At long last, on Wednesday night Intelligentsia (@Intelligentsia, 2642 N. Milwaukee Ave.) opened its doors to welcome the Logan Square neighborhood to its new location. Formerly home to coffeehouse Nothin’ Less, the space has been transformed over the past several months. Lined in trademark Intelligentsia blue, the bright, clean space reflects what is arguably Chicago’s most infamous coffee brand.
But the Logan Square space is unlike any of their previous stores. “This is our first concept store in Chicago, and it’s certainly something new for us, if not for everyone,” said Stephen Morrissey, director of marketing. That “concept” involves two separate experiences, and is certainly something different from your typical American café.
When guests enter, they’ll see a counter near the door that focuses on to-go coffee—an option for those grabbing a quick cup on their way to work. Further into the shop, guests experience a second option if they want to enjoy their coffee at a leisurely pace. These folks are invited to take a seat at the bar, which resembles something between a diner and pub experience rather than that of a traditional coffeehouse. Baristas prepare your drink right in front of you using your chosen device: Chemex, pour-over, what have you. Then guests enjoy their drink, where in true bar-like fashion, baristas go about their tasks, pouring drinks, chatting up guests and wiping down counters. “It’s not intended to be coffee snobbery, but sort of an ‘opt in’ experience where if you want to learn more, our baristas are right there to share their knowledge,” Morrissey said.
The bar option focuses on tailoring the process so customers taste the flavors in that unique cup of coffee—flavors that come not just from the roast or the preparation, but from the unique conditions in which the beans were grown. “Once brewed, coffee all looks the same. It’s a dark liquid. But there’s a difference between gas station coffee—the coffee that you need—and the carefully sourced coffee that you want,” said Morrissey. “It’s a rushed experience here in America, and we want to give people the chance to slow down and give coffee the same respect that they give a nice glass of wine or a pricier bottle of beer.”
Although laptops certainly aren’t verboten, you’ll notice that outlets are covered to deter people from hunkering down at the bar for a long day of work. Instead, the environment feels more social in nature—the type you might bring a friend to for some catching up without worrying about bothering your neighbors.
There are several other unique concepts within the store, including a curated magazine rack which features a selection of hipster-esque publications, from Corduroy to Dwell, available for purchase. A few tables are available for outdoor seating, and the team plans to offer milkshakes and toast—yes, toast—at the bar come summer. “We figured, there’s a movie theater right next door,” said Morrissey. “Why not?”
Morrissey noted that Intelligentsia chose Logan Square as the next Chicago location (Broadway being the original, alongside two Loop locations), because “it just felt right,” as a neighborhood in flux with a thriving food scene. Intelligentsia founder Doug Zell added that he’s excited to be opening in Logan Square, “the neighborhood I eat dinner at three times a week.”
Intelligentsia’s Logan Square store is officially open for business on Thursday, April 25. Additional locations also are said to be coming soon in both Wicker Park and Old Town.