The 14 Best Coffee Shops For Getting It All Done
For many of us, the 9-to-5 lifestyle is a thing of the past. Telecommuting, freelancing or simply having creative projects on the side are now commonplace—but working at home among distractions like Netflix, the refrigerator and furry friends who just don’t understand the word “deadline” can be challenging. Luckily, Chicago’s coffee shop culture is booming, and the following places have the Joe, grub and atmosphere conducive to ultimate productivity. These are 14 of our favorite and most-productive coffee shops. Here’s to getting it done!
By Lauren Whalen
via Emerald City
Emerald City (3938 N. Sheridan Rd.)
Located under the Sheridan Red Line stop, this mellow coffeehouse has the perfect blend of white noise and quiet. Vibrations from trains overhead create a soothing rhythm, and local artists’ work adorns the walls, good for inspiration and/or taking a lap when your eyes demand a break from the laptop screen. Espresso drinks range from the simple Americano to the elaborate affogato al caffe (espresso, ice cream and chocolate). There are also a handful of caffeine-free options, a daily soup special and delicious sandwiches for when your motivation requires feeding. Click your heels three times (or more precisely, hop on the L) and step into a world of creative output.
Metropolis Café (1039 W. Granville Ave.)
Open until 8 p.m. nightly, Metropolis beckons students, artists and telecommuters alike to pull up a seat and stay awhile. The vintage '50s architecture is highlighted with warm yellow tones, and Lake Michigan’s ever-changing colors are visible just two blocks east. In addition to hemp milk and a dessert case that one customer describes as “weep-worthy,” Metropolis offers flights of teas and internationally-sourced coffees. The seating is plentiful, the wifi free, the light natural and the staff friendly and fashionable. What more could a worker bee want?
Ipsento (2035 N. Western Ave.)
Step into Ipsento’s tiny Western Avenue storefront and enter a haven of aged wood tables, tiny nooks and comfy armchairs last seen in your grandmother’s attic treasure trove. Ipsento imports and roasts its own coffee beans in-house, transforming them into a variety of tasty lattes, including Cardamom Rose and Nutella. Coconut milk is available for those with nondairy preferences, as are sandwiches named after the literary greats. For many of the city’s artistic types, Ipsento is a home away from home: an intimate, cozy environment conducive to intellectual labor.
Brothers K (500 Main St., Evanston)
Some do their best thinking on trains— while ruminating on your novel-in-progress, hop on the Purple Line and find a sweet reward at the end. Established in 2005 by Brian and John Kim, Brothers K is a cozy neighborhood gathering place, convenient for Chicagoans looking for a mini-getaway but somewhat removed from the undergraduate crowd. Enjoy a cup of fair-trade coffee and a delectable pastry while you work, and try not to eavesdrop on the community activists planning out tree planting at the next table (quietly and respectfully, of course). Don’t forget to say hello to Brian and John, who love getting to know their patrons.
The Grind Café (4613 N. Lincoln Ave.)
Ambient noise is such a perk of café work, someone even invented an app simulating it. Experience the real thing at the Grind Café, and let the hum of the espresso machine and warm chatter guide your work. Choose from an abundance of seating in the café itself or on the lovely back patio, and sip on the excellent cold brew for that extra pop of energy. Feeling peckish? Nosh on a slice of quiche or a healthy spring salad while you ponder Excel spreadsheets, sketches or plot points.
Brew Brew (3832 W. Diversey, Chicago)
When you’re worried about meeting a deadline, Brew Brew’s vibe whispers “don’t worry, it’ll get done.” This Avondale coffeehouse radiates beauty and calm. Settle in among furniture handmade by the owner, tuck in to a veggie sandwich and matcha, and take comfort in the gorgeous window decals installed by a local artist couple. If your muse demands jazz, you’re in luck: Brew Brew features live music twice a month.
Café Mustache (2313 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Logan Square is fast reaching the height of Chicago cool, but even the hippest have to get their work done. Join the ranks at this community-focused café and lounge, which features locally-roasted coffee and espresso, a variety of teas from around the world and homemade chai. As the weather cools down, warm up from the inside with Café Mustache’s specialties: homemade chili, gumbo and soup, with a pickled egg on the side for variety. If you need an incentive to finish, know that the free wifi turns off at 6 p.m. as the evening festivities kick in. Close your notebook and treat yourself to an artisanal cocktail or local brew as you take in an indie film, live performance or quirky book release.
via Lovely, Too
Lovely, Too (1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.)
An offshoot of Lovely Bakery on Milwaukee, this Edgewater counterpart offers a scenic workspace in a funky setting. The menu of eclectic snacks and drinks boasts enough variety for more than one go-round, ideal for long-range projects that will last several hours. Lovely, Too’s lighting is bright, and tables are just the right size and distance apart for distraction-free motivation.
via Cafe 53
Café 53 (1369 E. 53rd St.)
Café 53 carries all of Hyde Park’s signature intelligence and culture in one striking location. A French radio station pipes from the speakers and the stunning courtyard beckons to those hungry for inspiration. Café 53 offers a full espresso bar and wide tea selection, as well as a menu of gorgeous food: over 30 sandwiches with an abundance of vegan and halal options. Open until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 9 on weekdays, the café is ideal for meetings, solo work and sticking it out until you’ve crossed everything off the to-do list.
Awake Café (1357 W. Chicago Ave.)
Hidden gems shine brightest, and tucked-away locations are best for camping out and getting to work. Awake Café is a thriving member of the up-and-coming West Town/Noble Square community, offering enthusiastic customer service, free wifi and plentiful seating. As you strive to finish what you start, bask in natural light and scenery courtesy of nearby Eckhart Park. The menu is healthy and fresh, with plenty of hummus, egg whites and vegan cream cheese. Want to treat yourself for a job well done? Savor a cool smoothie or one of Awake’s signature “chilluccinos.”
Café Jumping Bean (1439 W. 18th St.)
Pilsen’s vibrant color is alive and well at Café Jumping Bean. The popular neighborhood spot has also become a destination for those who want quality coffee, a rainbow of décor and a plethora gourmet soups, sandwiches and pastries. Brightly-painted tables and chairs radiate enthusiasm and passion, and the laid-back atmosphere invites focus. Try the black bean soup to add protein and a hint of spice to your workday.
Sip Coffeehouse (1223 W. Grand Ave.)
Sip is steeped in tradition: once an Italian barbership in the city’s historic Grand and Ogden neighborhood, it’s become one of Chicago’s longest-running independent coffeehouses. The location’s doubled in size since its 1999 opening and now features even more seating and two courtyards. Signature drinks include the Mint Meltaway Mocha and (for the procrastinators among us) the Panic Attack, four shots of espresso with milk. Twenty-six varieties of loose-leaf tea will satisfy and soothe anyone who’s already had a bit too many Panic Attacks.
Spoken Café (1812 W. Montrose)
With friendly staff, smooth wooden tables and plenty of outlets, this Ravenswood hot spot formerly known as Beans & Bagels is back and better than ever. Just steps away from the Montrose Brown Line stop, Spoken features organic coffees, oatmeal made to order and phenomenal sandwiches such as the Grown-Up Captain Crunch Panini with chipotle aioli, aged cheddar, turkey salami and kettle chips on ciabatta. Choose a table by the window, bask in autumn sunlight and see where the afternoon takes you. (Note: Spoken is open for breakfast and lunch only, so it’s a great match for those who do their best work before nightfall.)
La Catrina Café (1011 W. 18th St.)
This Mexican café is warm, welcoming and most of all, spacious. Brilliant colors and exciting artwork abound, and staff members are outgoing and optimistic. The Pilsen neighborhood’s reputation for diverse imagination is quickly growing, and La Catrina is a fantastic place to start for work and play alike.