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Quick Look: Kusanya Café Brews A Great Cup Of Coffee In Englewood

By Staff in Food on Sep 23, 2014 8:30PM

On an almost-fall afternoon I walked into a coffee shop with exposed brick walls, mosaic tiled floors and photography from local artists hung in the seating area. The smell of roasted coffee, the soul music pumping softly through the speakers and the sight of people working on laptops were all familiar to me, but the neighborhood was new. I was not in Logan Square or Pilsen, but in Englewood at Kusanya Café, the coffee shop and community space at 69th and Halsted.

Kusanya opened in November of last year to bring more than just quality coffee to the neighborhood: it aimed to provide an attractive space for residents to get together to work and socialize. The cafe is the perfect example of the recent push by many Englewood residents to prove to the rest of the city that their neighborhood has more to offer than the negative reputation it often receives in the media. The name ‘Kusanya’ comes from a Swahili word meaning “to gather,”, but has connotations that go beyond that definition to emphasize the power of a community that comes together to build something stronger than the individual.

Community is an essential part of Kusanya Café’s vision, and you can see it take shape in a multitude of ways, from the local art mounted on the walls to the doors, which were donated from the Woodlawn Abundance Project. Even the benches are actually reclaimed church pews from Canaan Community Church in West Englewood. The coffee comes from Bridgeport Coffee Company and the pastries are made at a nearby bakery. They even implemented a pay-it-forward system where you can add $2 to your bill and pay for the next person’s drink.

On my visit I needed to be both caffeinated and fed so I ordered a perfectly creamy soy latte that tasted much like a freshly toasted marshmallow, and a hot, crispy panini with gooey mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato and fresh basil. The sandwich was aptly and cheekily named the Mozz Def, and depending on your mood and your dietary restrictions when you visit Kusanya, you can get the Ham Master Jay, the Lupe Tobasco, the Tuna Turner and more. Both breakfast and lunch items are on the menu. Also available is a sandwich and soup (or salad) combo called the Souppa Fly.

Beverages include standard hot or iced espresso drinks (soy and almond milk options are available) as well as smoothies, frozen drinks, hot chocolate and tea. A for-here mug of drip coffee is only $1.00, which encourages patrons to hang out and take advantage of the ambience and free wi-fi. On my way out I ordered a coffee to go and was handed a piping hot cup with a custom sleeve that read: Brewed In Englewood. This is a neighborhood café that truly has pride for its community.

Kusanya Café is located at 825 W. 69 St. They are open Monday through Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

By Carrie Laski