My Personal Chicago Coffee Shop Tour: Part 1

I have an obsession with coffee. I’m addicted to caffeine. My version of a happy Saturday afternoon is holing up in a coffee shop somewhere in the city with a big cup of joe and good book. For real. Include chocolate and it really is one of my “happy places” (the most obvious of which is the lakefront….duh).

This year for the holidays, I was gifted with the longest vacation since college. Back then, I was extremely spoiled with my school’s quarter system, as we had just before Thanksgiving Day up until just after New Year’s Day off. Six weeks is a long time to be idle as a college student. By week 3, I was pretty sick of a routine that didn’t include long days. Nowadays, I work for a super small company (think “two people small”) and it was decided about a month ago that we’d both take two full weeks off work to prepare for a busy 2013.

I didn’t expect to take so much time off at the end of 2012, but I wasn’t about to pass it up. But, after getting over the fact that I wouldn’t have to (key phrase: HAVE TO…I literally can’t stop myself from working, so it’s not 100% down time), I realized that I’d need to do something to keep myself from spending everyday at home in my pjs in front of the t.v. (when not running, of course).

SO, I CAME UP WITH A PLAN. I’ve had a list of coffee shops I have yet to visit in Chicago for the past 8-9 months. And even though I have a flexible work schedule and the ability to work from home 50% of the time, I haven’t been able to tackle the list and actually visit these coffee shops in 2012.

GOAL: Visit one Chicago coffee shop I’ve never been to each day for 7 days.

(Spoiler alert: I failed miserably at the streak but still made it to plenty of new spots!) 

Kickstand Espresso Bar: 824 West Belmont Ave

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I ordered the Mexican Chocolate Mocha with Cayenne. And it was full of spicy deliciousness. I’m never in this neighborhood but I was nearby at a physical therapy appointment and realized how close it was as I started walking to the train. I really appreciated the ambiance at Kickstand. It was really bright and cheery, which is exactly what I needed on a gloomy winter day in Chicago. I also ordered a sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese, which wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t disappoint either. The decor was a mixture of cool art and repurposed tables ‘n chairs. The wainscoting on the walls was made of old meter sticks. I appreciated its DIY-ness. Seating is somewhat limited for this little espresso bar, but there are two larger tables and bench seating that looks out onto Belmont—perfect for people-watching. They serve Metropolis coffee so if you’re a fan, go there for the good beans and the good space.

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Buzz: Killer Espresso: 1644 N Damen Ave

Ok, I admit it. I failed. I didn’t make it to a new coffee shop on NYE or New Year’s Day. Guilty as charged. But after rehydrating and learning how to become a human being again, I sauntered over to Buzz for a little caffeine kick in the pants. From the outside, Buzz looks like it’s “cutesy”. You know…like one of those places that is covered in pastel paint and probably harbor young mothers with cute little children. But NOPE! I was mistaken! Buzz is nestled between a bar and a restaurant in what looks like a cute family home, but the inside if very modern and sleek. The bar is made of reclaimed wood (aren’t they all nowadays?) and the lighting makes the space really fresh. As you walk in and past the coffee bar, the seating is really cozy. Silver-brushed tables with spotlight lighting overhead make it a place to cozy up with a book or work on your own. The customers were a mixture of people working silently on their computers to a few people have a very deep intellectual conversation to people like me that just wanted a quiet place to sit and think for a bit. I work from coffee shops often and this is one that I would visit if I didn’t need a ton of space. Small tables make for small tasks sometimes.

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Oh! The COFFEEEEE! I ordered a delicious Brazil pour over. It was exactly what I wanted. I’m not a creature of habit when it comes to how I take my coffee. Sometimes I go for cream, sometimes I don’t. That day? No cream. Just pure delicious coffee. They have over 6 different pour overs and they all cost $3.50, which isn’t bad in the city. I highly recommend giving this place your time.

Ipsento Coffee House: 2035 N Western Ave 

After a short run in the morning and an overall slow start to my day, heading to the coffee shop was a bit of a chore (I know, I know…). But this place truly made up for it. I walked in and immediately ordered the first thing on the menu, the Ipsento Latte. I’m a sucker for anything with coconut and this latte was full of coconut milk and honey, two of my favorite things.  I ordered a 16 ounce and sipped on it for a good, long hour. It was also spiced with cayenne just like the Kickstand Mexican Chocolate Mocha —I think it’s safe to say I like spice. Ipsento is SUPER cozy. Again, limited seating like Kickstand and Buzz, but that’s likely why people frequent them. I cozied up with my latte in a comfy corner armchair initially and then moved to a little table in the opposite corner to get some work done. They played really good music that put me into a productive mode for a solid 4 hours. I’ll be back (especially because it only took me 10 minutes to get there, including time to walk to the train).

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Side note: I have yet to go on one of Caffenture’s coffee bar crawls but Ipsento is included on their blue line crawl. And I can totally see why.

I still have a solid list of coffee shops I have yet to visit but I’m happy I’ve been able to finally cross some off of that list. I work best in a coffee shop with delicious beans, good music, and ambient noise from conversation among customers. Happy to have found three more spots I can frequent in Chicago when I’m looking for a change of pace (heh…get it, runners?).

What’s your favorite coffee shop in Chicago? Do you try to visit all local coffee shops or do you stick to chains like Starbucks? If you could visit one coffee shop in a different neighborhood everyday, would you? What should I add to my list?!

-J

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7 thoughts on “My Personal Chicago Coffee Shop Tour: Part 1

  1. Pete B says:

    “Buzz: Killer Espresso.” Clever! Do you ever put alcohol in your coffee. In our neighborhood there is an Austrian chain called “Julius Meinl” they chose Chicago for their first US locations!

    • Jenny says:

      It is a clever name! I save alcohol for my coffee until St. Patty’s day 🙂 I have been to Julius Meinl but not in years! Must make it back soon

  2. Xaarlin says:

    Ooh I want to go to all of those cafes! They look amazing and cozy 🙂

    La Colombe. That’s all I’ve got for now. We’re still making the beans we got from our last visit. Mmmm

    • Jenny says:

      Colombe has been on my list for months haha. I’m sure I’ll make it there this weekend or sometime next week. I bought some Blue Bottle Beans at Caffe Streets on Division this morning. Have you had those beans or been there? Maybe our next meet-up should be COFFEE AND BEER! 🙂

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