Food & Drink

The 10 Best Independent Coffee Shops in Chicago

Published On 08/05/2014 Published On 08/05/2014

From indie rock to indie publishing to indie film, it pays to be independent these days. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to scour the city for the 10 best independent coffee shops in Chicago, an article you are welcome to read at your nearest Starbucks. Hey, that manuscript/grad school application ain’t gonna write itself.

Café Jumping Bean

Café Jumping Bean

Pilsen

Part coffee house, part gallery, part central neighborhood meeting place for the past 20 years, this warm and inviting space not only opens your eyes with fancy caffeinated drinks like white satin mocha and iced Thai coffee, but also opens your mind too with some of the best revolving art demonstrations in the area, currently featuring the work of Spanish artist Pablo Serrano.

Flickr/adaenn

Café Mustache

Logan Square

Yes it’s true: hipsters drink coffee too. Discover this fact when ordering a black pepper vanilla fig latte while you listen to indie jams culled from a 1,200+ vinyl album collection. Check out live bands while digging into some vegan chili, which goes especially well with house cocktails like the Mayor Daley (bourbon, iced tea, lemonade) or craft brews including Two Brothers Outlaw IPA.

Flickr/jakeliefer

The Coffee Studio

Andersonville

Looking immaculate amidst exposed bricks and pretty woods, this no-frills modern espresso bar plays music by everyone from Panda Bear to Beastie Boys while packing a massive punch with their double strength cold brew coffee. Chill out with a brie apple walnut flatbread followed by Miko’s Italian Ice and more shots... of booze, not espresso (or both).

Flickr/Chris Bentley

Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Logan Square

If you’re less about Dunkin’s turkey sausage breakfast sandwich and more about duck Benedict with a side of salmon tartine, this just might be the place for you. Taxidermy chic touches like deer heads sticking out of walls get you in the mood for some adventurous coffee drinking, from Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Kochere pour-overs to Brazil Laranjal Farm drip.

Ipsento

Ipsento

Bucktown

Sometimes it’s not about the fancy touches. It’s all about the coffee. One sip of the Nutella mocha or Ipsento latte with coconut milk and honey and you’ll swear off Starbucks for good. They’ve even got sandwiches named after authors (F. Scott Fitzgerald = ham, Garrison Keillor = turkey), so you know they might have even read some of the books on their shelves.

Flickr/Josh Koonce

Bridgeport Coffee

Bridgeport

Located across the street from Maria’s Packaged Goods, this all-day hangout helps anchor a recent neighborhood revival thanks to its welcoming, sunny vibe paired with standout roasts like Santa Josefita bourbon and Sumatra Gayo Sriwijaya. With four rooms of free Wi-Fi, it’s the perfect place to hole up for hours and pretend to get tons of work done.

Flickr/Sean Davis

The Wormhole Coffee

Wicker Park

If you’re a sucker for full-scale Back to the Future DeLoreans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dolls, and framed Ghostbusters posters, this funky locals’ favorite is calling your name. Your ‘80s revival comes complete with Nintendo, Star Wars trivial pursuit, and coffee drinks that have no business being this good like the Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa. The only thing better is the people watching.

Flickr/jennifer yin

Star Lounge

Humboldt Park

This place is just... cool. You know it from the moment you walk in. With an old-school neon sign hanging over burnt orange walls, it feels like the place rock stars go for coffee. If they drank coffee. For you, they have Wake & Bake espresso with maple syrup and Unicorn Blood latte to open your eyes so you can better scan the long wooden bar for your next date, friend, employer, or all of the above.

Osmium

Lakeview

This one-year-old sister shop of Star Lounge could not have had a more successful debut year, establishing itself as THE coffee scene in a neighborhood packed with coffee shops. The spicy Mayan mocha is a fan favorite and, with everything from steampunk art to weekend DJs, the café is clearly a popular space for first dates. Bonus points for the cool back patio with graffiti-covered picnic tables.

Heritage Outpost

Heritage Outpost

Uptown

Is it a bike shop? Is it a coffee shop? It’s a bit of both and, combined with a gorgeous open space of sofas and exposed brick in the lobby of an apartment building, is one of the most legitimately cool places for your coffee fix in all of Chicago. The Lavender Latte is worth the trip it itself, and if you’re in the market for a bike, they have that too.

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Jay Gentile is a Thrillist contributor and he likes to drink coffee near DeLoreans as often as possible. Follow @innerviewmag

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1. Cafe Jumping Bean 1439 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 (Pilsen)

Part-coffee house, part-art gallery, part-central neighborhood meeting place for the past 20 years, this warm and inviting Pilsen space not only opens your eyes with fancy caffeinated drinks (like white satin mochas and iced Thai coffees), but also opens your mind with some of the best revolving art demonstrations in the area. You be silly to ignore the fresh and plentiful food selection here, too. When you go, get a focaccia pizza with "the works," a black bean burger or whatever specialty cake they've prepared that day.

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2. Cafe Mustache 2313 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

Head to this Logan Square joint and order a Black Pepper & Vanilla Fig Latte while you listen to indie jams culled from a 2,000+ vinyl album collection. A midway point between a coffee shop, a bar and a performance venue, Mustache also features live bands, vegan chili, and even house cocktails like the Mayor Daley (bourbon, iced tea, lemonade) and craft brews including Two Brothers' Outlaw IPA. Pro tip: if it's coffee (and wi-fi) you're after, make sure you show up before 6pm, that's when the baristas turn into bartenders.

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3. The Coffee Studio 5628 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640 (Andersonville)

Constructed with exposed brick and rich cuts of dead tree, The Coffee Studio supplies you with a rustic space where you'll enjoy locally roasted coffee drinks (try the Double-Strength Cold Brew) prepared by the craftiest baristas in the city, snacks (flatbreads with Brie/apple/walnut), or even some wine or craft beer. If you don't come for the coffee, come for the art; the Studio always highlights one local artist on its walls for you to admire.

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4. Gaslight Coffee Roasters 2385 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

After its opening, this Logan Square coffee shop rapidly became a neighborhood mainstay, and with good reason: it's got a roasting facility in back churning out the beans (sourced from all over the globe) that take your coffee drinks from good to gourmet. Pour overs and siphons pair pleasantly with buttery croissants from La Boulangerie, and its rotating selection of coffee beers are a must if you're dining in (the braised pork shoulder and trout sandwich are calling your name).

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5. Ipsento Coffee House 2035 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Bucktown)

Named after two latin roots meaning "to discover," Bucktown's Ipsento serves craft coffee drinks roasted with global, sustainable beans as well as a slew of baked goods and sandwiches, which are all named after beloved writers (try the F. Scott Fitzgerald, a ham, tomato, muenster, spinach, mayo and honey mustard sammy on multigrain bread). You can order your coffee to go or camp out at the bar in the modern-industrial interior — if there's space (this joint is popular).

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6. Bridgeport Coffee Company 3101 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60608 (Bridgeport Sox)

Bridgeport Coffee in Bridgeport is an all-day hangout that has a welcoming, sunny vibe paired with standout roasts like Santa Josefita Bourbon and Sumatra Gayo Sriwijay, plus four rooms of free Wi-Fi. The multi-colored chairs create a whimsical vibe, and the ample seating options allows you to order reasonably priced coffee after coffee.

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7. Wormhole Coffee 1462 N Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

Looking like Doc Brown crash-landed in somebody's childhood memories, Wormhole Coffee is a coffee shop whose decor lovingly pays homage to pop culture gone by, with knicknacks like Peanuts thermoses, a Castle Grayskull playset, and a Millennium Falcon strewn about. The quirky place located in Wicker Park is always packed, so get there early if you're planning on spending the day working there. The coffee features some of the most creative names out there, such as the Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa.

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8. Star Lounge Coffee Bar 2521 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60612 (Humboldt Park)

This Humboldt Park coffee roastery features fresh-brewed lattes, strong espressos, and some of the most delectable pastries. The neon sign and bright orange walls give off an overall cool vibe, and seating is plentiful with a massive bar, upstairs sitting area and back patio. Star Lounge brews Dark Matter Coffee, and its signature Wake & Bake espresso with maple syrup is get you alert in the morning.

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9. Osmium Coffee Bar 1117 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

Osmium is the sister shop of Chicago favorite Star Lounge, and even though Lakeview is known for its coffee scene, Osmium has established itself in the neighborhood as one of the top coffee shops. The spicy Mayan mocha is a flavorful must-order item, and it's best enjoyed on one of the graffiti-covered picnic tables on the back patio. On the weekends, DJs fill the coffee shop with music, and the steampunk art lining the walls give off the undeniable cool vibe.

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10. Heritage Outpost 1325 W Wilson Ave, Chicago, IL 60640 (Uptown)

Heritage Outpost is an Uptown coffee/bike shop hybrid, so if you looking to buy a bike and coffee in one place, this is it. It is located in the lobby of an apartment building, and the sofa and exposed brick create a warm atmosphere even in the dead of winter. Just like Heritage's bikes, the coffee is all locally made, and they have a wide variety of tea to also warm you up.

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