Fifteen Superb Coffeeshops In Thirteen Chicago Neighborhoods

Laura Rokita, my heart goes out to you! You’ve been working at coffeeshops for months. Your business sets people up for chats over coffee. But your list of The 15 Best Chicago Coffee Shops for Entrepreneurs leaves a great deal to be desired.

First of all: Filter, Argo Tea, and Eva’s each appear twice! Given the abundance of great coffee in Chicago, duplication like this is borderline criminal. Second, most of the spots you mention lie within a stone’s throw of the Loop. This is another major mistake. Venture out into more Chicago neighborhoods for excellent coffee and top-notch places to work.

As I get ready to depart Chicago in a few weeks for Start-Up Chile, I decided to write my own list, a coffee-scented nostalgia tour of the places where I’ve been coding, chatting, and quaffing coffee these past few months.

Big Shoulders Coffee.
Photo credit: Mark M / Foursquare

The List

  1. Big Shoulders: Go ahead, take a seat by the window. The traffic and pedestrians rushing by on Milwaukee & Chicago set an energetic pace. The coffee makes your toes tingle. The Carl Sandburg poem on the wall reminds you why you’re here: to build something useful. If tea’s your thing, the Chamomile Mint Licorice Root will shake you to your foundations. Neighborhood: West Town.

  2. Atomix: Their iced coffee is chocolaty in its gritty deliciousness. The silence is monastic, with designers and writers replacing Trappists or Benedictines. Come here to empty your mind of distractions and bring your whole being to bear on your work. Neighborhood: West Town.

  3. Ipsento: Exposed brick and muddy, spicy lattes with cayenne pepper. This is where I built DivvyBrags over a few long stretches of coding. If you need to settle in for a long sprint, the back room is about as cozy as it gets. Neighborhood: Bucktown.

  4. Cafe Jumping Bean: This place is to Pilsen’s Blue1647 coworking space as the in-house Intelligentsia is to 1871 in River North. Go-to spot for meeting over coffee or lunch. Neighborhood: Pilsen.

  5. Cafecito: The ideal coffeeshop for extroverts. Located next to Chicago’s international hostel, Cafecito bustles with backpackers from everywhere. I find that the background noise helps me concentrate. The cafecito itself is a potent mix of molten sugar and espresso. If you get hungry, the ropa vieja sandwich is without peer. Neighborhood: Loop.

  6. Z&H: Let’s say you’re down in Hyde Park, demoing your product for professors at the University of Chicago. You need to quickly duck into a cafe to answer some emails or tweak some code. Z&H is your place. The wifi is unreliable at neighboring Medici and Hyde Park Cafe, and the coffee isn’t nearly as good. Neighborhood: Hyde Park.

  7. La Colombe: At times, to be productive, I want to be as far away from the Internet as possible. When I need to write or think with all my attention, La Colombe is where I go. Order from the steampunk machine, let the coffee set your brain abuzz, put your fingers to the keyboard, and get writing. Neighborhood: West Loop, with a new branch in Wicker Park.

  8. Bridgeport Coffee Company: Bridgeport is a tight-knit village of a neighborhood on the Southwest side. Once the feudal seat of the Daley clan, it now boasts lots of people with interesting facial hair. Brigdgeport Coffee is its central watering hole, with bright light and plenty of space to work. Neighborhood: Bridgeport.

  9. Intelligentsia Lakeview: I like to work standing up. The bar area facing Broadway makes a great standing desk. Downside: the wifi can be very spotty. Don’t try live demos here. Neighborhood: Lakeview.

  10. New Wave: The beating heart of Logan Square. Always busy – you’ll need sharp elbows to secure a spot near an outlet. You can’t come here without running into friends and exes. Good for getting work done on weekends before or after brunch. Neighborhood: Logan Square.

  11. Dollop: The Dollop franchise is growing: there are three of them now, one each in Streeterville, Lakeview, and Buena Park. At the Streeterville location, crazy amounts of natural light combined with the gentle hubbub of Northwestern grad students socializing makes for a highly productive work space. Neighborhood: Streeterville.

  12. Gaslight: The music selection here is so spot-on, you won’t even want to wear headphones as you work. Neighborhood: Logan Square.

  13. Metropolis Coffee Company: Edgewater and Andersonville are teeming with cozy, homey, neighborhoody coffeeshops, of which this is a representative example. Their beans are served far and wide. Neighborhood: Edgewater.

  14. Scafuri: This is an family-owned Italian bakery and coffeeshop with great wifi, plus the kindest employees around. What more could you want? Neighborhood: Little Italy.

  15. Overflow: Unpretentious neighborhood coffeeshop on 15th & State. A good balance between the headphone-clad working crowd and those who come to chat and socialize. The wifi passwords are always adorable. Neighborhood: South Loop.