Mmm, That's Good: 10 Of Chicago's Best Coffee Shops

:UPDATE: This story was originally published on January 18.
Personal office, first-date spot, gossipy gathering place…the simple coffee shop can be anything you want it to be. Even so, there's a certain formula that turns the average (cup of) Joe establishment into a welcoming, java-sippin' respite. And because we're always looking for the ultimate bean buzz, we scoped out 10 of the best cafes to keep you going from 9-to-5 — and way beyond — one mug at a time.
You'll love listening to live music while sipping on a caffeinated concoction (with a house-made syrup, no less) at Andersonville's Coffee Studio. And for a spot that feels like a friend's to-die-for pad, you can't beat the geek-chic surroundings at The Wormhole. So, while we can't help you with your TPS reports — or the company you keep — hopefully these second homes will keep you perky through it all.
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The Wormhole Coffee

Despite the full-sized DeLorean, Star Wars memorabilia, and video game collection (play away!), you don’t have to be a product of the ‘80s to appreciate this kitschy Wicker Park shop. The baristas really know their beans and keep things interesting with seasonal sippers, like the current Mayan Melk, a frothy mix of hot white chocolate, lavender syrup, topped with a cracked pepper marshmallow from Katherine Anne Confections.

Other “perks” include free Wi-Fi, two restrooms (that java is going to kick in eventually), and rad tunes. The only drawback is that you sometimes have to be a seat stalker, since this place is always poppin’. But as long as it keeps cranking out those Honey Bear lattes, that’s fine with us.

The Wormhole Coffee, 1462 North Milwaukee Avenue (between Evergreen Avenue and Honore Street); 773-661-2468.

Photo by Cara Hunt
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The loss of hip java shop Filter in Wicker Park was as disappointing as realizing your brew was actually decaf. But ever since its reopening back in 2010, it’s been back to business as usual. Putting the "j" in java, partners Jeff Linnane and Jeff Stella didn't stray too far from the old concept (laid-back and loungey), and why should they? With a loyal following of dedicated "sipsters" participating in everything from reading to knitting, we don’t blame them.

If you’re making an afternoon out of your visit, there is plenty of food options beyond bagels and muffins (think sandwiches, wraps, flatbreads) to keep you sustained. And with free W-Fi, it’s a great home away from home office — if you can score one of the cozy couches or arm chairs, that is.

Filter, 1373-75 North Milwaukee Avenue (between Wood and Paulina streets); 773-904-7819.

Photo by Cara Hunt
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Big Shoulders Coffee

Big Shoulders may be small, but thanks to its proximity near the Blue Line and 66 bus, owner Tim Coonan says his shop attracts “more commuters looking for a quick exchange than folks who camp out.” This is great news for those of you looking for a respite to get your work on (with that free Wi- Fi) over one of the extremely popular marshmallow lattes made with house-made vanilla bean syrup. If you’re not buzzing enough after that, try one of the amazing pastries from Cheap Tart Bakery pastry chef Dinah Grossman.

Big Shoulders Coffee, 1105 West Chicago Avenue (at Milwaukee Avenue); 312-888-3042.

Photo: Courtesy of Big Shoulders
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Star Lounge Coffee Bar

This coffee hot spot has the look of a (cool) dive bar minus the Pabst Blue Ribbon — though the regular coffee is poured from a tap. In short, we’re obsessed, and so are the hoards of loyal customers who head here for a laid-back (dog friendly) atmosphere and creative coffee concoctions, like the Dolor De Oro: espresso, steamed milk, honey, habanero, cinnamon, and chocolate. You’ll have to go in person to find out what the popular Unicorn Blood is all about.

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

Photo by Cara Hunt
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Bridgeport Coffee Company

Sure, it’s a bit out of the way — but TimeOut Chicago named Bridgeport Coffee Company the best coffee shop in Chicago last year, an honor that owner Michael Vitali says is partially due to the fact that “we roast all of our own coffee and deal directly with many coffee producers around the world. Because of this, we offer many fair trade and organic options.”

If we could add anything, it would be the sunny and cheerful atmosphere, four rooms with free Wi-Fi (they just expanded with the “laptop lounge”), and stick-to-your-ribs bagel breakfast sandwiches. Bridgeport Coffee Company also supplies several Chicago restaurants (including Goosefoot and Autre Monde) with its small-batch brews — just in case you needed additional proof that you can get a good cup of Joe here.

Bridgeport Coffee Company, 3101 South Morgan Street (at 31st Street); 773-247-9950.

Photo: Courtesy of Bridgeport Coffee
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Asado Coffee

No foofy coffee drinks here. Asado uses Japanese drippers, and we think that’s rather cool — but it’s more than that. “The drip has been around forever, says co-owner Ke. “There used to be a time when I think we were the first in Chicago to use it. The reason we use it is because it makes a beautiful and complex cup — we'd never change that.” Well, that’s a relief, because we rather enjoy finding a quiet nook and pulling up a wooden chair in this super-casual, no-frills spot.

Asado Coffee, 1432 West Irving Park Road, (between Janssen and Southport avenues); 773-413- 9454.

Photo by Lauren Schiappa
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Caffé Streets

If you don’t live near Caffé Streets, it’s not far from the Division El stop — and we say it’s well-worth the mini-trek. Seriously, we’ve found it to be an amazing working environment, thanks to the little mini-tables, which are the perfect size for your laptop. If you’re looking to make friends, opt for one of the community seating options and you just might wind up at Five Star for drinks afterward. Of course, if you’re looking to linger, the owners have traveled the globe to bring you what they feel is a perfect cup of coffee. Using a state-of-the-art espresso machine and a variety of brewing methods, we say mission accomplished.

Caffé Streets, 1750 West Division Street (between Hermitage Avenue and Wood Street); 773-278- 2739.

Photo by Heather Talbert
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The Coffee Studio

As the name suggests, this place actually feels like a cool studio, complete with exposed brick, midcentury modern furniture, and warm wood. When it comes to the overall appeal, local and national pubs have touted this boutique spot as being one of the best city — what’s your verdict? We happen to have a yen for its delectable house-made syrups (caramel latte love!), substantial snacks like flatbreads, and locally roasted coffees. When we’re feeling for something with a different kind of kick, there’s always wine or a fun craft beer selection.

The Coffee Studio, 5628 North Clark Street (between Bryn Mawr and Olive avenues); 773-271-7881.

Photo: Courtesy of The Coffee Studio
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Kickstand Coffee & Tea

We love the fact that even though this independently owned coffee shop is surrounded by corporate big boys, it still manages to fill almost all of its seats on a regular basis (go, small-business owners!). Those who normally opt for a regular cup of java will appreciate the simple menu highlighting the smooth and delicious Metropolis coffee. Should you choose to sip your brew on site, the colorful artwork on the walls is as cheerful as the baristas that whip up those perfectly foam-topped cappuccinos.

Kickstand Coffee & Tea, 824 West Belmont Avenue (between Clark and Dayton streets); 773-661- 9341.

Photo by Lauren Schiappa
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Ch’ava Café

So much more than a coffee shop, Ch’ava serves up some really great food that changes on a seasonal basis — no prepackaged, preservative-laden fare here. We are currently obsessed with the house- made cashew butter, fig jam, and melted Gruyère sammie on sourdough — trust, it’s amazing. When it comes to atmosphere, there’s a ton of space, making it perfect for studying, working (the Wi-Fi is pretty speedy), or planning your next vacation. Huge windows with natural sunlight will keep your mood elevated during the winter doldrums, too. As for the coffee, you’ll find all of the usual suspects, but the clover machine gives it that extra punch we love.

Ch’ava Café, 4656 North Clark Street (between Wilson and Leland avenues); 773-942-6763.

Photo by Lauren Schiappa

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