In a city where the temperature drops to icy for many months of the year, a good, indoor gathering spot is essential. That helps explain why the Windy City offers a plethora of incredible coffee shops, spaces where communities gather, neighbors chat, and people catch up on their pleasure reading or work. Here are seven of Chicago’s best:
C.C. Fern’s is a destination. And for good reason. With live music multiple times weekly, a curated cigar collection and custom-made cedar spills, Doughnut Vault donuts, and a killer menu of boozy brews, it’s no surprise that Chicagoans just can’t get enough of Humboldt Park-based C.C. Fern’s.
Part of the appeal: The space’s knockout aesthetic is just eclectic enough, just unexpected enough, to succeed only in the hands of a true savant. C.C. Fern’s describes it space as a mix that ranges from “1970s-era influences to… Tiki and Polynesian décor as an homage to the Pan Am Clipper Planes of the 1930s.” This is a spot to feast to feast the senses.
If you’d like to make C.C. Fern’s your regular, why not live nearby? Check out our penthouse, 2-bed, 2-bath condo at 2446 W. Walton St., #3. It’s the ultimate sun-filled party loft, perfect for residents who love to entertain. A rooftop deck, wired for music, connects to a fabulous indoor area with a wet bar and refrigerator. When the weather’s nice, your friends will never want to leave. Indoors, find a Ralph Lauren chandelier, a kitchen island with quartz countertops, and expansive windows that allow for a welcoming, social floorplan. The master bath includes a steam shower, soaking tub, and heated flooring. This is the kind of place your set will envy.
Ipsento’s owners travel the world sourcing ethical beans, but they’re low-key about their commitment to social justice. Ipsento’s clientele tend toward the kind-hearted and egalitarian. They’re earnest about their coffee, but relaxed about life. One Yelp reviewer calls Ipsento “serious but not pretentious.”
With two storefronts--on Western Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue--Ipsento grew out of a coffee roaster on wheels and mobile coffee bar that the shop’s current owners, Tim and Mandi Taylor, used to cart around Chicago. They inherited the shop from Ipsento’s first owners, who opened the space in 2006. By 2012, the Taylor’s direct-sale coffee roastery and storefront had been combined into the Ipsento that clients know and love today.
Since Caffe Streets is located in the heart of Wicker Park, it’s no surprise that the shop’s décor and fare are just, well, hip. Caffe Streets’ edited menu means that you truly can’t go wrong, whether you’re interested in a Honduran roast on the Chemex, a Cortado, a turmeric-ginger tea, or a house-made raspberry soda.
The masculine aesthetic of the space evokes both sculptural Japanese wavy shingles and a retro wood-paneled basement. The effect is grounding, perfect for tearing through an Excel spreadsheet on your MacBook or catching up with an old friend.
Dollop first opened in Uptown over a decade ago. With ten locations all over the city, Chicagoans love of Dollop speaks for itself. Dollop offers a classic cappucino alongside specialty beverages such as the Nutella Mocha and the Dirty Chai.
Another key factor for Dollop’s success? The shop’s buttery, insanely delicious baking. From a morning biscuit with butter and jam, to quiche, to a Brie sandwich with pear and fig on a amazing bread, Dollop offers a reminder that the way to someone’s heart is through her stomach.
Hyde Park-based Build Coffee is a hub of activism and progressive politics. Build offers its homey space as a venue for theatre, workshops, art exhibits, book clubs, gaming, and more. Build supports the arts in more ways than one: Patrons find a collection of local, small-press titles, zines, literary journals, comics, and art books.
Build’s neighbors include the 61st St. year-round Farmers Market, Blackstone Bicycle Works, and what Build calls “three of the most exciting journalism projects in the city: the Invisible Institute, City Bureau, and the South Side Weekly.” This is a great space to pull up a vintage velvet chair, order a few black coffees, and go deep into new ideas.
It’s a pleasure bringing guests to Hero Coffee Bar, formerly the beloved Pickwick Coffee. The fantastic spot offers outdoor seating, romantic overhead string lights, fabulous roasts--and an unexpected location in a Loop alleyway.
The coffee bar occupies a once-horse stable, built in the 1850’s, that burned to the ground in the Chicago Fire, replaced by a tiny brick structure. At 19’ wide by 19’ deep, it’s the smallest building in the Loop, and in the 1970s, it was under threat of demolition. Luckily, in recent years the Pickwick stables have been transformed into one of the most intimate, surprising spaces in the Loop.
Nearby, at 310 S. Michigan Avenue, #2800, you’ll find a 3-bed, 3.5-bath, 3,000-sq.-ft. rental with breathtaking views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. The scenery alone sells this property, but with updated interiors, it’s a no-brainer. From a gracious kitchen island, to tasteful stone in the restrooms, to a panoramic patio, 310 S. Michigan captures what city living is all about.
Artopolis Bakery, Cafe and Agora opened almost 20 years ago in the heart of Greektown. This cheerful, welcoming spot offers a range of European fare, from bitter and complex quality espresso, to mixed beverages made with Nescafe, to well-selected wines.
Artopolis is especially well known for its food and baking, as it is one of the few places in Chicago to offer this particular style of Mediterranean cuisine. In addition to your classic coffee, try a baked goat cheese with sesame, garlic-tomato sauce, fresh basil, and toasted baguette. Or a prosciutto and melon masterpiece with baby arugula, pine nuts, and balsamic reduction. You’ll feel revived, alert, and ready for what life throws your way.
Artopolis borders a wonderful listing, 659 West Randolph, #612. This hip one-bedroom includes granite countertops, an office area, in-unit laundry, an open layout, and a roomy walk-in closet in the master. Best of all, this full-service building includes amenities such as a doorperson, an outdoor pool and sundeck, an exercise room, a dog run, a bike room, and a dry cleaner. Live the social city life at 659 W. Randolph.
Whether you’re in the mood for cigars or ethically sourced beans, mind-expanding political conversation or an awe-inspiring interior, Chicago offers a coffee shop for you. As fall sets in, we at CONLON/Christie’s International Real Estate recommend getting a head start on exploring each of these favorites. It’ll be a tour of the diverse personalities, architecture, and cuisine of our lakefront gem. Best of all, there will be caffeine.