The Coffee Person’s Guide To Coffee In Chicago


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This article is part of Fresh Cup’s ongoing coverage of the 2024 Specialty Coffee Expo, coming to Chicago April 12-14. We’ll continue to bring you stories, updates, and insights before, during, and after the event. See all coverage here.

I love Chicago. I love Chicago so much that I’ve moved there twice, once for college and again over ten years later. The second time I moved to Chicago was especially formative: I worked in both the coffee and beer worlds, which brought me to places and gave me experiences I didn’t know the city could offer back when I was in college. 

I lived in Chicago for seven years combined, but I’m by no means an expert—I now live in Madison, Wisconsin, which sounds like I live on a completely different planet but is just a stone’s throw away from the US’s third-largest city. 

I open with these facts because many of you are about to descend on the Second City shortly for this year’s Specialty Coffee Expo, which will take place April 12-14. I wanted to tell you about some of my favorite places. Again, I’m not an expert, and this is not a definitive guide. It’s just some of the things I love and hold dearly that, if you love coffee, you might like too. 

We’re dividing this guide into two parts, and we’ll begin with what everyone reading this is driven by: let’s talk about my favorite coffee shops. 

Everybody’s Busy: Reserve your place at Everybody’s Busy (you can only visit by appointment), a coffee spot that provides a curated adventure helmed by owner Melissa Stinson. For $20 per person, you can book a half-hour slot (with space for up to four people) and enjoy not just a drink made by Stinson herself (featuring coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab and oat milk from Ghost Town Oats) but an entire curated experience, from the music to the setting at Stinson’s creative studio in the Mana Contemporary Chicago in Pilsen. Book here

Pilsen: 2233 S Throop St, by appointment only

Four Letter Word: If you’re in the Logan Square neighborhood, check out Four Letter Word, a spot I love dearly (I briefly worked behind the bar during the shop’s early days in 2018). Along with serving beautiful coffee that the 4LW team roasts at their space in the Back of the Yards neighborhood (fun fact: owner Ria Neri is also the co-owner of Whiner Beer Co., which makes one of my favorite beers, Le Tub), the shop is also across the street from a wine store and a killer restaurant. If you can’t reach their spot in Logan Square, try their pop-up at Fulton Market inside Estereo (a fantastic cocktail bar in its own right). 

Logan Square: 3022 W Diversey, Open daily from 8-2

Fulton Market: 1001 W Fulton, Open daily from 7:30-1

Intelligentsia at Monadnock, Millenium Park, or Broadway: I imagine many Expo attendees will be staying in Downtown Chicago, and if you are, there are two Intelligentsia locations to check out (Monadnock and Mill Park). If you must pick one, check out Monadnock, located in the Monadnock Building, an architectural delight listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

If you want to explore a bit of coffee history, venture out to the Broadway store, which is the original Intelligentsia location that opened in 1995. It’s a trek, and the store has been remodeled since the nineties, but it is worth seeking out. 

Monadnock: 53 West Jackson, Open Mon-Fri 7-6, Sun 8-2

Millenium Park: 53 East Randolph, Open daily 7-7

Broadway: 3123 N Broadway, Open daily 7-7

Side Practice Coffee: Fresh Cup contributor Leah Bowman wrote about this beautiful space and how they prioritize community growth and engagement through regular pop-ups and events. “Shining a light on makers who are just embarking on their creative journey is a big part of the shop’s philosophy,” writes Bowman, and creative makers regularly rotate through the shop, from bakers to artists to even roasters—they regularly rotate coffee offerings from roasters like the abovementioned Four Letter Word and New Math Coffee (founded by another Fresh Cup contributor, Mikey Rinaldo). With that in mind…

Ravenswood: 5139 N Damen, Open daily 7-3

Drip Collective: …Drip Collective is an offshoot of Side Practice, “opened by SPC’s owner, Francis Almeda and Director of Coffee, Ty Banks,” according to their Instagram account. This spot is closer to the convention center than Side Practice but still centers on the same values: collaboration, creativity, and community engagement. We also heard Drip might be collaborating with 4LW and Spirit Tea on something fun on April 11, right before Expo—keep an eye on their IG to learn more. 

West Loop: 172 N Racine, Open Mon-Fri 7-3, Sat 10-6

Loba Pastry + Coffee: Loba makes the best pastries, end of story. Don’t believe me? Loba was a 2024 James Beard semifinalist and owner Valeria Socorro Velazquez Lindsten consistently serves the city’s most creative and delicious drinks. Lindsten takes coffee as seriously as pastries, but everything else is lighthearted and fun in Loba’s brand-new cafe space. Go here. Trust me. 

Roscoe Village: 600 N Lincoln Avenue, Open Monday, Thursday, and Friday 8-2, Sat-Sun 9-3 (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) 

Dayglow: If dreamy photos of Dayglow’s ever-rotating coffee menu have popped up on your feed but a trip to LA isn’t in the cards, you’re in luck—in 2021, Dayglow opened a Chicago location that is just as stunning and exciting as its LA counterparts. What makes this space extra special is the brewery next door, Ørkenoy, which serves Nordic-inspired beer and bar food. 

Humboldt Park: 1757 N Kimball Ave, Open daily 7-6

Allez Café: Have you ever lived somewhere, left, and then something so beautiful opens that you think, “I wish this was open when I lived here?” That’s how I felt about Allez, which I heard about from my partner during his last visit to the city. Opened by ex-Alinea and Blackbird chef, this spot carries coffees from roasters around the nation (we spy Madison’s own JBC and New Orleans’ Pretty Coffee Roasters in this photo) and seems to serve the most perfect-looking (and undoubtedly tasting) donuts and breakfast sandwiches. 

Bucktown: 2239 N Western, Open daily 8-2

Kasama: Yes, you saw this spot, which serves both a dinner and daytime menu, on season two of the Bear. And yes, it does live up to the hype—this spot specializes in Filipino food and baked goods and carries coffee from Dark Matter. When visiting, you should do what Sydney from the Bear does and order multiple things from the menu. 

Ukrainian Village: 1001 N Winchester, Open for daytime service Wed-Sun 9-3

Turns out you’ve seen a lot of Chicago spots in Fresh Cup articles: Big Shoulders makes some fun signature drinks, Hexe Coffee Co. keeps late-night hours for the folks who need caffeination late into the day, check out Twin Peaks-inspired cafe Damn Fine, Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea draws inspiration from the cocktail world to build its signature drink menu, and if you’re all done with coffee, never fear—you should be able to find Spirit Tea on menus across the city. 

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Ashley Rodriguez

Ashley Rodriguez is the managing editor at Fresh Cup. She served as the online editor of Barista Magazine from 2016-2019 and is an award-winning beer writer and podcaster. She hosts a podcast called Boss Barista and writes an accompanying newsletter about coffee and service work.

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