I visited 22 different coffee shops in Chicago over the past year courtesy of the Indie Coffee Passport, a pass valid December through August. For $25, participants choose from a list of drinks at participating coffee shops in neighborhoods around Chicago, including Wicker Park, the Loop, Pilsen and Rogers Park. If you’re looking for a spot off campus, these are my top picks.
1. Sol Cafe (1615 W. Howard St.)
Just far enough…
Just far enough Off the Howard Red Line stop, this cafe will get you away from the Loyola bubble and offers excellent drinks served by friendly staff. Large front-shop windows provide natural light for studying, and the menu has creative drinks such as the “Thailight zone” with espresso, “Thai spice syrup” with coconut milk and the “Phoenix fizz” with bonfire tea, orange soda and Grenadine topped with a cherry. There’s plenty of seating room and an additional food menu, so it provides a place to hunker down for the afternoon.
2. Heritage Outpost (1325 W. Wilson Ave.)
Quiet and cozy…
If you want a smaller, quiet shop, hit up this hole-in-the-wall place. It has a more limited menu, but the quality of the drinks trumps quantity at this shop. The barista carefully prepares each drink and my cappuccino had the perfect foam, milk and espresso proportions. The shop has about 20 seats, so if you’re looking to study alone, it’s ideal. Heritage Outpost offers the hush of a library, but with better coffee than the Information Commons.
3. Everybody’s Coffee (935 W. Wilson Ave.)
Spacious and communal
Also off Wilson, this shop is spacious and its large communal tables make it great for study groups. Compared to Heritage Outpost, Everybody’s Coffee has a slightly louder atmosphere and a more welcoming vibe. The baristas have versatile talents; I enjoyed a more conventional strong cortado, but they also make unique drinks, including Star Wars-themed choices. I suggest trying “The Vader” with Mexican Coke, vanilla and espresso. May the caffeine be with you.
4. Big Shoulders (1105 W. Chicago Ave.)
Near the Gold Coast…
Sometimes, the Starbucks near the Water Tower Campus feels like an extension of Corboy Law Library. If you need to travel a little farther, take the 66 Bus 11 minutes to Big Shoulders Coffee. You can pick from a variety of brewing methods, from a press pot to a Chemex, to satisfy your inner coffee snob, or enjoy specialties such as the marshmallow latte or the excellent horchata latte.
5. Caffe Streets (1750 W. Division St.)
Worth the trek…
This cafe is not close to campus by any means, but if you want to explore the neighborhood after studying, this Wicker Park spot is a fun choice. It has a natural atmosphere, with green tiled counters, wooden benches and vines hanging on the walls. You can enjoy a variety of brewing methods and specialties such as spicy hot chocolate or Thai iced coffee. I had a refreshing iced chai latte, which had a satisfying blend of spices and wasn’t too sweet. Caffe Streets makes for a nice outing away from campus and is worth the time spent walking from the Division Blue Line stop.