If you missed Part 1, you’re probably wondering why I went on my own personal coffee shop tour of Chicago. Answer A: I was bored. And B: I’ve kept a list of coffee shops to go to since I started working remotely in March 2012. And with some down time during the holidays, I decided it was time to make a commitment to find my favorites on the long list I had made. Check out Part 1 if you’re curious!
Gaslight Coffee Roasters: 2385 N Milwaukee Ave
Getting to Gaslight was a breeze, especially because I call Wicker Park home. A short train ride up to Logan Square and a 1-minute walk from the stop and I was there. I arrived at 9, which was apparently before their normal rush because the place started humming around 10 am. I ordered a pour over and a chocolate croissant to get my day started. It seems like the seating is designed for every kind of coffee shop-goer. There’s a retrofit auditorium-style bench to the left as you walk in, small tables for two on the right, a simple bar with stools on the back left wall, and a picnic table complete with a stuffed rooster at the back of the shop. The bar juts into the middle of the space and the signage is so simple that choosing my coffee took 0.5 seconds. I think this might be a new favorite of mine. The music and the din of the shop put me in a productive mode instantly. I spent 5 hours working at Gaslight—which is a long time relative to some of the other coffee shops I’ve visited in the past two weeks. (I also need to make a point to visit Café Mustache a block away while I’m in the area). I hear Gaslight offers a sandwich menu now but I skipped out on it that day. I’ll give it a try next time, I’m sure.
Bowtruss Coffee Roasters: 2934 N Broadway
Rainy Friday morning. Do I make the effort to go across the city to Bowtruss? When coffee is involved, yes. I’ll do anything. I’d heard really good things about Bowtruss from several people on Twitter and I knew it would be a good way to end my week. I wandered into Bowtruss around 10 am and was kind of surprised to see I was the only one there besides a dude picking up approximately 50 lbs of beans for his boss at a coffee shop elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong—I like having the space and quiet to think but when I go to a coffee shop, but I thrive off of the din of conversation around me. Unfortunately, that was lacking here. And I think I know the reason why—they don’t offer free (or paid for that matter) wifi to their customers. I guess I can see both sides of this argument [A) they make their money from distribution B) they likely don’t want people camping out in their shop just for the free wifi] , but I would think that their business would really thrive if they offered wifi.
That said, I’d come back to enjoy a yummy pour over on the weekend when I am not trying to get work done. It would be perfect for a weekend when I’m trying to unplug–because lack of wifi access just makes unplugging that much easier (as long as I ditch my phone at home?). I ordered an Ethiopian pour over and it was ready instantly. A perk of being the only customer on a Friday morning, I suppose. Disappointed in the disposable cup especially because I ordered it ‘for here’ but it was tasty nonetheless. The space is really open and airy, complete with a skylight over the roaster. They retrofitted some old suitcases with speakers and stacked them toward the back of the sitting area. A hollowed out canoe shelves the beans they have for sale—the rustic outdoorsy feel is appreciate in an urban setting. They even have old sleds lining the wall. In general, Bowtruss is a good place to stop and think over a cup of coffee. I’d probably come back to ponder the meaning of life. If you’re looking for a place to work remotely or engage in conversations with strangers, you should probably skip it and come back when you’re feeling a bit more introspective.
Big Shoulders Coffee: 1105 West Chicago Avenue
I cheated. I’ve actually been to Big Shoulders before. But only ONCE before so I decided to include it here. Out of all of the coffee shops I’ve been to in the past few weeks, Big Shoulders has BY FAR the best customer service. The baristas are incredibly attentive and laid back. Both times I’ve gone, I ordered the slow drip and watched the lovely contraption drip liquid caffeine into a glass pitcher while people-watching with the help of floor to ceiling windows. It’s really easy to get work done in a place like this because it’s simple, clean, airy, and active. It’s especially nice that it’s directly off the Chicago blue line stop and 5 blocks away from my place. After going there today, I’m actually looking forward to making Big Shoulders a normal spot for me. I’m convinced the customer service won me over–because a cup of coffee should be about genuinely nice people serving up delicious caffeine.