After your lips have kissed a cup of just-roasted coffee, everything else will taste like caramel-colored dishwater from a diner out of the 1960s. Seattle and Portland have Chicago breathing down their necks in terms of locally roasted and sourced java, and yes, it is indeed coffee breath. Grab your mints and a seat at one these fine purveyors of artisan joe.
3123 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
You can’t talk independent coffee roasters in Chicago without mentioning “da mayor” of the lot: Intelligentsia. Born in 1995, Intelligentsia is one fabulous thing Chicago has exported to the coasts and does it better than anything in LA or NYC. The team doesn’t just lay down coin for coffees but helps to develop them with growers so you can’t get flavor like this anywhere else. The Broadway location is the original of the six coffee bars (Logan Square, Old Town, Millennium Park, the Loop and one on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart are the others), but all offer open space, plenty of seating and that inimitable joe. If you want to impress colleagues, order Intelligentsia to-go airpots for small to large groups from the Merchandise Mart outpost.
Bridgeport Coffee Roasters
3101 S. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60608
Speaking of “da mayor,” who woulda thunk Daley’s old ‘hood would be crawling with more coffee lovers than Chicago’s finest in blue and secret service? The original shop is as squeaky clean as the kitchens of the Lithuanian grannies in the neighborhood, and offers things one might not get from North side cafes – an unfussy, cozy space that was a former pharmacy and actual street parking. All Bridgeport Coffees are hand-roasted on a fluid bed roaster including The Mayors Blend (directly traded Central American coffees) as a tribute to the five mayors who called Bridgeport home. Victuals include soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps, breakfast fare like bagels and homemade granola and a couple items for kids.
1562 Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Not only does Wicker Park’s READY Coffee offer global java from Africa and Brazil to Indonesia and the Caribbean (yah, mon Jamaican Blue Mountain), but veteran roaster Greg Stivers goes a step beyond with degrees of roast: French roast, Vietnamese roast, etc. Order a Dinkel’s doughnut or a sandwich and other baked goods from Delightful Pastries to accompany your smooth cup of coffee. Feel free to linger in the cheery spacious cafe where you can get into a Zen state by admiring art in the gallery or via your screen with free WiFi. Free Saturday yoga classes, juice bar and rock bottom cup-of-coffee prices round out the reasons READY is heady.
Metropolis Coffee Roasters
1039 W. Granville Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660
The coffee version of foodies and oenophiles, these small-batch artisan roasters discuss, dissect, dream and deliver some of the best coffee in the Midwest. The sunny Edgewater shop, just two blocks from Lake Michigan, is tucked into a 1950s limestone building and often filled with students from nearby Loyola University. Peruse the pastry case or order a sandwich to escort your cup of internationally sourced, daily-roasted coffee or a flight of tea in the uber-comfy space.
Dark Matter Coffee
Star Lounge Coffee Bar
2521 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Star Lounge Coffee Bar is the mothership of Dark Matter Coffee which is roasted daily just around the corner on Western Avenue. Order one of the flagship blends, Unicorn Blood or A Love Supreme, and be prepared to say “Ah” out loud with abandon. Intricately brewed iced coffee on tap goes nicely with the outdoor patio and sturdy cups of Dolor de Oro (espresso, steamed milk, honey, habanero, cinnamon, chocolate) or Gingersnap Trainwreck makes perfect sense with the not-at-all-trying-but-actually-is hip indoor space filled with art and tunes. Better-than-decent pastries and plenty of street parking are pluses.
Related: Best Doughnut Shops In Chicago
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.