Having completed my visits to 22 Chicago coffee shops on the Chicago indie coffee passport tour, here are my notes together with a (rough) ranking in four categories from best to worst, taking into account a number of factors, including location.
In the rotation:
- Cafe Integral:
Artisan/scientific approach to coffee that interweaves the hipster with the pretentious. excellent 6 ounce cappuccino. A keeper.
- Heritage Outpost:
As good if not better than Heritage General. I have returned several times, although not since I moved downtown.
- Heritage General:
All the hipster accoutrements, including an in-the-store bike store. Croissant was absolutely rubbish, coffee was excellent. Will (and have) returned.
Excellent as expected; consistently good, have returned several times.
Good, but not in convenient (for me) location:
- Buzz Killer Espresso:
Nice atmosphere (modern decor (black, straight lines), pretentious vibe). Though it was my third drink of the day (on my Wicker Park Tour), it served a more than decent cortado.
- Groundswell Coffee:
I really liked this place; good coffee and decent food as well. Not really anywhere near where I go nowadays, but worth visiting.
- Caffe Streets:
The first stop on my day in Wicker Park.
Nice latte. The internet somewhat bizarrely allowed LT6 websites to load, however, so I couldn’t stay so long. OTOH, the barista had a top tip for lunch (Antique Taco) which made up for that.
Might be worth a second chance:
- Cup & Spoon:
An acceptable latte; would give a second chance if it was in a more convenient location.
- Bru Chicago:
Had a 90’s brewed awaking vibe: decent espresso, but would probably to go Buzz Killer across the street. Next to an great second hand book store where I picked up a copy of B.F.Skinner’s autobiography. It was only later that I realized it was part 2 of 3, and now I’m left searching for the other two volumes in the same edition.
Opposite my favorite Thai restaurant in Chicago (Thai Spice.) I ordered an almond croissant (I feel that I should make at least one genuine purchase) which was absolutely terrible. Coffee was quite decent, however.
- Big Shoulders Cafe:
This cafe falls into this category only because it’s “in the middle of nowhere.” I had a cortado, which showed promise.
- Brew Brew :
Opposite Kosciusko park (but probably not the same Kosciusko that Melbournians would think of.) Coffee decent, not ideal texture. Had a donut. Music was turned up and sucked (even headphones blaring Schumann were not sufficient).
- Everybody’s Coffee:
My timing was poor, they were closing early for some reason, so I only got a rushed coffee to go; I’ve heard decent things about this place, but I probably won’t be returning.
- Sol Cafe:
I’ve heard about this place for a while; it was less than 5 minutes drive from my old house in Evanston. Yet I never managed to make it there until my visit with coffee passport. I had a latte; the server told the barista that I was a “passport” customer, which may (or may not) have led to a coffee with one fewer shot; the result was a pleasant enough mild coffee, but nothing amazing. They had some interesting looking donuts. (Update, I have since tried buttermilk donuts; they are an abomination.)
- HERO: Dearborn:
Curiously better than the other HERO store below. 8 ounce latte. Mildy offensive popular music.
- Atomix Cafe:
Friendly staff; happy to substitute a 12 ounce latte for an 8 ounce latte. So it was a little sad that, after the first sip, I had to toss it into the trash. The main culprit, as usual, was over-frothed milk.
- HERO (Roscoe):
Double Espresso to go, discretely emptied on the sidewalk after the first sip.
Like a 00’s London cafe, and not in a good way. (In other words, before the Australians came and upped the game.) Latte fail.
- Nitecap Coffee Bar:
When the servings offered on indie passport are the “special” flavoured lattes, you know you are in trouble. After some negotiation, they agreed to make a plain latte. It went down with some difficulty (I was in polite company and there was no convenient cuspidor); overly frothed milk.
- Spoken Cafe:
This is what passes for coffee in the suburbs, I guess. Not much memory of this place besides a terrible croissant and the note “better than starbucks.” Damned with faint praise.
- Awake Cafe:
I would have preferred to be asleep. No substitutions, forced to get
a 12 ounce gingerbread latte. Went straight into the trash after the first sip. (wisely got it to go).
- Bourgeious Pig:
Is there any more to add than this? Undrinkable.