The Best Coffee in Chicago's Loop: A 12-Stop, 2.5-Mile Crawl
Every day, an estimated 300,000 people crowd the grid-pattern streets of Chicago’s Loop for their 9-to-5s. With so many people setting out for their daily grind, coffee is the business district’s unofficial drink—its blocks are packed with cafés and takeout joints serving great coffee.
But which of these Chicago coffee shops are the best? Find out for yourself by following this itinerary, which will lead you on a nearly 2.5-mile run through The Loop’s bustling streets and features some of the best coffee in Chicago. Stopping at all 12 of these spots might be a multi-week endeavor for most, but for the bold (and well caffeinated) urban adventurer, it’s nothing that can’t be tackled in a single morning.
Two Zero Three
203 N. Wabash Ave.
Located inside the Virgin Hotel, Two Zero Three’s communal tables, leather couches, and a record player give it a relaxed, yet social feel. If you’re here to work, though, there are plenty of outlets, and even a couple public-use Macs.
Onsite sipping: The Basic Batch, a salted-caramel mocha, offers a happy medium of salty and sweet.
Grab and go: The counter is loaded with muffins, cookies, and flaky pastries.
Bean & Leaf
172 N. Wabash Ave.
Onsite sipping: The refreshing mint-leaf iced coffee.
Grab and go: A slice of pie from Bang Bang Pie, a heralded Logan Square spot.
53 E. Randolph St. and 53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Local coffee fans are familiar with Intelligentsia. Chicago is the roastery’s headquarters, making its brews both ubiquitous and loved throughout the city. After grabbing a drink, sneak next door to check out the giant Tiffany glass dome in the Chicago Cultural Center.
Onsite sipping: Go with anything from the Black Cat program, a collaboration with farmers that uses in-season flavors to change up the taste and complexity of drinks.
Grab and go: Take your at-home coffee-brewing game up a notch by grabbing a bag of Intelligentsia’s house blend along with a Chemex pour-over carafe.
33 S. Wabash Ave. and 225 N. LaSalle St.
With a huge selection of pastries, desserts, and of course, coffee, it’s easy to see why Goddess and the Baker is one of the best coffee shops in Chicago. Just follow the instructions of the giant, lit-up sign on the wall: ”Eat Now Caffeinate”.
Onsite sipping: Crafted in part with a custom La Marzocco espresso machine, the Mayan Mocha combines earthy chocolate and cinnamon flavors with a slight jolt of spice from the cayenne.
Grab and go: The rainbow cake’s six colored, spongy layers; vanilla frosting; and sprinkles.
60 E. Adams St.
The interior of this café might look unassuming, but its drinks and food are anything but. Italian classics including espressos, americanos, and lattes pair with Ge Pa de’s paninis, pizzas, and salads.
Onsite sipping: If you stray from a classic americano, the Nutella latte is a great pick. Its namesake hazelnut flavor—and the thin cookies it’s served with—adds to Ge Pa de’s unmistakably Italian vibe.
Grab and go: A couple scoops of your favorite flavor from the gelato wheel.
Pickwick Coffee Roasting Co.
22 E. Jackson Blvd.
Tucked into an alley between State and Wabash, Pickwick is definitely a hidden gem. The brick-paved walkway, dangling overhead lights, and exposed-bulb “Coffee” sign all add to the charm.
Onsite sipping: Pickwick’s sustainably sourced, direct-trade coffee is roasted in house.
Grab and go: A bag of those freshly roasted beans.
26 E. Congress Pkwy. and 7 N. Wells St.
Thanks to its Latin American theme and killer food—whose praise is well documented via the press clippings on its wall of accolades—Cafecito stands out from other Chicago coffee shops.
Onsite sipping: You’re at a Cuban café, so get a Cuban-style coffee drink. There are a couple variations on an espresso with sugar, but the café’s most popular drink is the rich, foamy café con leche (espresso with steamed milk).
Grab and go: Sure, it’s not the most on-the-go-friendly food, but the Cubano sandwich is too good to pass up.
439 S. Dearborn St.
The colorful chalkboard menus and mix-your-own-cereal bar reflect a no-frills vibe. Its coffee is roasted onsite weekly.
Onsite sipping: The honey-nut latte reportedly tastes just like its cereal counterpart.
Grab and go: The Usual Suspect: a bagel sandwich with ham, bacon, egg, and cheese.
343 S. Dearborn St., 225 W. Washington St., and 55 W. Monroe St.
Dollop proudly serves brew from Metropolis, one of a handful of beloved Chicago coffee roasters. Right around the corner from the massive Harold Washington Library, this cafe has plenty of tables and seats for reading and sipping.
Onsite sipping: Keep your fingers crossed you walk in on a day when the specialty drink is the Nutella or Mexican mocha.
Grab and go: A bag of Metropolis’s beans.
125 S. Clark St.
Photo courtesy of Revival Food Hall
Just as you would when going to the massive food hall of the same name for lunch, you’ll have to make choices at Revival Cafe-Bar. Along with standard coffee, it also serves coffee cocktails and nitro brews.
Onsite sipping: Throw a dart to select one of the five different roasters here, including Dark Matter and La Colombe.
Grab and go: A cup of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate: It’s one of the most popular and hip spots in the city, and Revival serves its namesake drink with huge, cubed marshmallows.
190 S. LaSalle St. and 73 E. Jackson Blvd.
The domed, gold-leaf ceiling and marble floor of the US Bank Building’s lobby serve as a stately backdrop to Bow Truss’s counter.
Onsite sipping: The Foundation espresso, which has a bit of lime zip beneath its toffee-caramel body. In 2013 the Chicago Coffee Fest drink awarded it third place in the America’s Best Espresso Competition.
Grab and go: If available, take a bag of cascara. Like tea, this fruit of the coffee plant is steeped in your mug (hot or cold). Don’t expect it taste like tea or even coffee, though: cascara is sort of a blend of the two, and it gives morning drinks a uniquely sweet, spicy flavor.
50 W. Randolph St.
The main attraction at this tiny spot in the Theater District isn’t the coffee, but that’s OK. The Dark Matter coffee served here is still outstanding, and a small is only $1 if you also get a donut. (As if you would go here and not get a donut.)
Onsite sipping: Do-Rite only serves Dark Matter.
Grab and go: The donuts frequently appear in local and national best-of lists, so while you really can’t go wrong, the old-fashioned is a particular standout.