Café Tola Coffee nerdery Low. Metropolis drip coffee is competently brewed; house specialties, such as a spicy mocha, round things out. Food ambitiousness High. Housemade empanadas (such as an outstanding black-bean, plantain and goat-cheese one) are warm and taste just made (which they probably were). How long do you want to spend here? A lifetime. But with no seats in the colorful, lively, shoebox-size space, all you’ll get is a couple minutes. 3612 N Southport Ave (773-687-8428).
Karamela Coffee nerdery Low. Basic espresso drinks, no nerdery involved Food ambitiousness High. The place bakes its own cakes and takes pride in its crêpes—only a small part of its extensive soup-salad-sandwich menu. How long do you want to spend here? If you’re into the aesthetic—it’s kind of like a Greek grandmother’s living room in here—you may want to linger a little. If not, you’ll leave as soon as you’ve finished your food. 1250 S Michigan Ave (312-322-0400).
Jackalope Coffee & Tea House Coffee nerdery Medium-low. The lineup of drip coffee and espresso drinks is pretty standard; the menu of specialty lattes (S’mores, Nutella, Peppermint Patty) goes above and beyond. Food ambitiousness Who cares? There are Bridgeport Bakery doughnuts! How long do you want to spend here? Our nonscientific study found that at least 50 percent of Bridgeport residents are in this shop at one time. These folks could spend all day here; outsiders can probably handle an hour. 755 W 32nd St (312-888-3468).
The Coffee Alley Coffee nerdery Low. The beans are La Colombe, but the drip has the thin, harsh taste of Starbucks. Food ambitiousness Medium. A large panini menu is supplemented with Pleasant House savory pies. How long do you want to spend here? That depends. How do you feel about indoor cobblestone floors? What’s your tolerance for open-mic nights? 1152 W Taylor St (773-663-4650).
Gaslight Coffee Roasters Coffee nerdery High. Gaslight roasts its own beans and brews them via drip, pour-over and siphon methods. Food ambitiousness Medium-high. Sandwiches are simple but made to order, and ingredients in the charcuterie-and-cheese lunch are high-quality—which you will pay handily for. How long do you want to spend here? Hours, if any of Gaslight’s chambray-shirted clientele would give up a seat in the sunny, taxidermy-filled room. 2385 N Milwaukee Ave.
Le Café Coffee nerdery Standard all around (the beans are Lavazza) Food ambitiousness High. Most of the pastries are housemade, and the hot entrées (omelettes, crêpes) make this more of a lunch joint than a coffee shop. How long do you want to spend here? As long as it takes to eat and finish your Americano (say, 45 minutes) 4655 N Lincoln Ave (773-878-2233).
Sol Café Coffee nerdery Mixed. The shop takes pride in brewing select beans from Bow Truss. But there’s no pour-over or French press in sight. Food ambitiousness Low. A few Red Hen pastries make up the morning selection; a handful of sandwiches can be made starting at noon. How long do you want to spend here? It’s sunny and roomy in here, with lots of industrial-yet-warm details—you’ll stay until they kick you out. 1615 W Howard St (773-814-7256).
Hardboiled Coffee Company Coffee nerdery Medium-high. Coffee is roasted on site and hot chocolate is made from real chocolate (not cocoa). But only one type of coffee is offered, either drip or French press. Food ambitiousness Low. A few pastries stock the case. How long do you want to spend here? Longer than you think. Jazz music, paperbacks and a copy of the New York Review of Books strewn next to a couch make this a nicer place to linger than the Western Avenue landscape suggests. 9135 S Western Ave (773-238-8360).
Dollop Coffee nerdery Next level. Dollop doesn’t just offer a pour-over option for its Metropolis beans—it offers four kinds of pour-over. Food ambitiousness Medium. Sandwiches, bagels and lots of Hoosier Mama pie How long do you want to spend here? All night. The mod interior, indie tunes and young clientele rival that of a Wicker Park bar. And striking up a conversation is easy. (Your foolproof opening line: “Nice iPad.”) 345 E Ohio St (312-929-4007).
Bow Truss Coffee nerdery Serious but practical. Bow Truss roasts its own beans (at the Lakeview roastery); when we visited, this shop served one varietal via pour-over and another via drip for those on the go. Food ambitiousness Unusual. Bow Truss hosts scheduled pop-up pastry vendors (such as B-True, a bakery that uses only whole grains) during the week. How long do you want to spend here? All signs—no Wi-fi, no public bathroom, no logical place to plug in a laptop—point to getting in, sipping an espresso, and getting out. Those few minutes, however, will be lovely. 406 N Wells St.
Robust Coffee Coffee nerdery Low. Alterra Coffee is available in light and dark iterations, and there’s a huge menu of blended drinks. Food ambitiousness High. This River North outpost of the Hyde Park shop is a veritable café, with a huge menu of hot breakfasts and deli-style sandwiches. How long do you want to spend here? As long as the barista’s complimenting our hair...forever. Okay, a long lunch would probably do it. 416 W Ontario St (312-526-3420).