Bad Owl Coffee Roasters, a Las Vegas-based mini-chain, has picked Chicago for its first locations outside of Nevada. Ownership hopes to win over the city’s coffee fiends with a menu of playful drinks like banana cold brew and Biscoff cookie butter lattes at 3315 S. Morgan Street in Bridgeport.
The company was originally conceived as a Harry Potter cafe when it opened in 2016, drawing long lines of Hogwarts devotees for wizard-themed drinks and decor. Since then, Bad Owl co-owners Yuzo Kono and Annie Bailey Cheng have moved away from Potter-mania to develop their own brand identity and delve into the serious world of coffee roasting.
“We’re all about being creative and having fun, coming up with silly names like Orange Chiffon and ButterBrew,” Kono says. “Everything comes with a little bit of a magical touch, you could say.”
The company’s Potter references are less overt these days — its signature butter beer latte was rebranded as ButterBrew — but the pair still want to hang on to a fanciful vibe. Instead of referring to their single-origin beans by country, Kono and Bailey Cheng have assigned them quirky names like Lucky Leviathan and Finicky Fox.
The cafe’s beverage menu features plenty of surprising and Instagram-friendly options. It’s not Harry Potter, but there is a Lord of the Rings reference with Bad Owl’s Second Breakfast latte (maple cinnamon, sea salt cream). There’s also a vegan horchata-inspired Oat-Chata latte (oat milk, cinnamon, vanilla, agave).
Most of the food is made on-site and pastries come from Turano Baking Company in suburban Berwyn. Offerings include the Avada Ricotta avocado toast (red pepper, cilantro drizzle) and Chimera Croissant sandwiches (arugula, prosciutto, egg, balsamic).
The bright and sleek Morgan Street cafe is currently allowing 12 patrons inside the space, but ultimately can seat 30 between indoor and outdoor spaces. It’s outfitted with round marble tables and hanging plants, with a huge white coffee roaster displayed prominently near the front door. Staff actually use the roaster during off hours, Kono says, and it gives customers a peek into the process. Customers can place orders through the cafe’s website, as well as through third-party companies like Grubhub.
An appreciation for creativity is part of what drew the co-owners to Bridgeport, Kono says. His locations in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, Nevada, are all located in strip malls — a far cry from the charming, tree-lined Morgan Street.
Kono was especially struck by the Zhou B Art Center and Bridgeport Art Center, and now hopes to become a part of the area’s creative community by displaying work from up-and-coming artists inside the cafe. “We’re sandwiched by art centers all up and down Morgan, so I think it’s important to showcase [art] in the neighborhood,” he says.
Kono is also eager to join the area’s notable coffee scene, which is home to longtime local favorites Bridgeport Coffee Company and Jackalope Coffee & Tea. “It’s cool to be the new kids on the block,” he says.
He’s looking forward to warm summer months and is even toying with the idea of holding a block party with food vendors. “I’m just really excited to have people walking on the street, smiling, and having fun.”
Bad Owl Coffee Roasters, 3315 S. Morgan Street, Open 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.