738 W. Fullerton (Lincoln Park)
The vibe: This unique, two-story café is split down the middle. One side of the building has a kitchen, the other side has a coffee bar. You can place your order at either counter and sit anywhere you like — they will find you. They also have a patio out front for warm days. The décor is part quirky museum and part cozy grandma’s kitchen with antique tables and framed pictures of dead presidents.
What we ordered: A pot of rooibos tea and a half portion of “The Garden Party” sandwich. The tea was delicious and full of flavor. And it only took me 10 minutes to pick it from their selection of more than three dozen jars of loose-leaf tea. I appreciated the option of a half sandwich for small appetites and smaller budgets.
What keeps ’em coming back: The my-house-is-your-house atmosphere, the late hours (open until 10 p.m. daily), extensive loose-leaf tea collection and ample menu options (25 sandwiches and 11 salads). They also deliver!
2313 N. Milwaukee (Logan Square)
The vibe: This place is so hip it hurts. Art and quirky, mustache-themed decorations adorn the walls. They are bursting with local flair. I was there on a sleety Saturday afternoon, and it was packed with 20-somethings working and studying. A collection of records is spun for background music. The free wifi expires at 8 p.m., when Café Mustache becomes a venue for local music acts.
What we ordered: A cup of black coffee — which they get from Bridgeport Coffee Company — and a bowl of hearty vegan chili. The coffee was fine, but the chili was incredible. Next time I will be taking advantage of the fact that they also mix cocktails and offer local craft beers.
What keeps ’em coming back: A sense of community. Café Mustache has events almost every night of the week supporting local businesses, artists, and musicians. The café is owned and operated by Logan Square residents, meaning that any money made will pour directly back into the neighborhood.
714 N. Wells (River North)
The vibe: With vaulted ceilings, a checkered tile floor and walls hung with red curtains, Fabcakes has an air of importance and class without an ounce of pretentiousness. The barista was personable and excited about their products. Particularly the coffee they get from local roaster Ipsento.
What we ordered: A chocolate banana fabcake and a latte with their homemade lavender syrup. The fabcake was a gooey and decadent cupcake-type creation, and the latte was light and subtly floral. My café-hopping friend sampled the nutella swirl pound cake and a latte with black forest syrup, which were excellent as well.
What keeps ‘em coming back: The house-made syrups like vanilla rose, pepper fig, and pumpkin spice. No to mention the fabulous fabcakes and other pastries.
1373 N. Milwaukee (Wicker Park)
The vibe: Filter is an enormous, sprawling, LEED-certified living room adorned with reclaimed materials. My personal favorite is the wall of doors in the seating area. They have dozens of tables, couches and chairs, but I have never seen it less than half full.
What we ordered: One of their signature juices: “The Hangover Remedy,” which is full of pears, grapefruit and sweet potatoes. It sounds like an odd combination, but it was great. I topped it off with a mug of drip coffee, roasted on the premises.
What keeps ’em coming back: The plentiful seating, one-stop-shop nature and creative greening efforts. Whether you want coffee, tea or sweet potato fries, Filter has what you’re looking for. It’s a great place for a coffee date or an afternoon study session. It is comfy without being nap-inducing.
2521 W. Chicago Ave. (West Town)
The vibe: Burnt orange walls and local art greet you warmly upon entry, and the music is enjoyable but not intrusive. A bar runs the length of the shop and is stocked with Dark Matter Coffee (Star Lounge’s own roasting company) and friendly, knowledgeable baristas. The rear patio doubles their seating when the weather is right.
What we ordered: Dolor de oro — a latte with honey, habanero, cinnamon and chocolate. This creation is smooth and velvety up front and finishes like a kick in the esophagus. The flavor is excellent if you can stand the heat.
What keeps ‘em coming back: Creative concoctions — dolor de oro, Cortez the thriller (espresso, chocolate, rosemary) and wake & bake (maple syrup, sage) — and the Star Lounge attention to detail.
1462 N. Milwaukee (Wicker Park)
The vibe: Kitschy ’80s throw-back reigns supreme at Wormhole. They have a full-sized model of the DeLorean (think Back to the Future), a playable Atari system and other miscellaneous retro memorabilia scattered throughout the café. You can even order cereal by the bowl. What they lack in seating, they make up for in style.
What we ordered: The Mayan melk. This white hot chocolate with earl grey lavender syrup is exquisitely smooth, earthy and lightly floral. It is topped with cracked pepper marshmallows — the companion you never knew your hot chocolate was missing.
What keeps ’em coming back: The retro vibe and the commitment to coffee excellence. The Wormhole offers various beans and blends provided by HalfWit Coffee Roasters, brought to you via multiple brewing methods. They also boast the longest café hours in Wicker Park (7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily).
Article courtesy of The Real Chicago Magazine