Coffee Culture: Top Five Cafes In Chicago, Illinois

Gigantic, diverse and chilly for a large part of the year, Chicago has all the makings of a great coffee city. And it doesn’t put these attributes to waste: the Windy City is brimming with cozy cafes, chic espresso bars and independent roasteries. From the much-exported local pride Intelligentsia to the sophisticated, pared-back vintage vibe of spots like Gaslight, Chicago has the perfect spot for everyone to warm up over a mug of aromatic Aeropress or a creamy latte.

Here are five of the best coffee spots in Chicago:

Photo courtesy of Intelligentsia.

Photo courtesy of Intelligentsia.

1. Intelligentsia

A Chicago staple, Intelligentsia Coffee has a number of venues around the city, though you can’t go past their Logan Square location, only a few yards from the “L” station of the same name. With a wide, open bar that wraps around the whole cafe, Intelligentsia has a friendly and relaxed feel, and a staff that take pride in their coffee-making skills. This care and precision extends to their other products, too; I was delighted to see my Moroccan mint tea came with a personalized timer so it would steep for not a moment too long. The waiter even checked in at the end of the countdown and pressed and poured it for me. It’s touches like this that elevate a simple cafe experience.

Photo courtesy of Lula Cafe.

Photo courtesy of Lula Cafe.

2. Lula Cafe

You’ll need to don your woolliest socks and scarf in the winter if you’re trying Lula Cafe for brunch on the weekends – there’s always a sizable queue on the footpath. But the excellent coffee and delicious food make this Chicago favorite well worth the wait. Head here for breakfast and pair your cup of joe with one of their homemade everything bagels with toasted fennel seeds.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

3. Gaslight Coffee

In the heart of Logan Square, not far from the California train station, lies one of the coolest cafes in Chicago. Spacious and minimalist, Gaslight Coffee Roasters sports a large zinc bar, vintage schoolroom seats and a comfortable communal table. A stuffed pheasant and a gold-dipped goose give the place a quirky feel, while their coffees are artfully made and delicious. Order an espresso, which comes with a glass of refreshing sparkling water on the side.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Mustache.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Mustache.

4. Cafe Mustache

Less polished than its neighborhood friends Gaslight and Intelligentsia, but with equally good coffee, Cafe Mustache is a cozy, den-like coffee shop that turns into a bar in the evenings. Locals flock here to set up their laptops, sip on coffee and while away the afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Bow Truss.

Photo courtesy of Bow Truss.

5. Bow Truss

Local Chicago roasters seem to be really skilled at building networks across the city. Such is the case for chic coffeemaker Bow Truss, which has cafes in the Lakeview, River North, Pilsen, Logan Square, Michigan and Jackson, and Chicago Loop areas. The latter in particular is a saving grace right in the heart of the city, and makes for a perfect pairing with a visit to the nearby Art Institute of Chicago, one of the finest art museums in the world.

Did your favorite cafe in Chicago make the list? Do have another coffee gem to suggest? Please share in the comments below.

By Gemma King

Also Check Out:

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The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing — Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed by James Hoffmann [Must Reads]

Jiva Cubes Classic Coffee Cubes [Travel Essentials]

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Gemma King

Coffee Connoisseur Columnist
Gemma King is an Australian francophile living between Paris, Melbourne and Richmond Virginia. A PhD student in French cinema at Melbourne Uni and the Sorbonne, she's also an eternal nomad, a film buff, a French lecturer, a coffee reviewer, an English teacher and a travel writer. As la muséophile, she spends her Sundays exploring and reviewing the lesser-known museums of Paris at www.lesmuseesdeparis.com.

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