Chicago takes its coffee seriously. With independent roasters and cafes as numerous in certain neighborhoods as bars—we’re looking at you, Logan Square—it can be a task to figure out where to get your next caffeine fix. What sets one Ugandan blend apart from another? Do they make a decent flat white? And most importantly, for some, what’s the WiFi situation? From multi-roaster operations to Michelin restaurant-approved singularity, these shops offer different vibes and levels of expertise that should appeal to anyone. Wherever you are in Chicago, we’ve got its best coffee shops and cafes covered.
Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea
This Wicker Park café is stylish and comfortable, with high ceilings, hanging plants, and caramel colored leather banquettes. They keep a rotating selection of coffee roasters on tap, and the baristas are generous with samples if you’re undecided on which brew to go for. The food menu is all hearty breakfast bowls, fancy toasts, and locally made pastries.
Intelligentsia Coffee Broadway Coffeebar
This long-standing cafe (they’ve been making craft coffee since before craft coffee was even a thing) is worth a visit for its knowledgable staff, famously good espresso, and relaxed, neighborly vibe.
One of Chicago’s craft roasting pioneers, this colorful, homey café space in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood serves top-notch coffees to local families and college students. Along with tasty, grab-and-go breakfast fare, there’s also a display case filled with tempting-looking pies.
The first retail outpost from a roaster known for supplying some of Chicago’s best restaurants, Sparrow is a sleek, industrial café that brews more than 100 single-origin coffees on the most high-tech equipment imaginable. It’s a coffee geek fever dream.
This sleek space-ship of a café at the edge of Bucktown and Wicker Park is all exposed brick and huge, soaring ceilings. Impossibly hip people work on laptops in the back or hang out in the park out front. In the late afternoon, the lights dim and it transitions into a casual cocktail spot.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to hunker down with a good book over a well-made flat-white, Groundswell is your spot. This bright, cozy café in Ravenswood caters to a local crowd with perfectly pulled espresso drinks from a knowledgeable staff.
This hippie-chic coffee shop in Lincoln Square is like an alternative Starbucks, with house-made nut milks, superfood-infused lattes, and healthy-ish snacks. Try the lemongrass-ginger Vietnamese iced coffee, a house favorite.
Buzz Coffee Roaster and Baker
A sleek and spacious Logan Square café, where you’ll find people tapping away at their laptops or scribbling in Moleskines. Come for the freshly roasted espresso, stay for the cinnamon rolls.
Named after award-winning Japanese barista (and part owner) Hiroshi Sawada, Sawada is a casual coffee lounge that takes its drinks seriously. There’s a short-but-sweet menu of cortados, americanos, espresso, and pour-overs, plus the signature military latte, an artful blend of Japanese matcha tea, cocoa, vanilla, espresso and and a swish of feathery foamed milk. The space is deep and paneled with dark wood but brightened up with kitschy details, like skateboard decks serving as pastry display shelves, pinball machines and string lights hung between the rafters.
The Wormhole Coffee
A laid-back coffee shop that goes heavy on 80’s nostaglia: There are vintage movie posters on the walls, a decomissioned Delorean on a pedestal in the back, and bowls of fruity pebbles on the menu. Solid brews from Halfwit Coffee keep people on the couches with their laptops, and a hip, convivial vibe makes it an inviting place for anyone to stop in.
“Diner coffee” doesn’t usually mean a perfectly executed cortado. But at this modern take on the classic American diner, the coffee is taken as seriously as the flaky biscuits, buttery pancakes, and crunchy chicken and waffles. Post up for brunch on the weekends, or take advantage of the all-day breakfast on weekdays.
Plein Air Cafe
The perfect place to stop and refuel after checking out the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Hyde Park. This tastefully decorated, sunlit café on the University of Chicago Campus serves excellent cold brew and a menu of French tartines, pastries and sandwiches.
This Uptown coffee shop has an eclectic look, a relaxed vibe, and delicious pour-over brews made by some of Chicago’s most exacting baristas. Stop in for a quick cup or linger over avocado toast at one of their sun-drenched wooden tables.
Part bike repair shop, part cafe, this quirky spot attracts both cyclists in need of a tune up and creatives looking for a place to post up with a latte. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable (about both coffee and bikes) and the pastries keep people lingering at the communal table for a while.