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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Audrey / August 4, 2003 10:58 AM

Earwax in Wicker Park (more than a coffee shop, of course, but still the best coffee and cheap eats in the neighborhood, even in its new incarnation,) The Nervous Center in Lincoln Square (nice and dim) and the yummy Bourgeois Pig in Lincoln Park.

Marc / August 4, 2003 11:06 AM

I know it is obscure and I'm going to get slapped with the hipster label for coming out with it, but there's this exclusive little place near my house called *Starbuck's*. Nice comfy couches, lots of cool people to talk to, friendly baristas, affordable, environmentally friendly coffee... Not many people have heard of it yet either so it is normally pretty quiet and you can get a seat by the window.

Just kidding :D
I like Atomix on Chicago Ave.

Andrew / August 4, 2003 11:09 AM

I like Kafein in Evanston, though not as much as I used to. In the city, I like Pause on Berwyn just east of the train.

Naz "Coffeeshopping" H. / August 4, 2003 11:11 AM

I'm interested to see what other places people go coffeeshopping at. I had this conversation over the weekend (thus the new Fuel). Staples are Earwax (as Audrey mentioned), Pick Me Up, Kopi Cafe, and I've recently been to Boost in Andersonville, pretty nice. Java Cha isn't too bad either.

Here's a sub question: late night/24hr. coffeeshops (not diners) that let you stay as long as you like (you know, not the hustle and bustle kind which guilt trip you into leaving as soon as you're done)?

A lex, x, x "Coffee is god" V. / August 4, 2003 11:18 AM

I am still mourning the closing of Urbus Orbus, Scenes - A dramatists bookstore/coffee house and Green Street Cafe..... Nothing compares.

Still, one does need coffee -- so Lula Cafe and Kopi Cafe (where I had many a first teenage dates) will do in a pinch.

lacey / August 4, 2003 11:41 AM

Evanston: I enjoy Kafein as well, and they take the NPR card, too! But Peet's, while a chain, is the stuff. They make a mean latte in the morning (I can't vouch for the evening).

Kopi cappuccinos are good, and you can sit on the floor...

But overall, Intelligentsia on Broadway is the bestest. It always just seems soooo busy though, so I don't go often.

hmm / August 4, 2003 12:27 PM

I'm sorry...are there coffeeshops (besides Starbucks) here?

Kevin / August 4, 2003 12:27 PM

Yah, I like Starbucks. So shoot me.

I can be excused from the "coporate whore" or "yuppie" flaming (whatever that is) because as a supple young 20 year old, I lived in Seattle from 1982 to 1984 when it was coming of age. Shit, you used to be able to smoke in the place. It has a place in my heart and I doubt It'll ever fade.

Kopi rocks as does The Bite although the latter is not as conducive to hanging as is Kopi.

jima / August 4, 2003 12:28 PM

Kopi is best in food and atmosphere, MoJoe's is best in proximity (we live a block away), and Uncommon Ground is best in live music.

brian / August 4, 2003 12:41 PM

Oh, the days of Green Street. No coffeehouse in my mind will ever be better. I might buy a copy of "Go Fish" just so I can reminisce about that place.

I used to dig Third Coast a lot, though I've heard it's changed from a few years ago. Gourmand is still a favorite - I love the big windows.

And I don't mind Starbucks. Hell, I even have a Starbucks card.

Naz - Third Coast is open really late, and they didn't use to hassle people who stayed forever. The Starbucks at North and Wells is open 24 hrs now too.

Naz "I don't actually drink coffee but like coffeeshops" H. / August 4, 2003 12:42 PM

I'll agree with Kevin on Starbucks in Seattle. When I was there we visited the first one right by Pike Place Market and you could feel the history here. I don't begrudge SB in anyway for what they've become because they did start like everyone else, though I'm not speaking from any real knowledge here of what they've done since.

Need to go to Lula Cafe, I've heard good things about it.

lacey / August 4, 2003 12:56 PM

Yeah, it's fess up time: who here has a Starbucks card? I'll confess. It's spitting distance from my house, why not?

Andrew / August 4, 2003 1:05 PM

No Starbucks card in my wallet. The last time I had a loyalty card for a coffeeshop was for Yvette's, the long-closed place in my home town.

Craig / August 4, 2003 1:10 PM

You'd think that with a url like, I would live at coffee shops. Nah. I prefer brewing at home. However, Bagel Art of Evanston wins my "coffee shop" vote-- get there early and enjoy a fresh 'n hot seasame seed bagel with equally as fresh veggie cream cheese. Wash it down with a hot cup o' Intelligentsia and life will be grand.

waleeta / August 4, 2003 1:27 PM

Letezia's on Division just east of Western. It's expensive, but oh my God, the pastries.

Naz "I don't actually drink coffee but like coffeeshops" H. / August 4, 2003 1:30 PM

Oh crap, forgot Letizia's, I wholeheartedly second that. Been spending much time there lately. Recommended highlights include the pizza and the Peanut Butter Dream, a huge huge huge penut butter cookie sandwich with a ton of chocolate in the middle. It's $3.75 but it'll take you three to four sittings to finish it or perfect for two.

Paul / August 4, 2003 1:38 PM

Kopi is my #1 choice. My wife and I had our second date there (awww) and it's just a great spot to hang out. I really enjoy their food, too.

Cafe De Luca and Sweet Thang, although not pure coffee shops, are my other favorite places to hang out. Really, any place that sells a chocolate crossiant.

shechemist / August 4, 2003 2:06 PM

MoJo's on Roscoe cuz it is close, good, and friendly. Beans and Bagel's under the Montrose brownline stop is a another favorite. They have Raven's Brew coffee and bagels from New York Bagels. do y'all have any idea how frigging hard it was to find a decent bagel in this town?

other than that, I like the Pick Me Up more than Kopi.

Wiz of Odds / August 4, 2003 2:27 PM

Excellent question. Starbucks does create lots of jobs. But for straight coffee, Jamoch's on Taylor Street is great. Letizia's has the best pastries. But you know what? I know it's a diner, but Zorba's on Halsted and Jackson is the best place to sit down and have coffee. You can sit with a coffee for three hours, they're open 24 hours, and the waitresses are always friendly. And if you go there as much as I do, eventually they'll stop charging for coffee if you're eating.

So, Zorba's. Zorba's is the best place for coffee.

brian / August 4, 2003 3:58 PM

You know, maybe it's reverie for my student days, but I dig Zorba's too. Stayed up all night once studying for an exam there, and they never made a peep about it.

+mojan. / August 4, 2003 6:51 PM

I always thought of Kopi as somewhat of a hidden gem -- had no idea so many people go there and consider it a favorite. Ah well, I'm one of those people, too. Kopi is my favorite in Chicago, Kafein is my favorite in Evanston.

Kevin / August 4, 2003 7:25 PM

Brian said: "I used to dig Third Coast a lot, though I've heard it's changed from a few years ago."

You are too nice. We had one of our meetups there and it was just as I remembered from the mid 90's: almost non-existent service and aloof waitstaff. It was the weirdest thing because the service is consistently bad; like they work at it.

And thats Waleeta. I'll definately check out Letezia's. You made it sound so good.

christian / August 5, 2003 1:18 AM

I once sat at kafein for forty-five minutes before I even got served, come to think of it, I was never served. I got up, told the girl behind the counter what happened and left. Sort of put a damper on what used to be one of my favorites. This was late at night and I wanted coffee, so I went to Pick Me Up and had the best service in quite some time.

Pick me up is one of those places that can have extremely good service, or the wait person from hell, consistency seems to be an issue with food sometimes, but not the coffee, always good.

Unicorn in Evanston is ok; college folk abound though and can make it kind of annoying.
Spent the rainy day at Earwax, big airy and comfy. Intelligentsia is by far my favorite coffee, but sometimes to teeming with people to be a comfy joint to hang in, not a big fan of the seating. Kopi has the best service Iíve ever had, or at least on the last day I went there they did. Extremely nice baristas I must admit.

All I know is this: if Iím in a coffee shop and about to order, and I hear the barista scolding the milk, Iím extremely put off. If you canít froth milk correctly, youíre just not the shop for me.

Chris Barrett / August 5, 2003 8:13 AM

Hello o o? People?! Starbucks? Dr. Evil? You don't think that was fiction do you? Starbucks is the McDonalds of coffee, the Microsoft of coffee.....the margarine of coffee...... and you Can begrudge a corporations success (Wal Mart) when they open across the corner from independent retailers who have already built up caffeine fiend traffic in the area. They've driven all that was interesting and unique in the coffee buying experience out of the country with their homogenized cookie cutter stores, their prefabricated music compilations and the pretentious relabeling of size descriptors. This land has lost all of its regional flavor through the success of a select group of entrepreneurs who have watered down universally appealing products and sensibilities.

but, damn. thank God I can get decent coffee and a quarter pounder with cheese anywhere I go.

A lex, x, x "Coffee is god" V. / August 5, 2003 8:13 AM

The problem with Starbucks is that the barristas don't know what the f*ck they are doing/serving.

I was jonesing for some coffee and they were the only place that was open early enough and close to work. I asked for an Iced Americano. What I got was a large cup of nothing but espresso over ice. HELLO?! Iced Americano is espresso and water over ice.

When I brought this to her attention, she looked at me blankly and said, "You didn't ask for water." I didn't ask for water? I didn't ask for water? Do you have to ask for tomato juice when you get a Bloody freakin' Mary? Do you have to ask for Vodka when you get a Vodka and Cranberry? It even says it on their menu: Espresso and water over ice!

Still, I got the attitude from her. Stupid Starbucks! And don't even get me started on their homogenization of the world.

P.S. A shout out to Jinx on Division!

Naz "I don't actually drink coffee but like coffeeshops" H. / August 5, 2003 9:15 AM

Alex, Chris, my hat off to you both. I had a similar experience at one of the two times I've been to a Starbucks (I've always gone with someone else for a quick stop) as Alex had and they apparently made a frappucino completely wrong, as my friend worked at one as well.

Ah, man this thread is good, lots of good places to check out.

How is Jinx of late? It's always open, closed, open, closed, and I haven't been there since 99.

Onid / August 5, 2003 9:24 AM

Starbucks is BAD, BAD, BAD!!! I was changing planes in Milan and I ordered an espresso and it was better than any espresso that I have ever had at any Starbucks...EVER. This was in a f*cking airport people. One of the people I was with (sadly, she is one of the brainwashed starbucks masses) ordered a Latte and was confused when she walked away with just a milk. Starbucks is ruining the world!!

Oh and I enjoy Kafein in Evanston and sometimes a Dunkin Donuts coffee is pretty darn good also. Zorba's is excellent for people watching.

Cinnamon / August 5, 2003 10:18 AM

Since I don't drink coffee, I'm always out for which shop makes other interesting coffee alternatives. Kopi is my #1 pick, they have everything I could want. Aion is awesome for tea and since they haven't been busy when I've been there I think I could hang out for hours undisturbed. And, the staff is knowledgable about their teas! Very important. Ennui on Sheridan in Roger's Park is nice if you're looking for someplace to hang out for hours. Unicorn in Evanston is nice, but I could be biased since a just-post-high school boy flirted with me and told me he thought I was much younger than I am. (heehee) And, since Starbucks always smells like burnt hair, and since I don't like any of their coffee alternatives, I rarely get anything from them.

A lex, x, x "Coffee is god" V. / August 5, 2003 10:56 AM

Who in their right mind would name a coffee shop "Ennui?" Do they even know what that means? It means boredom, not just regular boredom -- it is the KING of boredom.

That's almost as bad as the hot dog place named "Toots."

paul / August 5, 2003 11:02 AM

In Evanston - I'm partial to Cafe Express, both of them. I like my coffee like I like my women, unpretentious and cheap.

Also, they both have outdoor seating in the sun - the one on Main in the morning, and the one on Dempster in the afternoon.

By the way, anybody have a list of coffee shops with free Wifi? Does Kaffein still offer it free? I know the cafe near the Berwyn L offers free Wifi to Mac owners (but not PC's).

christian / August 5, 2003 11:38 AM

17 Starbucks stores in San Francisco were vandalized over night with "For Lease" signs and windows painted white. I guess it must be the universal hatred of the evil Starbucks Empire. Mmmm, that burnt coffee taste just makes my day.

Brooke / August 5, 2003 12:00 PM

There is this little place on Ashland and 21st Place called Mestizo. I don't know how much it has in the form of coffee, because I don't drink coffee, but it has great horchata smoothies. The atmosphere is really great because it's very community centered. They feature different Mexican (I think) artists every month. The last couple of times I have been they featured a photography exhibit. I've only been there on Wednesday nights because they have open mics then, so I can't vouch for any other times, but it's one of those places that are nice to support because they do a lot of respectable things for the community.

Kevin / August 5, 2003 1:23 PM

"but, damn. thank God I can get decent coffee and a quarter pounder with cheese anywhere I go."

Heheh.. Yeah, tried that in Amsterdam and got a cup of dirt with hot water and some gristle between two slices of bread. But hey, I was there for the whores so what do I know?

rachael / August 5, 2003 3:51 PM

I'm partial to Rain Dog in the south loop. It's a coffee shop / used bookstore with a large selection of art books and an atmosphere that encourages browsing. It is at 408 S Michigan Ave. I also like Intelligentsia at 53 West Jackson. It is just a little place with some tables, not a tremendous atmosphere, but the coffee is excellent. I think they have another store on Broadway somewhere...

And, of course, I have to give a shout out to Ennui. I was frequent customer when I lived in Roger's Park, and a former Ennui employee, so I know that place has heart.

And Alex, the name Ennui is supposed to be ironic, although (scarily!) I can't say the same for Toots.

A lex, x, x "Coffee is god" V. / August 6, 2003 8:03 AM

Yeah, I get the "irony" but it's still pretentiously retarded.

Anne / August 6, 2003 1:14 PM

Katerina's on Irving Park near the Brown line is one of my favorites. For downtown fun, there's always the Wolf & Kettle on Pearson near Loyola and the Water Tower. I still like the Third Coast for its loiterer-friendly qualities as well.

(Disclaimer: I don't actually drink coffee, I just hang out with people who do.)

Andrew / August 6, 2003 2:30 PM

Anne, Katerina's has been transformed into a cocktail lounge. Now the closest coffee to the Irving Park Brown Line stop is the Starbucks at Damen. Yuck.

Ian / August 6, 2003 4:02 PM

The Westgate Coffeehouse on W. Madison, for creating a friendly, comfortable and interesting environment, from a cold contemporary space.

The Millennium Perk on E. Madison. Small but perfectly formed.

Intelligentsia. Consistently the best coffee in Chicago, achieved through quality beans and excellent baristas.

Wiz of Odds / August 6, 2003 8:35 PM

Hmm...independent coffee shop...irony...doesn't seem possible.

I've had the coffee at Malpensa airport in Milan. It was really good. But then again, that's Italy. They sort of invented espresso.

I don't know why everybody's so hard on "evil" Starbucks. How important is designer coffee, really? They opened one in my neighborhood a year or so ago and there are four other cafes in walking distance and all of them are doing fine--the difference being that Starbucks employs more people, has a more diverse workforce (e.g., not just hipsters, college students, and the relatives of the owners), and they offer health insurance, over-time pay, tip-sharing, and numerous other perks, including financed staff parties.

I knew one of the girls who participated in the Starbucks-door-gluing a few years ago. She got a job there six months later.

Miranda / August 7, 2003 8:57 AM

Another vote for Kopi. Seems like everytime I go there I realize something personally earth-shaking (I should quit my job! I should move! I should totally not date this moron!)...hence, I love the place, but I'm a little scared to go there too frequently...

lacey / August 7, 2003 11:18 AM

You know, if the Starbucks on my corner were replaced with a Dunkin' Donuts, I would just go there. Kopi is grand, but they don't open until 8am, and sometimes a gal's gotta go to work before then. Starbucks always seems to be open. And Dunkin' D is open 24-7, you know. But's nice to have a choice.

sEn^ / August 8, 2003 10:17 AM

Another vote for Intelligensia on Broadway. It's the closest good coffee shop to me.

LD / August 9, 2003 1:30 AM

I vote for Beans & Bagels under the Montrose brown line stop. I think they ship their bagels in from Skokie, which is the best I've seen from the midwest. Good coffee, charmingly unfriendly service. If you want your bagel cut down the middle, you gotta ask for that EVERY time, they won't remember, but damn, the jalapeno cream cheese rocks. For just plain good coffee, Peet's wins the prize. Yes, it's a chain, but there's only 2 of em...clybourn/north and in Evanston.

billyO / August 13, 2003 10:22 AM

Numero Uno: Millennium Perk ... good food, good coffee, FREE wireless

Segundo: Intelligentsia ... it is SO nice to see their coffee being sold at other locations, but to be at the actual store is a treat. Warm in winter!

Tercero: Uncommon Ground ... finally good coffee (intelligentsia! :D) good music, some art. Warm in winter!

Dead Last Behind All Others: Starbucks ... yeah, I go to different locations, I drink their coffee (I'm an addict to caffeine, not the flavor) and I worked there. Baristas don't know what they're doing because the company doesn't train according to "traditional" coffee knowledge. Hell, if you asked them what a grinder looked like, they'd point out the one they sell. I was lucky to have been in the business before Starbucks came to Chicago, was trained on an old ITALIAN espresso machine, ended up working for an Italian who made damn well sure I knew how to make his afternoon drink. So don't blame the workers at Starbucks, blame the system; it exists to produce profit, nothing more. And although I could work there again for the insurance, I still place them last due to their lack of no longer allowing managers of stores to choose music, create ambience, or add personal touches (art) to their stores. They used to, then they got national, and HUGE. Welcome to corporate America.

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