By Jacqueline Runice
Chicago, like every other city, is lousy with Starbucks shops -- they're almost as ubiquitous as Walgreens, where you'll most likely go to get an acid reducer after slugging down all that joe. Despite the pervasiveness of the green mermaid, non-corporate, locally-owned coffee shops are gaining traction -- even with steep rents and rising labor costs. Give the little guy and gal a try next time you need a jolt -- they're offering seasonal beans, custom blends and nuance you can only get from a pour over and a shop happy for your business.
112 N. Green St.
Chicago, IL 60607
You respect the ancient drink but are also enamored of coffee as art project? Make a caffeinated pilgrimage to Sawada, the first coffee shop in the United States of renowned barista and latte art expert Hiroshi Sawada. Order from a select menu of espresso-based drinks, including sweet green tea military lattes, cappuccinos, cortados and boozy steamers (a scotch and honey steamer is a great sub for a cozy fireplace). Camouflage Doughnut Vault doughnuts and matcha brownies nicely excite your taste buds and fill the emptier spaces in your gut. The industrial designed space that seats 15 includes a wall of windows facing Green Street, ping pong table and pin ball machine to test your mettle. Sawada shares its address with Green St. Smoked Meats serving barbecue and homey sides.
Jackalope Coffee & Tea House
755 W. 32nd St
Chicago, IL 60616
While cappuccinos with a Millennial pink glitter float are pervading Instagram (does coffee have to be a shiny object, too?), some of us just savor a perfectly roasted, heady cuppa coffee. Jackalope delivers the liquid goods and the only "unicorns" on the menu are its "Mythical Creature Sandwiches." There are hot and iced coffee drinks as well as malts, shakes and smoothies. Locals champion Jackalope as the best in Bridgeport for coffee and pastries.
The Coffee Studio
5628 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60660
The very description of an independent mom 'n'pop coffee shop, The Coffee Studio's owners live in the neighborhood and you can often see their son drawing while sitting at the coffee bar. Bon Appetit Magazine named it one of the 10 Best Boutique Coffee Shops in the country in 2010 and 10 years in, you'll enjoy hand crafted ingredients like sauces and syrups for drinks, as well as house-made small batch ice creams, iced tea popsicles and coffee and tea-inspired cocktails. Husband-wife designers and owners, Miguel and Lee Corrina Cano, have created a comfortable, cheerful and modern space in which to enjoy hand-crafted coffee drinks prepared by real baristas, loose leaf teas, craft beer and wine, bagels, oatmeal, donuts and pastries as well as quiche and flatbreads.
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Cafe Jumping Bean
1439 W. 18th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
Talk about being ahead the curve: Cafe Jumping Bean has been brewing coffee in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood since 1994. Pilsen's first coffeehouse is also one the neighborhood's community arts spaces: it has hosted an 18-piece mariachi band, an impromptu concert by Yo-Yo Ma, and the 44th President of the US, Barack Obama, is even known to pop in. Grab a fresh salad, sandwich or a warm mollete with your cup of houseblend coffee. Cafe Jumping Bean expanded to a second Pilsen location at the CTA's Pink Line on Damen Ave., named appropriately, L'Cafecito Jumping Bean, with an outdoor community patio.
Big Shoulders Coffee
1105 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
With outposts in the Loop, Gold Coast, River North and West Town, Big Shoulders ostensibly takes its name from the poem, "Chicago," by Carl Sandburg, and you shouldn't find pastel, bedazzled joe in a "Stormy, husky, brawling" city like ours. If you're about freshly roasted, nonsense stunning coffees, this is your wheelhouse coffee shop. Choose among limited special feature beans, single-origin coffees from micro coffee producers and seasonal blends. How can you not love a place that says, "We truly value service, kindness and manners. Just like our fellow Chicagoans, we work hard without pretense. Our only goal is to bring you the best coffee possible in a welcoming atmosphere."
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