Editor’s Note: A few neighbors noted we missed a Logan Square coffee shop. We have added Brew Brew Coffee Lounge below.
If Logan Square is to retain its homegrown-mom-‘n-pop vibe, shop local and start by caffeinating with this handy-dandy guide to the independent coffee stops in our beloved hood. Logan Square residents need to be aware of how lucky they are to have so many choices for great coffee within the boundaries of the neighborhood.
And if you want corporate coffee in Logan Square, you’ll have to find it yourself. It’s worth reminding readers that several Starbucks and Dunkin Donut locations are peppered throughout the neighborhood. If you’re walking into one of these corporate black holes—where GMOs and homogeneity reign supreme—hopefully it’s only to use the restrooms or free Wi-Fi.
(Note: Every coffee shop here has free Wi-Fi and highly skilled baristas and pays close attention to the roast dates to make sure customers are drinking the freshest cup possible.)
Brew Brew Coffee Lounge (3832 W. Diversey Ave.)
Thanks to a couple of LoganSquarist readers (A. Hatch and R. Cohen), Brew Brew Coffee Lounge—which has been open since only September—gets a belated entry into the Logan Square coffee shop round-up that was published on Dec. 19th. We’d like to thank the readers who alerted us to our miss and apologize to Brew Brew for the original omission.
Right across the street from the Kosciuszko Park indoor pool facility, Brew Brew’s understated corner shop sports Metropolis Coffee Company beans and Rishi teas. It serves six sizable Panini-style grilled sandwiches from an Italian to a pesto mozzarella to a veggie sandwich that’s anchored with spinach dip as a spread; to complement a sandwich order there’s always a soup of the day that rotates regularly. The setup is simple and everything expected of a good coffee shop is found behind Brew Brew’s entrance: requisite espresso drinks, pastries (from La Farine Bakery), seasonal drink recipes, fresh fruit, local art, fast Internet and a variety of seating options from a bar to a couch to tables.
There’s even a feel-good element to Brew Brew’s operation. The family (three siblings) that runs and owns the shop used to run a convenience store in the same space. They decided to convert their business and get into the coffee game in a corner of Logan Square that didn’t have legitimate coffee before they opened; the siblings also made the conversion because they wanted to do something more enjoyable like making customers happy with coffee and food. The brother and two sisters switch off working behind the bar; they don’t have employees yet, but hope to soon. They also hope to offer loose-leaf tea, pour-over coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the coming months. This is the quintessential mom-‘n-pop operation that’s off to a great start in Logan Square.
Café Mustache (2313 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Around the corner from the California Blue Line stop, this coffee spot has everything a hipster wants: good coffee, vinyl albums on the audio system and a mustache theme throughout. As a coffee shop it sets itself apart with a liquor license; Café Mustache has four different types of Malort, wine by the glass from Fenn Valley vineyard in Michigan, a variety of delicious local beers and creative hot or cold cocktails from a bar stocked with spirits from craft distilleries.
Café Mustache features the South Side’s Bridgeport Coffee, and the Black Pepper latte should not be passed up. Most evenings the shop hosts literary reading, comedy and music shows that fill up its calendar; on any given night you could walk into live hip-hop or jazz or someone telling a equally heartbreaking or funny story. Early next year Café Mustache expands into the space next door, approximately doubling its square footage.
Ipsento (2035 N. Western Ave.)
The baristas at Ipsento want you to know your coffee. They’re always happy to nerd out with customers at the counter, but for those who really have coffee beans on the brain, Ipsento offers a Coffee 101 class several times a month; book early because this class on coffee history, culture, brewing and selection sells out quickly.
Ipsento has grown to the point that it took over the old Bucktown Barber Shop space to roast the beans that are also sold at retail and wholesale. The main café leads to a back room where the music is turned down slightly for a quieter sipping, studying or food-munching experience. Ipsento’s literary-inspired sandwiches, like the Ernest Hemingway or Garrison Keillor, are prepared fresh to order until 3 pm. Like many Logan Square businesses, Ipsento looks to contribute at community events and feature as much local flavor as possible; even its mugs are from Circa Ceramics of Chicago.
La Strada Café Bar (2023 N. California Ave)
With Global Café shuttering recently, coffee seekers living off Armitage near California and Humboldt still have great coffee to sip at La Strada. Less than a year old, the café is an intimate space with an open and bright décor. They might be new to the neighborhood, but La Strada’s owners are already thinking of growth. At the moment La Strada brews Chicago’s own Metropolis beans, but will look to roast its own beans in the future. The small kitchen pumps out all their homemade pastries, sandwiches and Belgian waffles; look for seasonal soups to be added to the menu to help with chills during winter and beyond.
If deriving energy from caffeine isn’t in the cards, La Strada serves five house-made fresh juice blends, or gives you the opportunity to build your own juicy creation. You’ll have to check La Strada out in person, however, since it doesn’t have a website or even a phone number. La Strada ain’t got time to tweet.
Little Bean Café (1809 Webster Ave.)
So you’re a parent with one or two strollers and you’re tired of getting dirty looks when you push your family through a crowded coffee shop. Where do you go? You go to Little Bean Café, where they really want you and your little terrors … err … angels. Serving Intelligentsia Coffee and Kilogram Tea gives Little Bean street cred with moms and dads who want quality/local drip coffee, tea and espresso drinks.
Just like Little Bean caters its space to kids—from newborn to 5 years old—it has an extensive selection of sandwiches on the menu for the pickiest rug rats. There’s a small day-pass fee to let kids loose (with parental supervision) in the interactive play-space that has toys and everything from a mini firehouse to a mini car garage to a mini grocery store. During the summer, Little Bean opens an outdoor area and serves ice cream from a small shop attached to the building.
Intelligentsia (2642 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Intelligentsia’s brand might be synonymous with coffee, but its tea menu is just as impressive. Kilogram Tea—a business that sprung from the Intelligentsia roasting operation—offers loose-leaf black, white, green, oolong, herbal, iced and chai with several selections from each leaf; Intelligentsia and Kilogram share a roasting/tea-making warehouse in West Loop.
The design and décor of the Logan Square location hearkens back to the days of the classic American diner, with stools flanking the island/bar where baristas brew. The diner concept is partly why this is the only Intelligentsia location to serve milkshakes (using Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream), all with varying levels of caffeine; with ice cream behind the bar, an affogato—a single scoop of ice cream in a double shot of espresso—is also on the menu. Its retail shelves sport auto and hand-grinders, Chemex systems, an Aeropress, a Café Solo and an assortment of kettles to outfit any intrepid home-barista.
Gaslight Coffee Roasters (2385 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
A machine that looks like it belongs in the Death Star roasts all of Gaslight’s single origin beans in a room that vents onto Milwaukee Avenue and sends aromas out to let pedestrians know coffee is close. Having a roaster in-house means the beans only travel several feet before they’re ground for brewing. Gaslight’s roasting operation can pour out up to 300 lbs of beans per day, which are used to make customers’ coffee, packed for retail and distributed to their wholesale accounts.
The space relies on natural light from big windows facing Milwaukee and Fullerton, and plenty of seating options—from a bar to small tables to a large picnic table—makes for an inviting atmosphere whether you’re spending hours or minutes in the shop. Aside from quality coffee, Gaslight’s selection of Rishi teas, pastries from Beurrage and items on the seasonal food menu—like the current Trout and Bacon sandwich on challah roll—should not be ignored.
New Wave Coffee (2557 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
With an entrance off Logan Boulevard and Milwaukee Avenue, this spot seems to stay busy no matter the time of year or day. The large space is perfect for small groups to gather for study sessions and meetings. Everything from The Stone Roses to The GZA to Motorhead—or hipster inspired albums you’ve never heard of—can find its way onto the sound system, which can be the perfect white noise for writing, reading, people watching or playing video games on a classic Nintendo (yes, the one from the 1980’s).
Metropolis Coffee Company of Chicago supplies New Wave with a variety of small-batch and seasonal roasts. All New Wave’s toasted sandwiches are modestly priced and if you have a sweet tooth, Hoosier Mama Pies and Fritz Pastry items are well stocked. Unofficially, New Wave wins for coffee shop with the most character in Logan Square.
Honorable mention: Reno Chicago (2607 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Make no mistake, this popular sit-down dining establishment—for breakfast, lunch and dinner—boasts an legit coffee program. While Reno’s espresso machine and barista are hidden behind the counter, the quality of its caffeinated beverages and baristas needs to be illuminated.
Pacific Northwest transplants can rejoice in that Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Oregon—one of the most serious in the business about their craft—supplies Reno’s beans. All of its pastries and breads are made in-house (don’t miss the chocolate chip cookie) and the chorizo infused breakfast sandwich, the Nando, is a great savory way to start the morning.