top-notch and makes it a regular pit stop for locals. Comfortable seating in a living room atmosphere make for a quintessential morning fueled by caffeine and yummy options from Bennison’s Bakery. Try: Bulldog (coffee with added espresso). 1837 Glenview Road, Glenview, 847-729-0111
Ipsento comes from the Latin roots ipse and sento, creating a new word meaning “self-discovery” — and you should definitely find yourself at this coffee house. The authentic community vibe of the coffee roasters carries through to a fantastic finish in quality coffee that is seasonal and sustainable. Staying a while? The 606 location has a large wood bar for some boozy options and bar snacks. Try: Ipsento Latte (coconut milk, honey, cayenne) and a sweet potato and house-milled kamut mini-doughnut. Ipsento: 2035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 773-904-8177; Ipsento 606: 1813 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 872-206-8697
Sustainable and fair practice Dark Matter coffee has made its way into another location, this time with painted white tile by Jason Brammer and psychedelic interior that they call “psychedelegance.” The floor-to-ceiling windows let in lots of natural light to work by, and free refills will keep you caffeinated all day. Try: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Espresso. 601 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, 312-631-3553
There is always something happening at Sol, a cafe, gallery and event space. The Rogers Park coffee hub serves up food and drink created by Chef Ken Katsumura and Coffee Muse Devin Shaffer, respectively, with tasty rotating options bearing creative names like the Ceyloncé and Thailight Zone. The Gaslight Coffee Roasters coffee, high-ceiling open space with natural light, and ample menu make it the perfect spot to hunker down and feel inspired to work. Try: Sorta Torta (turkey or tofu, cotija, avocado, roasted onion, romaine and giardiniera on a torta roll) and the Happy Glamper (espresso, lavender, wildflower, steamed milk, lemon zest). 1615 Howard St., Chicago, 773-961-8289
You won’t get any booze when you step up to the long oak bar, but you will get some tasty and reasonably priced coffee. With burnt orange walls and funky bohemian art, Star Lounge is the original location (or “freshman album”) of the now-familiar Dark Matter coffee, complete with a shady outdoor patio and (almost eerily) quiet upstairs seating. Grab a sandwich if you’re starving, but the real stars on the menu are the espresso creations. Try: Gingersnap Trainwreck (honey, Dark Matter Gingersnap Trainwreck spice blend) or the Mayan Mocha (GrownUp KidStuff chocolate sauce, agave, dutched cocoa, cayenne, Dark Matter cinnamon blend). 2521 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 773-384-7827
While this isn’t the best place to sit with a laptop and do work (the WiFi is limited to one hour with a purchase), the bright, modern space with exposed brick is great for sitting down and catching up with a friend or having a relaxing morning coffee or lunch break. Rotating local artwork graces the walls, and the extensive menu features great coffee and tea cocktails, craft beer, flatbreads and bagels; vegan and vegetarian options abound. Try: Goat Cheese and Mushroom Quiche and a cold brew. 5628 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-271-7881
If you like your coffee served with a side of nostalgia, The Wormhole is the place for you. With eclectic ’80s decor featuring a fully functional Nintendo console, a “Back to the Future” DeLorean car, and other memorabilia, the café is a wonderful blend of nerdy and retro suitable for any coffee-lover. They serve Halfwit Coffee alongside several pastry options (including vegan treats). Try: Honey Bear Latte or the Koopa Troopa (peanut butter mousse and local chocolate). 1462 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-661-2468
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Manon Blackman is a Make It Better intern and rising senior at Northwestern University, pursuing a dual-degree in journalism and vocal performance. When she’s not in class, you can find her running, experimenting with vegan cooking, and drinking lots of coffee.