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Video Tue Nov 17 2009

Nostalgia: Urbis Orbis and the "Third Place."

Remember Urbis Orbis? The seminal Wicker Park coffeeshop and "third place" closed a little over a decade ago, but you can revisit it and its colorful staff and clientele through this short documentary just posted on YouTube.

(Thanks, Anna!)


Dmitry Samarov / November 17, 2009 1:04 PM

I logged a lot of time at Urbis the last year it was open. I did a series of paintings there, spent a good amount of time talking to Joe, and got the shakes from over-caffeinating most every day...Thanks for this!

Tracy / November 17, 2009 2:09 PM

Oh, for one more cup of coffee with the light streaming through the windows. It is nice to see the independent coffee shop making a comeback - but Urbis will never have its equal.

frank / November 18, 2009 3:42 PM

I sure do miss this great place.

Robert / January 29, 2010 1:13 AM

I happened upon Bucktown/Wicker Park quite by accident back in, say, 1991 or thereabouts, and the first place I went into was urbis orbis to see if they had any Chicago Reader newspapers. They did. I had no idea that I would spend much of the next three years there in Urbis, sometimes for up to twelve hours at a time. Yes, I suppose you could call me a "slacker," but there was something special about that cafe, its staff, and its customers, most of whom i got to know well and considered my friends. The great thing about the area during those days was you just went out and met up with people. I did a lot of talking in Urbis; well, basically I drank so much coffee I couldn't stop talking. I was completely wired and all for one dollar a day with unlimited refills. I also wrote a lot of poetry on the back of flyers and perhaps it's no surprise, then, that I'm a starving writer today, always having my hopes dashed by those mean publishers with their industry catchprase "It needs a lot of work." I remember Tom, of course, and Joe was a regular back then, too; but I didn't see anyone else I knew. I'm Robert, the English guy, so hi to all those who I used to hang out with.

Andy Roski / February 25, 2010 3:57 PM

In February 1992 I produced my play "No Fury" at Urbis Orbis... great place! man, almost 20yrs ago! The Chicago Reader review is linked below... also made that play into a movie! links below also... Here's to Urbis Orbis!

Sick of Hipsters / February 1, 2011 6:12 PM

I remember some of my friends loved this place. In many ways it was really cool. Unfortunately, like a lot of hipsters hangs of Wickerpark at that time, if you weren't a hipster, or the right kind of hipster, the staff was usually pretty indifferent to you. Sometimes down right rude. As if they had figured you out from the moment they laid eyes on you. A problem widespread through out hipster culture. A bunch of ex suburbanite 20 somethings, now on their own for the first time in the city, acting as though the concrete of Division St split open and gave birth to them.

Allison / June 14, 2011 6:45 PM

It was so great to see some footage from the old Urbis Orbis . I really miss that place. My friends and I would meet up there every so often to talk and have coffee. My group of Chicago Women in Architecture used to meet there quite frequently and we loved the artsy feel adn the artsy patrons. Very laid back. I even bought one of the tables and 4 chairs just after the shop closed. Now, I am thinking about selling the furniture due to lack of space. Thanks for posting the video!

Suzer / September 6, 2011 4:44 AM

Watching this from Australia...feeling nostalgic. On ya!

Caroline / October 12, 2011 4:14 PM

LOL! I remember the time one of my fellow employees was doing some "side work" behind the counter and someone ended up with an Electric Kool-Aid Latte. Good times!

Daniel / October 17, 2011 5:40 PM

Urbis Orbis has a very special place in my heart. It is where I met my wife for the first time on a blind-date on October 17, 1995. We spent hours talking and "interviewing" each other. The conversation was scrumptious. Also noteworthy, Urbis Orbis was one of the few cafes that had Internet terminals so it was the first time my wife surfed the Web. She was originally from Russia, so we typed in "Russia" and the top links on Yahoo were "Russian Mail Order Brides". How appropriate! (She'll kill me for writing that ;-)

Tanisha Caravello / November 2, 2011 12:55 PM

Wow, I can't believe I never saw this until today. It really sums up what Urbis Orbis meant, and I never really appreciated it so much as I do now. I worked there, but it was also my home. I try to describe it now to people who never knew...but I don't think they really understand. That was the best time in my life, and the most dysfunctional. It's so great to see the old regular again...god, I miss them all. Yes, I definitely loved and hated them. Now, I just love them.

Jason / June 4, 2013 6:00 AM

I practically got my graphic design B.A. at this cafe, miss it so much.

Gary / March 1, 2014 5:17 AM

In September of 1994 I had just gotten out of the Navy (following grad school in Chicago) and had several months off to kill before finding a job. I made live music in Chicago my temporary employ and looked for new destinations by day, going out at night. Ben Harper, an at-that-time completely unknown performer, was advertised in the Reader as playing at Urbis--a place I had never heard of. I showed up 30 minutes before he started and sat down at a table five feet from where he pulled up a chair. He played guitar and sang for over an hour and handed out cassette tapes to anyone who would take them after he had finished. He was humble, very nice, and was grateful for anyone who would listen to what he was singing. It was an impromptu and fresh performance in this hip pre-Starbucks coffee shop. I still have his demo cassette and an image of him sitting on that chair in Urbis.

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