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Thanks to my remote work lifestyle, I spend a lot of time at coffee shops in Chicago (and all over the world). There are a few things that are super important to me when judging a coffee shop. First, it has to have good coffee. Almost all Chicago coffee shops meet this requirement. Second, it needs to have good wifi so I can be a productive nomadic hippie. And third, it has to have a “good vibe” – a much more subjective and difficult to meet criteria. Following these criteria, I’ve compiled the following list of the 11 best Chicago coffee shops according to a local (me). So if you’re looking for something a little more exciting than Starbucks, check out the coffee shops in Chicago below.
1. La Colombe
It might not be the best look to start a list of Chicago coffee shops with a Philadelphia-based coffee chain, but La Colombe deserves the recognition. The coffee here is always solid and consistent across locations, which I’ve noticed is hard to find. Also, the spaces are larger and more open than many coffee shops in Chicago, despite its placement in very central locations, like the Gold Coast, West Loop, Lincoln Park, and Wicker Park.
Given its high quality coffee and convenient locations, it should be no surprise that La Colombe receives a lot of foot traffic. However, this also means that if you’re someone who gets distracted very easily, La Colombe might not be the best place for you to hunker down and get work done.
2. DropShot Coffee & Snack Bar
DropShot is one of the newer players in the Chicago coffee shop game, but it is already at the top of my list. It’s one of the few high quality coffee shops I’ve come across that’s located inside a hotel. Perhaps it’s because it’s located inside the super trendy FieldHouse Jones Hotel, but hanging out at DropShot makes you feel super cool and trendy yet low-key and understated at the same time. The food at DropShot is equally as good as the coffee, which makes it almost too easy to spend an entire day here without even realizing it.
3. Dollop Coffee Co.
Dollop is a solid choice for those who need lots of light and mood-heightening decor to get through the day. Unlike a few coffee shops on this list that have more moody vibes, Dollop is full of brightness and positivity. With nearly 15 locations all over Chicago, chances are you’ll be located near one wherever you choose to stay or visit in Chicago. If you want to test how fast a long and tiring work day can actually go by, just hunker down at Dollop for a day and you’ll find your answer.
4. Sawada Coffee
Picture latte art, hipsters, and lots of matcha in one room, and you’ve got Sawada Coffee. With a barely noticeable entrance in Chicago’s trendy West Loop neighborhood, Sawada’s biggest downfall is its small space and lack of seating. However, don’t despair if you can’t find a seat here – grab a coffee and move to the conjoining Green Street Smoked Meats, which has plenty of seating AND beer for when coffee just isn’t cutting it anymore. And in case you’re still not sold on Sawada, might I just point out that Sawada also made it on to our list of the 25 most instagrammable restaurants, bars, and cafes in Chicago, so if nothing else, at least do it for the ‘gram.
5. Ipsento Coffee
Espresso is all the rage at Ipsento, a modern apartment-style coffee shop with delicious smoothies and healthy food options. Working at Ipsento is like working in the comfort of your own home – but with really good espresso and a health-conscious chef. Both Ipsento locations are on the northwest side of the city, and the new 606 location (est. 2016) is the perfect place to start or end a relaxing stroll on the 606. You can read more about the 606 and other awesome things to do in Chicago here.
6. The Wormhole Coffee
On the opposite spectrum of the bright and airy Dollop is Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park. Some days you just want to sit on an old vintage couch in a dark room with your big headphones on and knock out your work in the moodiest lighting. On those days, Wormhole is your answer.
7. Dark Matter Coffee
Keeping with the same sort of dark and moody vibe, Dark Matter is another key player in the Chicago coffee shop scene. Dark Matter has multiple locations in the western neighborhoods of Chicago, but you can find Dark Matter coffee in other restaurants and cafes as well. Not only does Dark Matter coffee taste very good, they also make sure their coffee is responsibly sourced, so you can feel good about drinking their coffee.
8. Heritage Bicycles
Why is a bike shop on this list of best Chicago coffee shops, you ask? Well, Heritage Bicycles is actually a bike shop and coffee shop in one. The iced coffee here is delicious, and you can even get a growler to go. In the warmer months, there is seating outside, so you can load up on Vitamin D while waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
9. Big Shoulders Coffee
Chicago is often referred to as the City of Big Shoulders (taken from Carl Sandburg’s 1914 poem titled “Chicago”), and Big Shoulders Coffee represents Chicago well. With seven locations across Chicago, most of which are downtown or close to downtown, Big Shoulders should be easily accessible to most tourist pursuits. The coffee was also voted best coffee in Illinois by Food and Wine Magazine in 2019.
10. Capital One Cafe
One of my favorite places to work is at the new Capital One Cafes across the city. There is always plenty of seating, and some locations even have small rooms you can use for calls on a first come first served basis. Plus, if you’re a Capital One cardholder like me, you’ll get 50% off all of their signature drinks, which makes regularly working in coffee shops much more affordable.
11. Pilot Project
The newest addition to the Chicago coffee shop scene is actually a coffee shop and brewing incubator in one. Pilot Project helps breweries pilot their new projects, which is where the name comes from. Whether you want a coffee or a beer while working, you can find it all at Pilot Project. The space is huge, and the ambiance during the day is the perfect setting for creatives and digital nomads who want to be surrounded by like-minded souls. During warmer months, there’s also a large outdoor patio here.
Looking for more fun things to do in Chicago? Then you might want to check out these posts:
- 35 Free Things to do in Chicago
- A Local’s Guide to the 15 Best Breweries in Chicago
- 7 Awesome Things to do in Chicago
- Kayaking in Chicago With REI
- 25 Most Instagrammable Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes in Chicago
- 15 Ski Resorts Near Chicago to Visit This Winter
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