They brew a mean pour-over cup. They pull a fine shot. They even offer a glass of sparkling water with your espresso macchiato—without you having to ask. Of course, Intelligentsia’s reach extends far beyond its three Chicago coffee bars. Independent cafés all over the city (and beyond) serve its caramel-imbued Black Cat espresso, and coffee aficionados buy up the seasonal, single-origin beans for home brewing. But Intelligentsia may be a fan favorite for a far more powerful reason: The company has proven that by focusing on quality, a local roaster can hold its own, even thrive, in a Starbucks world. 3123 N Broadway (773-348-8058); 53 E Randolph St (312-920-9332); 53 W Jackson Blvd (312-253-0594).
Other nominees Asado Coffee Co., Bridgeport Coffee Co., Dark Matter, Metropolis