Meet Chicago's Coolest Baristas

UPDATE: In need of a caffeine fix? Stop by one of these spots for a visit with the coolest coffee guys and gals in town. This story was originally published on June 1.
We're a town full of busy go-getters, and none of us can start our day without that mandatory cup of joe. Whether you're a Loop-bound commuter or a freelancer working from home, you've probably got a favorite coffee shop you're loyal to. And, inside every good cafe is a barista (or two) who not only knows the difference between Kopi Lupak beans and a Sumatra blend, but is also an expert at turning your yawn into a smile.
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So, with our buzz in mind, we visited some of Chicago's favorite beaneries to chat with the guys and gals behind the counters about all things coffee-centric. Click through to see if we hit up your morning sipping spot, and find out who's been helping you get ready to dominate your workday. And, next time you stop by, be sure to say hi—and thanks! Or, you could always use that tipping mug….
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Danielle Serafini, barista at Swim Cafe

What do you love about being a barista?
"My favorite thing about being a barista in Chicago is probably the amount of different people I get to meet on a daily basis. West Town/UK Village is such an interesting neighborhood in this city, filled with various types of people."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Who is the coolest customer you've ever served?
"The coolest customer I've ever served is this guy, Garro. He actually comes in every morning on his way to work, and he always has some ridiculous and funny story to share. It's definitely great when someone can make you laugh as hard he makes me laugh at 6:30 in the morning."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order at Swim Cafe this summer?
"If you're getting hot coffee, definitely see if the Colombian blend is brewing, because that's a staff favorite. If you want a nice cold beverage though, any of our iced lattes are great. We have a wide variety of milk choices, and alternatives to choose from, and amazing syrups by Jo Sno if you want to give it a little flavor."

Swim Café, 1357 West Chicago Avenue (between Noble and Ada streets); 312-492-8600.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Alan Gagné, barista at Heritage Bicycles General Store

What is your favorite thing about being a barista in Chicago?
"I love the neighborhood and the regulars. Hot and cold weather trends keep you on your toes. Working on bikes between drinks adds to the joy of working at Heritage, people demand bikes and coffee."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Who is the coolest customer you've ever served?
"Barack Obama".

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order at Heritage this summer?
"Cold brew iced coffee on TAP!"

Heritage Bicycles General Store, 2959 North Lincoln Avenue (between Wellington and Southport avenues); 773-245-3005.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Stephanie Marie Schultz, barista at Jupiter Outpost

What do you love about being a barista in Chicago?
"Mostly I love the interactions with people. And the Fulton Market area is so very interesting!"

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What is your personal favorite at Jupiter?
"Iced honey vanilla soy latte (it's super delicious and refreshing!)."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we be ordering at Jupiter this summer?
"Iced coffee and Italian sodas (We have many flavors to choose from, blackberry is my favorite.) We have yummy sandwiches and soups with a special sandwich that is different every week. Also, make sure to say hello to Bebe the turtle!"

Jupiter Outpost, 1139 West Fulton Market (between May Street and Racine Avenue); 312-226-5768.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Kevin Ashtari owner of Asado Coffee Co.

What do you love about being a barista in Chicago?
"We're roasters first, the bar is to showcase our microroasts."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Who is your favorite customer, ever?
"Tim Meadows, it took everything we had to hold back from asking him to do the 'Ladies Man'."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order this summer?
"Get a bag of some fresh roasted coffee and a cafe solo (coined the pour-over by others)."

Asado Coffee Co., 1432 West Irving Park Road (between Southport and Janssen Avenues); 773-661-6530.



Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Alex Khunprachansri, barista at Buzz Killer Espresso

What do you love about being a barista in Chicago?
"It's generally pretty laid back, you have time to chat with the costumers and learn a bit about everyone. My background is working back of the house in kitchens running around all day, so it's a nice change of pace."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What is your go-to coffee drink?
"I'll usually just have a good hot cup of coffee year-round but I'll get an iced tea or cold brew every once and a while."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order at Buzz this summer?
"A really great pour right now is the Tchembe, you can't go wrong with the cold brew either. It's brewed in cold water for 10-12 hours. This acts as a sort of distillation process which enhances the caffeine content and flavor. It's served over ice."

Buzz Killer Espresso, 1644 North Damen Avenue (between North and Wabansia avenues); 773-366-8377.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Branden LaCour, barista at Filter Cafe

What do you love about being a barista in Chicago?
"I love the people I get to meet and the relationships that are made at work. The coffee network in Chicago is pretty great and I love the unique vibe each cafe gives."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Who is your favorite customer, ever?
"Probably Josh, he comes in each day and always has this phenomenal attitude about life. He comes in and we start talking like we've known each other forever. He's got grit but in a good way and he totally fits the part of a Chicago guy making his way and loving it."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order at Filter this summer?
"That's a hard question. Most people come in just to chill and drink our coffee, its a medium/ dark roast and is roasted here in the cafe. During the summer, people love our iced coffee. Latte wise I would say our mocha is pretty bomb."

Filter Café, 1373-75 North Milwaukee Avenue (between Wolcott Avenue and Wood Street); 773-904-7819.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Melisa Morgan, barista at New Wave Coffee

What do you love about being a barista in Chicago?
"Being a barista in Chicago, particularly in Logan Square, is the easiest way to meet and mingle with local creatives and like-minds."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Who is the coolest customer you've ever served?
"The coolest customer I've ever served, excluding my mother and partner (the coolest people in my universe), is either Mike Renaud (freelance designer whose major client is the Pitchfork music festival and who runs a beautiful studio space called Rational Park out of Humboldt Park), or Shirley Novak (co-owner of Wolfbait & B-girls)."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order at New Wave this summer?
"Iced coffee. Our iced coffee is cold-brewed for 24 hours in our Filtron system, and each individual batch is harvested and tweaked to ensure its deliciousness. Otherwise, we recently got these great little Cortado glasses that I would love to utilize more often..."

New Wave Coffee, 2557 North Milwaukee Avenue (at Logan Boulevard); 773-489-0646.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Marc Bonadies, manager at Star Lounge

What is your favorite thing about being a barista in Chicago?
"One of my favorite things about being a barista in Chicago is meeting all of my neighbors. It gives the shop a feeling of community."



Photographed by Caleb Condit
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Who is the coolest customer you've ever served in your shop?

"Well, I once sold an americano to Jarvis Cocker and Jay-Z's DJ stopped by for a coffee, but the coolest people I have served are the neighborhood folks who have been supporting us for the past five years."

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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What should we order from Star Lounge this summer?
"Our famous draft iced coffee, the mayan mocha, or the Shiratado!"

Star Lounge Coffee Bar, 2521 West Chicago Avenue (between Maplewood and Campbell avenues); 773-384-7827.

Photographed by Caleb Condit
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