Arts & Entertainment

New Coffee Shop in Wicker Park’s Den Theatre Focuses on Community

The Den Theatre recently opened a cafe in its renovated lobby space.

Coffee shops are a staple of social life for college students. They offer a space to meet friends, do homework and stress-cry into double-shot cappuccinos. Almost every Chicago neighborhood has a few.

The newest coffee shop in Wicker Park, Haven Lounge (1329 N. Milwaukee Ave.), has been open for just over a week. It has all the attributes of a classic indie coffee shop: strong coffee, comfy chairs and soft jazz music playing over the speakers. But unlike other cafes, Haven Lounge is attached to a stage theater.

Located in the renovated lobby space of The Den Theatre, the cafe engages Wicker Park residents in a new way.

“We’re trying to create a community space where people know that they can come and hang out,” said Michael Mazzocca, the cafe manager. “We’re here to serve the people in this area.”

The Den Theatre opened in 2010 and markets itself as “Chicago’s most uncommon performance venue” on its website. It’s a loft that contains five live theater venues, 11 event spaces and three bars that feature custom cocktails and familiar draft beers.

For Mazzocca, the new coffee shop was a logical addition.

“We decided it was time to have this space open to the public,” he said.

Lots of work went into creating the perfect atmosphere for the new cafe, including some heavy duty construction.

“This wall right here was just a curtain,” Mazzocca said, gesturing to the dark red wall covered in artwork beside him. “The bar was here, but the moulding in the back is brand new. The menu screens are brand new … this place looked entirely different two years ago.”

Haven Lounge serves cocktails, Dark Matter coffee and food from Goddess and Grocer — a local grocery store and catering chain with locations in Bucktown, River North, the Loop and O’Hare International Airport. Fresh sandwiches and pastries — including Goddess and Grocer’s famous rainbow cake — are delivered to the lounge daily and customers can enjoy them in a classy dining space full of antique furniture.

“We’re working with [Dark Matter and Goddess and Grocer] because they’re distributors from this neighborhood,” Mazzocca said. “We might actually add them to our catering contract [for events].”

The theater isn’t looking to reach out to its community through lattes alone. Performance art thrives in many of its venue spaces already, but Mazzocca hopes to expand those art offerings to draw in more curious patrons.

“We’re hiring a whole bunch of people to bring in more art, so we’re looking at [things like] concerts and staged readings,” he said. “A lot of theater happens in the space already, but we’re trying to have an event every night of the week — something that will serve the community.”

Whether you’re a coffee lover or a live theater enthusiast, The Den Theatre is a friendly, affordable community space that you’re sure to enjoy.

Haven Lounge is open daily 8-12 a.m. For more information about upcoming events at The Den Theatre, visit their website.

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Jamilyn Hiskes is a senior Journalism major at Loyola. She is the assistant A&E editor for the Phoenix and hopes to get a similar editing or reporting job after she graduates.