Cafes in Chicago


Select Local Merchants

  • Geja's Cafe
    Imagine: it's a wintry night in Lincoln Park. You're crossing the bridge over South Pond, the downtown skyline shimmering to your left, the zoo's holiday lights twinkling to your right. It's undoubtedly romantic, but, in true Chicago fashion, it's also really cold. Luckily, just beyond the groves of snow-laden trees, lies Geja's Cafe, a cozy fondue spot perpetually adored as one of Chicago's most romantic restaurants. Looking back on Geja's nearly 50-year history, there is perhaps one story that crystallizes this reputation better than most. Owner John Davis once told the Chicago Tribune about a couple from Minnesota who traveled to Geja's for their first date, their engagement, their rehearsal dinner, and to celebrate the birth of their first baby. Small children aren't permitted inside?because of the hot fondue pots?so they jokingly asked if they could leave their baby at the coat check. The new mother working the counter happily obliged. This anecdote lays out the qualities that have helped Geja's endure for a half-century as one of the city's most beloved dining institutions. Here's a closer look at those characteristics, starting, of course, with the ambience. It's romantic. Geja's has an entire page on its website devoted to couples who have gotten engaged there. Proposers can call ahead to have management help with arrangements, or they can just let the low lighting, flickering candles, and curtained-off tables set the scene. It's experiential. Geja's three-course fondue dinners make for an incredibly memorable meal. Servers fire up a cast-iron pot for each stage?first with brandy-spiked gruyere for dipping fruits and breads, then with soybean oil for cooking veggies and a choice of meats, and lastly with flaming chocolate for torching marshmallows and embarrassing diary entries. It's accommodating. "You get a feel of serenity when you walk in," Janice Koch, longtime neighbor of the restaurant once told the Tribune. "You're not rushed or pushed. It's all just... consistent." Guests are free to navigate meals at their own pace, also taking time to enjoy the extensive wine list (which includes three private-label varietals) and live flamenco guitar.
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    340 West Armitage Avenue
    Chicago, IL US
  • Kanela Cafe
    Kanela Breakfast Club: A User’s Guide Breakfast-and-Brunch Nook | Organic, Local Ingredients | Greek-Influenced Recipes | Julius Meinl Coffee Sample Menu Sweet breakfast: red-velvet french toast with cream-cheese frosting Savory breakfast: duck-confit hash with sunny-side-up eggs, charred scallions, and orange-truffle vinaigrette Lunch: Tallgrass beef burger with aged cheddar and guacamole What to Drink: Sip a latte macchiato, café mocha, or one of the other drinks crafted around Julius Meinl coffee—a popular Austria-based coffee roaster that operates several shops around Chicago's Northside. When to Go: If you're going to visit the location in Wrigleyville, go when the Cubs aren't playing. The neighborhood is less crowded, and free parking is available on non-game days just a few doors south at 3211 N. Clark. Vocab Lesson Kanela: the Greek word for cinnamon If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Try your hand at cooking one of KBC's dishes at home—the café isn't shy about sharing its recipes. For instance, the TV show Living Healthy Chicago devoted a segment to the veggie egg-white omelet, which Chef Nick Curtis says is the healthiest item on his menu.
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    3231 North Clark Street
    Chicago, IL US
  • Metropolis Coffee Company
    Jeff Dreyfuss and his son Tony each discovered a love of coffee independently. Jeff fell in love with the dark brew on after-class sojourns at local coffee shops during his tenure as an Indonesian Language Professor at the University of Washington-Seattle. Tony got his first taste of obsession when he landed a job sweeping floors in a coffee shop while contemplating what to do with his philosophy degree. The two talked to each other about coffee constantly, eventually finding the mutual inspiration to take the plunge into the roasting and brewing business. They opened Metropolis Coffee in 2001 to share their bean-driven bliss with the world. The team purchases their coffee directly from farmers, but doesn’t expose a single bean to heat until the crop arrives at the roasting facility in Chicago. Once there, they roast the coffee in small batches to order, ensuring that each cup brewed in-house or bag of beans for savoring at home came out of the roaster no earlier than the day before. Each barista first learns to appreciate the roasting process—and its tasty results—with hands-on training in the roasting facility before setting foot behind the counter at the company's Edgewater café. Armed with a beginning-to-end understanding of coffee creation, the drinksmiths brew and serve well-balanced beverages for coffee aficionados at an espresso-scented hangout that Time Out Chicago calls "outstanding."
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    5545 N Clark St
    Chicago, IL US
  • The Common Cup
    Tucked into the sunlit corner of a handsome, seven-story, brick-and-sandstone building in Rogers Park sits an unassuming coffee shop. The Common Cup—about a block west from the Morse Red Line stop—serves Intelligentsia coffee, homemade pastries, and Red Hen breads, but what sets it apart from countless other shops with similarly ticked inventory sheets is the cafe's downright enthusiasm about local artists. That and the ice cream machine. Far from just a coffee house, Common Cup has created a space that TimeOut Chicago recognizes as a "vital community node" for artists in Rogers Park. Area musicians set up busking hubs almost every Friday, regaling guests with their mastery of guitar or the alto kazoo, and everywhere, art is on display. Collectors and casual oglers can buy or peruse all manner of handicraft, from christmas ornaments to prints of various Chicago landmarks. Even tots can bound into the artisanal fray, taking in readings by local story-tellers, and afterwords, they can sidle over to the soft-serve ice cream machine that mixes in any number of fixins before swirling out the dulcet delight.
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    1501 West Morse Avenue
    Chicago, IL US
  • Casteel Coffee
    Since 1993, Casteel Coffee’s baristas have caffeinated locals with steaming cups of artisanal roasted beans. The shop’s staffers follow in the footsteps of roast master Lee Casteel, who set the café’s course by roasting beans in small batches to ensure high quality. A new generation of roasters sources arabica coffees from around the world, procuring fair-trade varieties and naturally processed decaf beans whenever possible. To fulfill their motto, “fresh from our roaster to your cup,” coffeemakers pour drip coffees or press potent espresso shots from freshly ground beans. Herbal, scented, and green and black teas also flow from the metaphorical tap, and the shop even purveys the occasional piece of high-tech brewing equipment, such as an electric coffee grinder or a mug that has WiFi. The success of the café’s knowledgeable staff and liquid pick-me-ups fueled the company’s expansion from a single café in Evanston to a second location in Chicago’s Loop. Casteel Coffee animates a dedication to its community by not supplanting the water in local fire hydrants with coffee and by supporting nonprofit organizations, such as the Chicago Children’s Museum.
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    225 N Columbus Dr
    Chicago, IL US
  • Little Branch Cafe
    Whether you need help waking up in the morning or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, the coffee at Little Branch Cafe will do the trick. Come prepared to feast at Little Branch Cafe — with no low-fat options, any diets will need to be put aside for the moment. Toast your evening out at Little Branch Cafe with a glass of beer or wine from their lengthy drink list. Little Branch Cafe is kid-friendly, so little ones are welcome to tag along. The patio tables outside of Little Branch Cafe are the perfect spot for a summer meal. Access the internet free of charge via Little Branch Cafe's complimentary wifi. Dining out isn't your only option here — pickup is available, too. Need a break from the road? Public transportation is also convenient, with a popular stop at Roosevelt (Red, Orange & Greens). You can leave your car curbside with nearby street parking. You'll find your bill at Little Branch Cafe to be more than reasonable, with most meals costing less than $15. The coffee shop serves lunch and dinner, but it's the brunch menu that draws the most rave reviews from patrons.
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    1251 S Prairie Ave
    Chicago, IL US
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