Against all odds, the Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champions. But when it comes to coffee, Chicago has been a champion for a long time. On our most recent trip to the Windy City these five coffee shops stood out amongst a slew of great options.
Intelligentsia Wicker Park
It’s hard to miss Intelligentsia’s seventh and most recent Chicago café: the midrise building that hosts the shop features a site-specific mural commissioned by the pioneer roaster/retailer. Although the shop is located on bustling Division St., the warm, Nordic-inspired interior feels perfectly at home in Wicker Park. This is also where I had the best single coffee of my Chicago café crawl: a single origin espresso of the El Salvador Malacara SL28. This espresso exhibited the juicy grapefruit notes the Kenyan variety is known for, while keeping the balanced sweetness one expects from a high quality El Salvador.
There’s a lot that could be said about Caffe Streets: the Metric-roasted coffee, the gluten free waffles, the Italian spelling of café with its superfluous “f”. But perhaps what’s most memorable is the refreshingly unique atmosphere. Whether it’s the house plants, the gold cow skull, or the actual street lamps that hang over the bar, it’s the subtle details that make the space. Coupled with a good cup of coffee and it’s hard to think of a more perfect urban oasis.
Gaslight Coffee Roasters
A notable feature of Chicago’s coffee scene: almost every shop we visited roasts their own coffee. Gaslight Coffee Roasters is one of several small batch roasters proving Intelligentsia isn’t the only show in town. We had a sweet, syrupy shot of a Guatemalan single origin espresso, served with a glass of ice cold Topo Chico.
Right off the 606 elevated walkway, Ipsento’s second café features twin matte white Slayer Espresso machines, cold brew on tap, and a wine and cocktail menu for the evening hours. The spacious, luminous café is popular with the laptop crowd, but it’s also a great space to sit at the bar and enjoy a recovery cappuccino after getting a good walk in. Bonus tip: visit Ipsento 606’s neighbor Red & White for a fantastic natural wine selection.
Intelligentsia Logan Square
It’s been a long time since we’ve been as impressed with a café as we were with Intelligentsia Logan Square. Sure, the company is approaching national chain status, complete with corporate ownership. But the Chicago-founded company continues to provide some of the most imaginative and well-executed retail experiences in the industry. The diner-inspired coffee bar features counter service for dine-in customers, which we found inspired us to drink more coffee than we originally intended! Whether it was a shot of Intelli’s classic Black Cat Espresso or a decadent milkshake, we loved each of our drinks as much as the service model. If you only have time for one coffee shop in Chicago, make it this one.