It wasn’t until we compiled this list that we realized what a great coffee city Chicago really is. Aside from the fact that you can find awesome coffee shops in just about every neighborhood, the city is home to some of the best brands in the business, including Intelligentsia, Metric, Dark Matter and Passion House. Whether you want to geek out with the pros or grab a cup on your way to work, the best coffee shops in Chicago make it easy for you to get your caffeine fix. Some even have beautiful patios and offer slices from the best pie shops in Chicago. We rounded up the top options for your sipping pleasure—from a Bohemian hideaway to a South Side favorite to several boutique brewers.
Best coffee shops in Chicago
Proving that not every coffee shop must take its inspiration from Seattle in the ’90s, Caffé Streets has the look of a European coffee bar and the coffee expertise to match. The staff is comfortable talking beans (the selection of which changes weekly) and brewing styles, such as pour-over, Chemex and siphon. Housemade pastries are also available, including scones and croissants.
Dark Matter Coffee
River West/West Town
Dark Matter’s “Mothership” is a small shop set up in the front of the brand’s roasting facility that specializes in to-go orders. Find the coffee at restaurants around town, including just around the corner at Star Lounge, Dark Matter’s comfortable coffee shop, which has seats for lounging, plus Do-Rite Donuts.
Brendan Sodikoff already proved that he can serve great coffee and pastries (see: Doughnut Vault, C.C. Ferns); now, he’s teamed up with Japanese latte artist Hiroshi Sawada to open this new cafe within Green Street Smoked Meats. The main attraction is the military latte, Sawada’s signature drink that’s visually stunning and quite strong. It’s roasty from espresso, slightly bitter from the green tea and warmed with gentle notes of white chocolate. The rest of the offerings include straightforward espresso drinks, plus spiked options like shochu and iced coffee or Benedictine and chai.
Metric Coffee Co.
Dreamed into existence by Caffe Streets owner Darko Arandjelovic and former Intelligentsia roasting manager Xavier Alexander, Metric Coffee is undeniably cool. The modern, public-facing shop and back-room roasting facility are housed on a lesser-trafficked stretch of Fulton Street, making it the perfect destination for a lazy Saturday morning. Grab a cup or sign up for a tour, where you’ll get an inside look at the Chicago-born business’s fascinating operation.
Four Letter Word Coffee
Don’t expect to find pumpkin-spice anything at this tiny but specialized coffee shop in Logan Square. Branching off from its roastery in Back of the Yards (and another in Istanbul), Four Letter Word Coffee offers drip, pour-over, espresso, Turkish-style, cold coffee and tea. Pair your cup o’ Joe with a pastry from Cellar Door Provisions and have a seat in the exquisitely decorated space.
Loba Pastry + Coffee
Take a walk on the wild side at this no-frills shop that stocks inventive pastries that rotate daily (red mole croissants, lavender space pies and pimento cheese biscuits) alongside a curated collection of coffee drinks like Kyoto cold brew, cappuccino, espresso and more.
C.C. Ferns Coffee
What does a Brendan Sodikoff coffee shop look like? Exactly what you’d expect—there are Doughnut Vault pastries, espresso drinks, Rare Tea Cellar teas and boozy steamers. The nutty Scotch & Honey is made with Famous Grouse, almond and honey, and it’s just as enjoyable to sip it while perusing the art books stacked around the cafe as it is after dinner. The space, located behind the California Clipper, has a Bohemian vibe, with mismatched furniture, wood paneling and a humidor.
River West/West Town
Jesse Diaz has turned this unassuming West Town café into a coffee destination. Sidle up to the “bar” for a taste of Dark Matter coffee, which is roasted in eight-pound batches above the café in unusual flavor profiles that have caught the attention of area restaurants. Diaz’s unconventional roasting approach extends to iced coffee, which achieves its delicate flavor using heat-extraction rather than trendy cold-brewing. No clue what we’re talking about? One of the veteran baristas behind the bar can walk you through it.
This Milwaukee import is making busy Chicagoans swoon with a large outdoor patio, delicious seasonal pastries, beer on tap and, of course, fantastic coffee. The sprawling Lincoln Park café is colorful and cheerful, making it an ideal destination for a pre-work boost or winding down after a long day.
This local coffee chain is all grown up, with outposts across the country, including coffee bars in L.A. and a “lab” in Manhattan. Back home where it all started in 1995, there are now seven locations scattered around Chicago, which vary in size and vibe. No matter the location, knowledgeable baristas keep it real with brisk service, perfect cappuccinos and straight-up drip alongside single-cup brew.
Bridgeport Coffee House
The coffee-roasting operation on the corner of Morgan and 31st Street is a point of pride for Bridgeport and a source of jealousy for almost every other neighborhood. Housed in a prototypically warm-toned, wood-heavy coffeehouse (only without the fleabag couches and drum-circle vibe), Bridgeport Coffee sets itself apart by roasting its own beans and brewing them with levels of respect usually reserved for presidents. The pour-over here is a revelation—bright and clean and smooth. The fact that the expert staff and comfortable digs make you want to spend the day in the place is just a bonus.
Big Shoulders Coffee
River West/West Town
Tim Coonan, a 15-year home roaster, marries the efficiency of second-wave coffee (e.g. Starbucks) with the clean design and small-scale ethos of the third wave (e.g. Intelligentsia) at this corner coffee bar. He caters to Blue Line commuters with $2 “fast drip” (available in a self-serve machine) and to laptop lingerers with “slow coffee” (pour-over) and espresso drinks. Feeling indulgent? Order the toasted marshmallow latte, which is accompanied by a perfect campfire-singed ‘mallow.
Heritage Bicycle Company
When you choose a custom ride at Heritage Bicycle General Store, you have a few extra decisions to make—including regular or decaf. This Lakeview shop isn’t your typical bike store: It’s disguised as a coffee shop featuring cold brew, specialty lattes, drip coffee and fresh pastries. Grab a seat in the front of the store or head to the back to shop gear and bikes while you sip.
The Philadelphia equivalent to Intelligentsia opened its first Chicago café quietly (though the location, across the street from a Starbucks, certainly sent a message). Inside the café, things remain pretty chill: The serene, underdecorated room holds maybe 25 people, who sip satisfying cups of coffee (roasted in Philly) and pick at pastries from Alliance Bakery.
Gaslight Coffee Roasters
Owners Tristan Coulter and Zak Rye have taken their experience in the local coffee trade (both worked for Metropolis) and applied it to a rustic-hipster aesthetic (think reclaimed wood, vintage lanterns and requisite taxidermy). The space is quite nice for sipping a cup of pour-over coffee, made either from beans roasted in-house or from a rotating roster of guest roasters. Should all that caffeine need balancing, platters of Smoking Goose charcuterie, house-pickled veggies and Marion Street cheeses make for a solid snack.
The owners of this neighborhood coffee shop seem to have ambitions far larger than the tiny (and seemingly unfinished) space would imply. Baristas are superfriendly, direct-trade coffee is roasted in-house, and sandwiches are named after storytellers. Options like the Garrison Keillor (turkey, cheddar, avocado, apple and honey mustard on wheat) are basic and straightforward, as are the lattes, but the genuine warmth of the place is more uncommon.
Coffee nerds and music geeks can come together at Purple Llama, a cafe and record store with a name inspired by a Neil Young and Crazy Horse track. At the front of the shop, you can order a drink from a menu that includes coffee and espresso from Counter Culture and tea from San Fransisco boutique Song. A curated selection of records occupies some shelves in the back of the store, featuring releases from local labels like Numero Group and Drag City—the shop’s playlist is assembled from its offerings, so don’t be afraid to ask what you’re listening to.
Dollop Coffee Co.
With 13 locations and counting, there’s a good chance you’re closer to a Dollop than you think. The brand roasts its own coffee and crafts specialized pastries and breads in its bakehouse, meaning everything on offer is incredibly fresh. We love pairing the dirty chai latte with the veggie sandwich, which comes stacked with goat cheese spread, tomato, roasted red peppers and cucumber.
Back of the Yards Coffee Co.
This specialty coffee roaster serves an excellent cup of joe and gives back to its namesake community. A portion of all sales goes directly to neighborhood programs that promote peace and education. Beyond that, the shop employs local youth and diverts 95 percent of its waste to compost. On the caffeine front, choose from menu items like Ojo Rojo (coffee with a shot of espresso), cappuccino, horchata cold brew, Toro Loco (cold brew, CO2 bubbles, simple syrup and lime) and drip coffee.
Metropolis Coffee Company
Outstanding sums up this delicious coffee roastery and hangout for Edgewater residents and Loyola students. In addition to serving a mean cup of java, MCC also offers premium-grade teas and a small, but tasty, café menu. Plug in the laptop, kick back and check out some of the other coffee-swilling cuties.
Hero Coffee Bar
Hero Coffee Bar is tiny, with just five two-top tables and eight seats at their coffee bar, so consider this a spot for meeting a friend, not pounding on your laptop. Hero offers pour-over coffee, which is roasted once or twice a week so it’s always fresh, along with hearty snacks like sandwiches and bagels, including the cutely named Fig, Nut of Your Imagination Bagel, topped with a tasty combo ofalmond butter and fig jam.
To get Wicker Park excited about another coffee shop, you’d have to do something pretty crazy. Like, say, install a DeLorean in the front of the store. Okay, Wormhole, you win. So now that this time-travel-themed coffee shop has the neighborhood’s attention, what else is going on here? A small selection of baked goods from Fritz Pastry (including doughnuts!); Cheerios and other assorted cereals; and some very serious baristas, who use beans from a variety of cult roasters and who cold-brew the strongest iced coffee that’s ever graced our parched, caffeine-starved lips.