The young owners of Ch’ava have taken an awkwardly shaped, whitewashed space and turned it into a coffee shop of serious distinction. It begins with the service, which is friendly and usually geeked out over the coffees of the day—a rotating menu of beans that are brewed per cup with a Clover machine. What, you thought the Clover craze was over? You’re not wrong—when Starbucks bought the company that makes the exacting, temperature-controlled machines, they all but disappeared from indie shops. But Ch’ava’s coffee makes a good argument as to why the machine’s still relevant: It’s clean and focused, with a mellow body and seamless expression of flavors ranging from fruity to earthy to bright. Chances are you’ll get geeked out on it, too.
It’s a coffee shop with vegan tendencies, but de.li.cious doesn’t have that kumbaya vibe of spots such as Heartland Café. Instead, it appears to be just another coffee shop. The vegan breakfast sandwich (tofu fried “egg” and vegan sausage) will never pass for what it tries to emulate, but it’s a respectable (and filling) attempt; the vegan muffins do a better job of standing in for the real thing. But at the end of the day, it’s not the food you’ll come here for: It’s the Chemex coffee, brewed so smooth and silky it’s well worth the eight-minute wait to get it.
Andersonville is nuts about this coffee shop, which offers a colorful variety of organic, sustainable menu items. The quiche selection, featuring a hearty wild mushroom pie, is definitely a draw, as are the handful of can’t-believe-it’s-vegan desserts. But it’s the smooth, expertly pulled shots of espresso and smart, midcentury-modern design that make this the sexiest coffee shop on the block (even more so with a tasteful beer and wine menu in the evenings).
You know you’re in a neighborhood favorite when a cop stopping in for his “usual” knows the name of the stroller-pushing mom who’s come to pick up her sister’s birthday cake. The couple running this cheerful daytime-only spot take it all in stride—while they may have only opened in 2004, their Beverly roots run much deeper. That would explain the careful local sourcing, from sage-rich breakfast sausage to thick applewood-smoked bacon and 21 varieties of house-roasted coffee.
A café as lovely and sunny as this inspires lingering. But lingering requires cup upon cup of caffeine, and that could become hazardous. This European export has a solution for that, though: a full menu of food, most of it the unlikeliest coffeehouse food you’ve come across. Frittaten soup is offered daily, and the roasted lamb is served with golden, toothsome spaetzle. At the end of the meal, a slice of impeccable opera cake is a necessity. And with it, yet another cup of coffee.
The guys behind Hyde Park’s Istria are all about keeping things small-scale and local. But that may be hard for them to continue, as people are bound to respond to roasted-to-order coffee, fresh panini and the dozen varieties of housemade gelato. It’s creamy stuff, put out in a constant rotation of flavors as delicious as cherry mascarpone and fresh peach, plus oddball options like Nerds that only a kid could love. They’re the antithesis to Starbucks now, but with a second location at the Hyde Park Art Center, better get it while it’s still indie.
To get Wicker Park excited about another coffee shop, you’d have to do something pretty crazy. Like, say, install a DeLorean in the front of the store. Okay, Wormhole, you win. So now that this time-travel-themed coffee shop has the neighborhood’s attention, what else is going on here? A small selection of baked goods from Fritz Pastry (including doughnuts!); Cheerios and other assorted cereals; and some very serious baristas, who use beans from a variety of cult roasters and who cold-brew the strongest iced coffee that’s ever graced our parched, caffeine-starved lips.
Commuters heading for the Logan Square El station make a beeline for the Metropolis coffee drinks at this spacious café. Those not tied down by the nine-to-five prefer to roll in just before noon and set up camp to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Panini and wraps offer sustenance to counter the caffeine shakes, with a good assortment of vegetarian-friendly options to boot. Late-night hours make New Wave a frequent stop for night owls as well, fueling up before an evening of debauchery at nearby bars.
There’s plenty to nosh on at this Pilsen bakery: breakfast burritos, sandwiches and fair-trade coffee. But it’s outstanding tres leches that, um, takes the cake. Rick Bayless himself anointed the stuff best around town, but don’t take his word for it—try a slice yourself while surfing the Net using the free Wi-Fi. Can’t make it during the day? The café stays open late on second Fridays for the area’s Second Fridays art walk.
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