Rich, warm tones envelop passersby as they enter Rogers Park's new Café DesCartes coffee shop. With walls adorned by the portraits of renowned philosophers, customers leave Café DesCartes with a token of wisdom after every visit.
Café Descartes’ owner, Ashad Javid or “Sony,” is originally from Pakistan, where he first developed his taste for deep, strong coffee. After earning his degree from the University of Illinois Chicago, Sony started working in a board of trade and quickly realized that his place was not in the corporate world.
Sony decided to take some time for introspection and contemplation by setting off to travel around the world. He spent time observing and talking with people, but he primarily learned about himself. It was on his travels that Sony’s future gained clarity. Opening his own coffee café would truly exercise his passions- to engage in the coffee industry while finding solidarity and community with others.
Sony began his business venture when he returned to the States. He had a modest start by serving out of a six-foot espresso cart in UIC’s Newman Center Church parking lot.
Now, his business has evolved so much that he runs six Café DesCartes prominently located in Chicago.
Sony thrives in the study of philosophy, so he named his café Café DesCartes after Rene DesCartes; his cafe's motto "I drink, therefore I am" is adapted from one of DesCartes' most famous quotes "I think, therefore I am."
Sony relishes in the consistent intellectual growth philosophers trigger. “They inspire me. They teach me something on life because they have their own meaning of what life is,” he says.
I first met Sony when Café DesCartes was under construction. The interior was nearly finished, and the door was cracked open. I poked my head in, thinking maybe someone was inside, and there was Sony. He greeted me warmly and invited me in. Sony could not have been friendlier. He asked about my interests, let me try a cappuccino and invited me to his opening. Since then, every time I passed, he’s waved me in to chat.
“I made you a friend in this business… because this is the thing I enjoy. I really enjoy meeting people. I enjoy serving them,” Sony says.
Sony expresses a drive to always learn new things, and he does that through relationships.
“Since I was a little kid, I grew up in a café scene, where people can go meet each other, have fun, listen to music, do their paperwork, homework, and then get to see each other. They have a coffee, talk about music, art. They gossip, chatting to each other- about life," Sony says. "That’s what life is- about family, about school, about work, the things you like, the people you want to be hanging out with. It[a coffee shop] is a destination where you’ll be able to meet and enjoy your time with friends. It’s nice to do that.”
Cafe DesCartes is at 6451 N Sheridan Rd. It caters to every taste bud, serving espresso, mixed coffee drinks, tea, pastries, sandwiches, salads and even gelato.