As the weather cools down, our morning cups of coffee take on new meaning. Not only do our favorite brews wake us up; they warm us up, too. From the purest cups of coffee, untouched by milk or sweetener, to bold and interesting lattes that are the perfect sweet treats, Chicago coffee shops are serving up their best in atmospheres that are worth braving the cold.
Sci-Fi Haven: The Wormhole Coffee
With a name like The Wormhole, it’s only fitting that this Wicker Park coffee shop has Star Wars memorabilia lining the walls and a DeLorean inside. The retro sci-fi and gamer theme transcends the décor, though, as it finds its way onto The Wormhole’s menu.
For those who like their coffee sans milk or sugar, The Wormhole’s brews (fueled by HalfWit Coffee Roasters’ beans) will satisfy. Whether you order a standard cup of joe or an Americano, you’ll enjoy a cup that’s dark, bold, aromatic and served in a colorful mug. There’s also beauty in the shop’s handcrafted lattes. You can cozy up to a Nintendo console with a Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa Latte and let nostalgia set in. The drink is as rich as it sounds, but if you believe that chocolate and peanut butter were meant to be paired together, this is the perfect morning indulgence. For a lighter option, the Homemade Vanilla Bean Latte is smooth, perfectly sweet and fragrant. With Fritz Pastry’s colorful (and vegan) doughnuts beckoning from the counter, too, it’s hard to pass up a weekend trip to The Wormhole.
1462 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-661-2468
Humble Brews: Big Shoulders Coffee
Inside Big Shoulders Coffee, the sound of jazz music is barely audible over the steady hum of the coffee roaster, hiss of the espresso machines and chatter among customers. With a large communal table in the center of the shop and a subway tile-lined sleek grey coffee bar, Big Shoulders is unassuming and an embodiment of its name.
Served in a “one-size fits all” cup, the coffee is simple in its delivery yet complex in flavor – the kind of cup that represents the nature of the city of Big Shoulders. Depending on what’s brewing, you might get a cup that’s fruity and bright or rich and chocolate-y; either way, it will taste fresh. If you crave milk and sugar, you’ll find your yearning for coffee fused with your childhood love of hot chocolate in the form of a marshmallow latte. A giant marshmallow is roasted, skewered and set over the cup for a drink that is perfectly sweet, not cloying. It’s lighter than a traditional cup of marshmallow-studded cocoa, but cozy enough for a Chicago winter’s day.
1105 W. Chicago Ave., 312-888-3042
The Gathering Spot: Caffé Streets
Like-minded coffee lovers congregate at Caffé Streets. On a weekend morning, it’s nearly impossible to find a seat. It could be that customers want to sit and take in the artful and sculptural wood ceiling – who could blame them? – but it’s more likely that they want to thoroughly enjoy each sip of coffee in good company.
Caffé Streets does Americanos right: Each cup is rich and smooth and served alongside a small glass of sparkling water. Specialty lattes don’t disappoint, either. There’s the Monkey Latte made with organic banana and molasses and the Chider, a fusion of apple cider and homemade chai. These beverages are interesting enough to stand out among a sea of mochas but accessible enough to satisfy a range of tastes – they’re guaranteed mood boosters. Not sure what to order? Ask the baristas for a recommendation; they know their coffee.
1750 W. Division St., 773-278-2739
Want to explore Chicago’s coffee scene further? Check out Indie Coffee Passport, which allows you to discover 22 coffee shops, including three of our favorites above, across the city.
Photos: Kelsey Stokes