Plenty of people with odd hours, odd jobs, or artistic ambitions turn to their local coffee shop to hunker down and get some work done. Getting outside of the house can feel more productive, and a steady drip of coffee certainly keeps the neurons firing fast. But maybe some days call for goofing off, or people-watching. Maybe that blank first page of your great American novel is waiting for a main character to walk by with a macchiato and jump right onto the page. Maybe you’re just there to drink really, really good coffee. We’ve rounded up several shops where putting your nose to the grindstone laptop is certainly achievable, but where those who want to slack can have a hell of a time doing so.


The Wormhole

1462 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60622
(773) 661-2468

The Wormhole makes no secret of its funhouse nature. Vintage lunchboxes, action figures, Star Wars mugs and one slightly-hard-to-miss full-sized DeLorean make the atmosphere engaging at best. In addition to that, the menu is full of fun treats like pretzel cookies, vegan doughnuts, and macaroons (courtesy of sister shop Fritz Bakery). Of course, all of that is secondary to the real reason you’ll be goofing off all day in this Wicker Park staple: the three couches at the center of the shop surrounding a fully functional NES with two controllers (and a healthy library of games). The odds of seeing someone beat Super Mario Brothers 3 during your visit are pretty high – unless those Dr. Mario kids are in a heated battle of course. By the time you’re done backseat gaming, the day’s over and you’re too caffeinated to get anywhere on your latest genre-shattering art piece.


Café Descartes

327 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 263-0583

Nobody can complain about having a local coffee shop available in the loop – it’s nice to avoid the chains and get some local flavor. And Café Descartes has some one-of-a-kind delights on their menu, like the oatmeal latte and gelato shake. Of course, if you’re trying to get some work done in here, you’re also fighting the hustle and bustle of downtown foot traffic: a lethal combination of 9-5ers, bike messengers, and tourists that are probably not concerned in the least about staying quiet. But the main reason you’re probably going to end up closing your laptop early and heading to Millenium Park? No bathrooms. So eat up, drink up, and enjoy the wild people watching, but leave the thesis at home.


New Wave

2557 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-0646

Probably one of the biggest coffee shops in the city, New Wave is actually nicely spaced and full of nooks and crannies thanks to its unique shape (entrances on Milwaukee and Logan). However, attempts at studious work will probably be thwarted by the massive crowd of attractive young hipsters (“Hey! We’re not hipsters!”) that fill the space at any given hour of the day. Throw in a selection of engaging and rotating artwork for sale, killer music selection, and any number of sandwiches, and one could procrastinate at New Wave indefinitely. And did we mention they have a Nintendo of their own?

(credit: Cafe Mustache's Facebook)

Café Mustache

2313 N Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60647
(773) 877-3327

Café Mustache is definitely here to party. Sure, there’s all the signs of studious possibility here – free Wi-Fi, small vegan sandwiches, and a variety of teas and local Bridgeport Coffee Company products to keep you buzzed. But the shop likes to secretly transform into a music venue at night–concerts happen almost every weekend, and even weekdays feature DJs spinning vinyl all day long. In fact, Wednesday Night Wax is exactly what it sounds like–bring in your favorite record to play, and you’ll get a free drink to help you finish up hump day. You might not flesh out that section of code you meant to clean up, but you’ll probably make a list of new artists to pick up next time you’re at the record shop.


Star Lounge

2521 W Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 384-7827

Star Lounge is a quiet, peaceful space with a small amount of seating. That should be studying gold, right? It would be for most people, but anyone with even a hint of coffee snobbery will probably be going bonkers for the select brews and beverages available at this unobtrusive storefront. Sourcing only organic coffee and roasting in-house gives Star Lounge an impeccable ability to make a top-notch cup of joe. Coffee concoctions like the Chocolate Thai (Espresso, dark chocolate, peanut butter, coconut milk, cream) and the Agave Latte (Espresso, steamed milk, agave nectar, cinnamon, chocolate) share space with tea blends like the Black Marmalade (Nilgiri and apricot black teas, ginger, orange juice, agave nectar) and the Mexi-Cali Orange (Hibiscus, orange juice, cinnamon, cayenne, agave nectar). By the time you’re done sampling their many specialties, you’ll probably be too busy asking the baristas about their methods to focus on your writing.

Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.