If you look carefully, Chicago is abundant with many hidden, one-of-a-kind coffee shops. One day I found a "Not for Tourists’ Guide to Chicago 2009" for 1 USD at a resale shop in Andersonville called the Brown Elephant (which is amazing!)
Keen on grabbing a nice cup of ice coffee in a comfortable place, my summer roommates and I consulted the book to see what options there are. To our dismay, the index and coffee shop guide was basically a list of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. But when we looked more thoroughly, we found some great places that are worth a visit!
We spent the summer trying out several cafes. Here’s the first part of a four part list we compiled, it might come in handy once it gets cold and you want to find a new ambiance to study in:
824 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
The moment I walked into the place, I fell in love with the décor. It was a plain, rectangular shop painted a robin blue colour. They had bikes mounted on one wall and cartoon illustrations of everyday objects in different sized squares on another wall.
The coffee was okay (they sell the fair trade Metropolis coffee), and so was their sandwiches. There wasn't really anything special about them, but they tasted good. I was their during the summer so all I could imagine is that the sleek, crisp décor of the place would seem a bit too cold for winter, but I may be wrong. The location is convenient though, so if you would like to recharge after a day of shopping and browsing in the Belmont area and would prefer to chill in the coffee shop that’s not Starbucks (there actually is a Starbucks perpendicular from it), Espresso Bar is a good place to go too.
Studying? If sitting in lounge chairs make you sleep, then this is a good place to study, it is also not too busy. Perhaps just not cozy enough to stay too long.
5317 N Clark, Chicago, IL, 60640
Only a 5 minute walk from the Red Line Berwyn stop, Kopi is a cozy café that the founders call “a travelers café”. The reference could be seen throughout the place; it is decorated with ornaments from various South and South East Asian countries (the places that inspired them the most), and they have a special corner devoted to travel books and maps.
The coffee? It’s great! Their “small” size is barely small, you get your money’s worth so don’t worry. I had the Viennese café, which is a mixture of coffee, cream and chocolate served in a glass mug with froth and cinnamon powder. My friend Taylor had a “small dirty chai” (served to her in a mug as big as her face) which is like your average chai but pumped up with some spices and a shot of coffee. The best way to enjoy their coffee is by sitting in the lesehan area at the front, which is inspired by the traditional Javanese dining arrangement (low teak tables and you sit on pillows). I especially like this place because “Kopi” is the Indonesian word for coffee. It's right across from the Brown Elephant Resale Shop too!
Studying? It could be a little bit noisy because there are a bunch of grown-ups chatting and eating. The restaurant area I can't really imagine being a good study place, but the area up front is quite comfortable for group study sessions.
738 W Fullerton Pkwy
When I first visited this place with my friend Eric last winter break, my first impression was: this is such a hipster place. I mean this in the nicest way. My second time visiting it over the summer, my friend Taylor and I sat in the outdoor area, where we saw a young man with a scruff wearing wayfarers had his legs in rolled-up-jeans resting on the table as he slurps his ice coffee and reads Hemingway (I have a picture to prove it! If only I know how to upload pictures here…)
The place itself looks like an old house, with wooden floors and cozy mismatched furniture. They have board games on the second floor, and also boasts to having the biggest loose-leaf tea collection in the Midwest. I come here for their mate latte, which is the best.
Studying? It is near DePaul, so a lot of the other people who go there are students who need to study as well. When I went their with Eric, we felt a bit bad playing the board games because everyone else on the second floor were so pensive and quiet. It is definitely a good place to study.