Chicago is a city that’s seriously blessed with an abundance of top-quality coffee bars – so much so that the biggest problem for any self-respecting coffee buff is choosing where to head for a brew. Here’s our guide to 11 of the best so at least you’ll have some idea where to start!
1. Kopi A Traveler’s Café
An established Chicago favorite that’s been around for years. This coffee bar has a laidback hippie vibe and is a great place to come to kick back and relax with a hot brew. Their menu also boasts a range of delicious and often exotic eating options, with plenty of choice for vegetarians – try the tempeh burger if you’re unsure what to order. The quirky floor seating on cushions is fun for a coffee bar experience with a difference.
A true coffee lover’s coffee bar. If you can’t stand the characterless brews offered in the big chains and want a drink brewed by a skilled barista who knows the craft, this is one of the top picks in the city. For something simple but brewed to perfection, opt for one of the pour-overs – but if you want something a little more outlandish, Sawada is famous for the “military latte” – a mix of espresso, milk and matcha. Highly recommended for those who care about what they drink.
3. Big Shoulders Café
A popular local favorite for pour-over coffees and espressos and well worth considering if you enjoy top-end coffee. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the staff are friendly, welcoming and skilled at what they do. If you just want to drink an expertly brewed cup of regular-style brewed coffee or a classic espresso drink, this is the place to come – but they also have a range of more original options, too. Try the marshmallow latte if you’re feeling in need of a treat.
4. Gaslight Coffee Roasters
A coffee bar that is squarely aimed at the hipster coffee crowd but that still manages to remain totally unpretentious. They specialize in excellent coffee and also offer a range of tempting food options. The atmosphere is laidback and relaxed, and the place is often full of customers who come to sip on a brew and while working on their laptops. The staff are helpful and attentive, and the lattes and the macchiatos are well worth making the trip for. Also, If you want to grind and brew coffee at home, You can buy their variety of fresh roast coffee beans, including Jamaican Blue Mountain.
5. Osmium Coffee Bar
This place has two strong points: the design of the establishment and the coffee itself. If you want to sip on some of the best coffee in town in a locale that is practically a work of art, then this is your place. This coffee bar has a hip and trendy vibe and is staffed by friendly and helpful baristas. It’s popular with locals, which is always a good sign, and they have some particularly tasty donuts to go with your coffee. The Wake and Bake latte is an intriguing option if you’re feeling adventurous.
6. Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea
Intelligentsia is one of the leading lights of the Third Wave coffee movement, and now they have branches in several different locations in both the States and in Canada – but Chicago is where it all began. Check this place out if you are looking for a great vibe and a bustling atmosphere – and of course, top-quality coffee. The staff are well-trained and highly knowledgeable. If you don’t know what to order, try the cold brew.
For coffee lovers looking for something a little more creative and unusual, Ipsento is highly recommended. That’s not to say they don’t do the basics well – their regular coffees are all excellent, as are their pastries – but what makes this place stand out from the crowd is their specials. Where else would you find ingredients like cayenne pepper in a coffee? The atmosphere is cozy, and the staff are friendly. The Nutella latte comes highly recommended.
8. The Wormhole
Travel back in time in this retro coffee bar complete with 70s and 80s décor and even old-school games consoles to play while you sip your brew. This place might look to the past in terms of style, but they are definitely forward-looking when it comes to their innovative take on coffee. They also have a great selection of delicious pastries that are all but impossible to resist. Friendly staff and very popular with locals.
9. Bridgeport Café
Another of Chicago’s hidden gems that is well worth the effort of hunting down. They serve excellent coffees – their espressos are particularly good – but also have a great range of other food and drink options too. The bagels are tasty and reasonably priced, and the beautifully-made selection of pastries are especially tempting. The smoothies here are also highly recommended. A good option for breakfast if you’re in the area.
10. Plein Air Café
A popular and reliable favorite that is often busy around lunchtime – always an indication that a place is worth visiting. This café features classic-style décor and the staff are friendly and patient. They offer a wide selection of drinks and also have an extensive menu of delicious and healthy food options. This is an ideal place to stop for a quick bite if you’re visiting the neighborhood. The cappuccinos and cortados are well worth trying.
11. Dollop Coffee Co
Dollop Coffee Co is most famous for its line of creative and original mochas. For a little bit of chocolatey decadence, opt for the Nutella mocha – but if you want something slightly more leftfield and eccentric, you just have to try the Mexican mocha laced with chili. The baristas are friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. They also have a decent selection of breakfast options, making it a good pick for an early bite to eat before hitting the office.
Spoilt for choice
Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the Windy City, one thing’s for sure: you’ll never find yourself too far from a place for your coffee fix. Whether you want a laidback vibe to chill or somewhere with a bit more bustle and energy, you’re sure to find the ideal establishment in Chicago.