My Personal Chicago Coffee Shop Tour: Part 2

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.


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


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.


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.


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).



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?!