Chicago is home to numerous coffee roasteries that painstakingly source beans to produce the perfect blends, as well as serious cafes that brew drips and espresso that put cheap diner swill to shame. Meanwhile, baristas continue to hone their craft, experiment with new roasts, and demonstrate impressive latte art skills. Sip through the city’s many excellent coffee shops with the help of Eater Chicago’s map of the buzziest caffeine havens in town.Read More
Chicago’s Essential Coffee Shops
Drip, espresso, lattes, matcha, and more
Metropolis Coffee Company
This family-owned coffee company does mostly wholesale business these days — its roastery is in Avondale — but the cafe where it all began is still in Edgewater, where it’s been for the past 18 years, and it’s still a friendly place to sit with a laptop or a book or a friend and sip coffee and maybe nibble a pastry (from Phlour) and watch the world go by.
The Understudy Coffee and Books
A love letter to Chicago’s unique storefront theater scene, The Understudy serves as both a stylish spot for caffeine and a bookstore featuring scripts, memoirs, historical tomes, and more. Co-owners and spouses Adam Todd Crawford and Danny Fender (an actor and stage manager respectively) unveiled the eagerly-anticipated cafe in March. They’ve set the business apart from other coffee shops in the neighborhood with a specialized Ground Control coffee brewer, which creates batch coffee while maintaining the flavor of a pour-over cup. It’s the second of its kind in Chicago, only otherwise seen at Gaslight in Logan Square.
This is a veritable United Nations for coffee. Baristas combine beans from Africa and South and Central America and flavors from India, Turkey, Cuba, and Japan to create some of Chicago’s most unique coffee drinks, some spiked with superfoods to make them even more powerful. The kitchen serves an assortment of sandwiches, pastries, and gluten-free treats. There’s also a Bucktown location.
Osmium Coffee Bar
Osmium Coffee Bar is the Lakeview sibling in the Dark Matter family, which is spread out all over the city. Enjoy some strong coffee in a funky space with neon lights and graffiti-style artwork. There’s also a patio for outdoor sipping. Dark Matter has locations in West Loop, West Town, and Avondale.
Necessary & Sufficient Coffee
This small takeout-only coffee window has serious seasonal specials that will make regulars come back. For fall, for example, grab a chai-pumpkin cider or a Belgian cookie con panna (a double espresso with cookie butter — yes, cookie butter), whipped cream, caramel, and a Biscoff cookie. Eggnog lattes and more are on their way for winter. One of the most creative coffee shops in Chicago. Might as well go a few doors down and grab a treat from Sugar Moon. You deserve it.
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Gaslight Coffee Roasters
Gaslight changes up its selection of house-roasted coffees regularly, and hipsters and families alike find common ground in the small cafe next to the roastery, where they can sip a variety of coffee drinks, nibble on pastries, and watch the Logan Square scene through the large picture windows.
Ipsento 606, nestled between Milwaukee Avenue and the 606, is always busy. The enthusiastic energy makes a nice backdrop for enjoying a Nutella or Ipsento latte (the latter made with coconut milk, honey, and a sprinkle of cayenne) or a fresh mini-doughnut.
Inside the Kimball Arts Center, this West Coast import serves some of the most creative drinks in town. Concoctions like Defund the Military (matcha, milk chocolate, espresso, bourbon vanilla, milk) make this sleek place special.
Passion House Coffee
Passion House is a coffee chain that doesn’t do anything fancy but can be counted on for reliable and well-made cups of coffee, plus great espresso specials. The pastries come from a variety of vendors, including Aya Pastry. Good service and consistency make Passion House a great choice.
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Despite its name, there is seating at this charming little West Town coffee shop and art gallery. The coffee is Dark Matter, and the food menu features Do-Rite Donuts, Italian subs, and a meatball sub collaboration with Flour Power, the pasta powerhouse from Schwa alum Wilson Bauer and partner Alice Richter (it’s a few blocks west). There are also vintage 16-bit video game systems set up for Mortal Kombat in case there are gamers in the house who need to kill some time. Fatality!
Metric Coffee Co.
Metric Coffee opened its first cafe in 2016 at its West Town roastery, where it serves coffee brewed from freshly roasted beans and doughnuts from Brite. There are only a few seats indoors, but during warmer months customers can sit at sidewalk tables. The cafe gives baristas a chance to serve experimental drinks that other cafes don’t have. The team is working on a major expansion, including an all-day cafe in, that’s set to open in 2023 in Avondale.
Sawada, the tiny spot tucked inside Green Street Smoked Meats, is evidence of Hogsalt Hospitality’s commitment to coffee: Hogsalt brought in famed latte artist Hiroshi Sawada, who runs a few coffee shops in Japan, and his unusual Military Latte mixes green tea and vanilla syrup into a wonderful concoction that will leave patrons with a pleasant buzz.
Vietfive Coffee - Chicago
The joy of Vietnamese coffee isn’t exactly a secret, but Chicago’s community of spots serving versions of the sweet, buzzy beverage seems to be growing at a noteworthy rate. Among the strongest contenders is Vietfive, where robusta beans are sourced from the owners’ family farm in Buôn Ma Thuột and brewed into hair-raising hot or iced drinks.
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Cafe Jumping Bean
A Pilsen standard for more than two decades, Cafe Jumping Bean has become a community hub and now has a second location a few blocks west on Damen Avenue. In addition to coffee, including the house special “Screaming Bean,” the cafe serves a limited menu of sandwiches and salads.
Bridgeport Coffee Company
This neighborhood cafe grinds out some of the city's best coffee using beans procured from across the world, which it sells by the pound.
Plein Air Cafe & Eatery
This European-style cafe on the University of Chicago campus features a full assortment of coffee drinks and pastries, plus breakfast, lunch, and wine. It's a collaboration between Kevin Heisner (Heisler Hospitality) and former Little Branch partner Soo Choi. The patio affords nice views of the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House.
Build Coffee serves as an informal community center in Woodlawn and a gathering place for journalists and nonprofit workers whose offices are nearby. It serves java from HalfWit, treats from Justice of the Pies, and hosts performances, gallery shows, local group meetings, and other projects. And, if all this weren’t enough, it’s also a used bookstore.
Kusanya Cafe opened when Phil Sipka came over from Robust Coffee Lounge to give Englewood a coffee shop and alternative to fast food. He uses beans from Bridgeport Coffee and serves sandwiches and all-day breakfast. The coffeehouse also hosts community events, like open mic nights and yoga classes.
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South Shore Brew
Located across the street from the South Shore Cultural Center and just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, South Shore Brew is a bright, sunny space that serves up a solid menu of coffee drinks, including the surprisingly good coffee lemonade, as well as oatmeal and panini sandwiches.
Afro Joes Coffee & Tea
Afro Joe’s has been a revelation since Kendall and Aisha Griffin open their first location in Auburn Grehsam. Great food — the short-rib grilled cheese is amazing — quality coffee, and a community gathering space; places like this are sorely needed in the neighborhood. They’ve since moved to Beverly and have continued to perfect their formula.