A Locals Guide: 20 Best Cafes in Chicago

Updated: May 7, 2024

Do you feel overwhelmed when you see the number of cafes in Chicago? Even as a local, I never knew where to go. So, I set out to find the best Chicago coffee to save as my go-to list and share it with you all. This post will keep growing as I try more cafes in my hometown, but meanwhile, here are the top 20 most delicious ones I’ve tried so far.

I know that 20 can still be overwhelming when you only visit the city briefly. So, with that in mind, I will add a heart emoji next to the cafes I tend to visit most and feel you cannot miss.

Quick note: I have continued to visit these cafes throughout the years since I started this blog post, and they have remained solid. If, at any point, I notice that the service or quality is going downhill, I will remove them from this list. I wouldn’t want to point you in the wrong direction. I know how much it sucks to spend your hard-earned money on crappy drinks.

Best Cafes/Coffee in Chicago

1. Nomad Chicago

Gah, this place is gorgeous! Nomad Chicago is a “sanctuary for the wandering soul.” They are woman-owned and offer a lovely space to recharge and get inspired.

They have fresh-roasted beans from Metric Coffee, homemade syrups, and oat and coconut milk alternatives. They also offer cold-pressed juices and fresh pastries from local bakeries. You can shop around while you wait for your order or take in the beauty of the space. They also have an event space to rent as the perfect backdrop for your celebration or meeting.

I can’t believe we waited so long to try Nomad, but now we’re hooked. Our lattes were so good they seriously made our day.

Favorite drink: Any seasonal latte is a winner; they put a lot of thought into their recipes. 

photos: facebook.com/nomadchicago

2. Ludlow Charlingtons Coffee Shop

I love Ludlow. Their coffee is so consistently good that we drive 45 minutes out of our way to pick up some lattes. I’ve enjoyed their seasonal lattes and look forward to their new creations. I also love their mission to help Chicago’s shelter dogs!

From their site, “With every sale of Ludlow Charlingtons branded merchandise from our shop, we will donate 50% of the profits to our partner, Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control (FCACC).” FCACC is a dog rescue I support as well, so I’m all for this mission.

The dogs you see dressed in Victorian fashion are dogs from the local shelter that have been recently adopted. I love it all.

Favorite drink: Any seasonal latte. Love, love, love them.

3. The Stockyard Coffeehouse

The Stockyard Coffeehouse brought terrific options to the Bridgeport neighborhood. I used to live in Bridgeport for numerous years, and the cafe scene seemed nonexistent until the Stockyard came around. I loved having a place nearby to get delicious coffee.

The cafe is Latino-owned, so you’ll find many Latino-inspired coffees like Mexican mochas, horchata lattes, and dulce de leche lattes. They just put a new latte on the menu made with mazapan (a nut-flavored Mexican treat).

I’ve loved all the drinks I just listed; the mazapan one is something else. They also sell sandwiches, soups, and creative macarons. It’s worth the drive if you don’t live nearby, and if you’re a tourist exploring nearby, definitely stop in.

Favorite drink: Mexican Mocha w/coconut milk, Cardamom Latte with oat milk

photos: facebook.com/stockyardcoffeehouse

4. Coffee Lab & Roasters – Lakeview

Another great find in the city. There is also a location in Evanston if you’re ever further north. Coffee Lab isn’t afraid to experiment and has unique seasonal drinks like blackberry mochas, and they’re surprisingly perfectly balanced despite what the name suggests. They make many of their syrups, and I’ve noticed how important that is for taste. Definitely go out of your way to check them out. They are one of the top cafes that consistently get our drink right.

Favorite drink: I stick to seasonal lattes here. They’re always fun and delicious!

facebook.com/coffeelab.lakeview

5. Blue Bottle Coffee 

I’ll admit we didn’t visit Blue Bottle when they first opened because the location is inconvenient for a local if you don’t live or work nearby. However, we recently stayed at the hotel where we had our wedding, and it’s right across the street from Blue Bottle Coffee, so I was excited to try it. Boy, I’m glad we did. We loved the coffee, but especially the view from the outdoor patio. The cafe sits on the prettiest corner and is a treat for any visitor to the city. We brought my aunt and uncle here when they visited from out of town so that they could enjoy their brew and view!

6. Passion House Coffee Roasters

I just visited this fantastic coffee roaster at their Goose Island location and fell in love with their current seasonal Sweet Potato Latte. They also have a great space to work, and it’s open-air during the warmer months. Plus, they have a parking lot in the middle of Chicago! It’s unheard of. Their coffee is solid, and I look forward to trying more lattes.

facebook.com/PassionHouseCoffee

7. Caffe Streets

CLOSED March 2024 | I will update this with a great new shop once I find it! 

After visiting Metric and loving it, I decided to check out Caffe Streets because I had read that the co-owner of Metric is also the founder of Caffe Streets. I figured it had to be good, and it is! It is!

I’ve loved it so much that I’ve returned numerous times within the last few weeks. Can you see why I said the caffeine trip has been great? Haha! They do have oat milk as an alternative and some pretty unique drinks.

Jorge ordered a rose latte, and it was surprisingly delicious. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ll get when you order these out-of-the-box drinks, but we were both happy with our choices.

Favorite drink: Vanilla Latte with oat milk, Rose Latte

photos: facebook.com/caffestreetschicago

8. Big Shoulders Coffee

Big Shoulders Coffee has numerous locations in the city. They are a roaster offering “no-nonsense artisan coffee.” My favorite is their West Town (Chicago Ave.) location.

I had seen photos of their marshmallow lattes floating around Instagram for months before I decided to check it out—silly me. I missed out on months of delicious coffee.

The marshmallow latte is something I never realized I needed in my life. I love the presentation even when I have to take it to go.

Favorite drink: Marshmallow Latte with oat milk

photo: yelp.com/kelseyh

9. Sawada Coffee

Nobody lied; the coffee at Sawada is exceptional, and the latte art is among the best in town! I was excited to try them because I’ve heard and read great things.

One of their most popular drinks is the military latte, a combo of matcha and espresso. I’m not huge on matcha, but they have one of the best matcha lattes around.

I got a vanilla latte, and the coffee tasted so smooth. The space is small but artsy. They also share an outdoor area with Green Street Smoked Meats. You may have seen it on social media, but it’s a cute hidden alleyway decorated with lights that seems out of place for Chicago. They have benches, tables, and Wi-Fi to work on on the warmer days. And during Christmas, they deck out the alleyway with little Christmas trees. Super cute. Don’t miss Sawada!

Favorite drink: Vanilla Latte with oat milk, Tokyo-Style Latte 

photo: facebook.com/sawadacoffee

10. The Wormhole Coffee

The Wormhole is one of the best-reviewed coffee shops in Chicago. It’s located in Wicker Park. The interior has this relaxed retro vibe going on. They have some creative drink options, and they’re currently offering oat milk as an alternative. There’s plenty of space to sit inside, work, and enjoy coffee. It’s my favorite place to get a consistently solid vanilla latte that doesn’t taste like fake vanilla.

Favorite drink: Vanilla latte with oat milk

photo: facebook.com/inthewormhole

11. The Crepe Shop

The Crepe Shop has the best crepes in the city, but did you know their coffee is equally impressive? They have a handful of flavored lattes on the menu, and they all taste amazing. I also want to note that they never get my latte wrong. It’s always perfectly balanced, blowing my mind every time.

It’s a one-stop shop for breakfast/brunch; they have the cutest space. It’s one of those places I’ll take out-of-town guests or recommend to anyone visiting Chicago.

Don’t miss The Crepe Shop if you’re hungry or need a caffeine fix.

Favorite drink: Cardamom Rose latte with oat milk; Jorge loves the Citrus Flower Latte or Lavender Latte

photo: instagram.com/thecrepeshopchicago

12. Bad Owl Coffee Roasters

Bad Owl is still relatively new to the Bridgeport, Chicago, area. The Vegas-based roaster came in with a bang and has garnered many fans in the short time it’s been open. Their drink menu is a collection of classic coffees, creative lattes, and a few coffee flights you can try. They also sell a handful of breakfast sandwiches and toast. Bad Owl has undoubtedly been a great addition to the neighborhood!

Favorite drink: Lavender Latte with oat milk, Second Breakfast Latte, Oatchata Latte

source: facebook.com/badowlcoffee

13. Metric Coffee

Metric Coffee is a Chicago roaster that makes one hell of a latte. Their menu is simple, offering basic espresso drinks with a side of freshly baked doughnuts from Brite. Please don’t skip the doughnuts; they offer unique flavors, and all have been so good. They also have both coconut and oat milk as alternatives.

The coffee shop is tiny, with a bit of counter space. They’re mainly pick-up-and-go. They reopened their outdoor patio so that you can enjoy coffee outside during the warmer days.

I like Metric’s vibe and everything they’re roasting; I’ll keep returning.

Favorite drink: Vanilla Latte with coconut or oat milk 

photo: facebook.com/metriccoffee

14. Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea

I’ve been visiting Fairgrounds for a while now, and it’s one of my favorite places to get some work done and enjoy a good cup of coffee. They have tasty breakfast sandwiches as well. You can also order flights of coffee, tea, or kombucha to try a few different flavors!

So far, the Fulton Market has been my preferred location. They’ve also ventured out to other states, so if you’re in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, or LA, check them out.

Favorite drink: Vanilla Latte with coconut milk

photo: facebook.com/ourfairgrounds

15. Intelligentsia

Another cafe that has numerous locations around the city (and country- LA, NY, Boston, Austin). I wouldn’t include these IF they weren’t great. I recently stopped in for a latte while waiting for my husband and didn’t expect much. I ordered an Avena Latte (shown below), and it was so damn good that I want to go out of my way to get another one. Do you notice I go out of my way a lot? That’s just the kind of girl I am. Their Avena latte is spiced with ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange peel. So good. Must try.

photo: facebook.com/IntelligentsiaCoffee 

16. Mojo Coffee

If you’re in the Loop, check out Mojo Coffee. They are a New Zealand roaster that set up shop in Chicago as their first USA location. They have a few cafes around the Loop area serving hand-crafted New Zealand-style coffee.

We visited LaSalle St (linked in the title) and ordered vanilla lattes and a flat white. We ordered a flat white because that’s the most popular NZ drink. You can tell they whip up some quality stuff. They also have gorgeous-looking toasts and bowls available.

Favorite drink: Vanilla Latte with oat milk

photos: facebook.com/mojocoffeeusa

17. Tasa Coffee Roasters

Tasa is a great local cafe with a delicious Coconut Lavender Latte and avocado toast. The atmosphere is perfect for catching up with friends or getting some work done, with plenty of natural light and comfortable seating. They aim to “provide great locally roasted coffee mainly sourced from women-owned farms. We are an independent, Latina-owned, and woman-forward business.”

Favorite drink: Coconut Lavender Latte with oat milk

photo: facebook.com/tasacoffeeroasters

18. Backlot Coffee

Backlot is a coffee roaster with a fun community background and great drinks. Friendly baristas always greet us, and their cardamom latte is one of my favorites! Since it started in Evanston (Illinois), north of the city, their Chicago location is pretty far north. But you won’t regret the drive to Backlot if you have a car.

Favorite drink: Cardamom Latte with oat milk

photo: facebook.com/backlotcoffee

19. Two Mile Coffee Bar

If you’re further south near the Beverly, Chicago area, do not hesitate to stop for coffee at Two Mile. Their coffee is consistently good, and I love their cafe and outdoor space. They have the best seasonal lattes. As a bonus, they also offer croissants and pastries from Butterdough. I visit this place weekly. No regrets.

Favorite drink: Seafoam Coldbrew with oat milk

facebook.com/twomilecoffeebar 

20. Afro Joe’s Coffee

You’re in luck if you’re in the Beverly area because not only do they have Two Mile, but right across the way, you’ll find the fantastic Afro Joe’s Coffee. Their Sweet Potato Latte during the fall season seems to be the most popular, but their coffee is all-around good. They have a great patio, open-air area, delicious breakfast options, live music some weekends, and tons of fun events. Don’t miss out on their South Side Short Rib Grilled Cheese.

Favorite drink: Seasonal Sweet Potato Latte

facebook.com/afrojoes @cuppachicago ig

VERY NOTABLE MENTION: Studious Coffee Shop

Studious has been our latest obsession in the coffee world. It’s located outside of Chicago (this is why I’m not officially counting it, but I must mention it).

We barely discovered this cafe a few months ago, but I’m sure the baristas recognize us at this point. It’s delicious every single time!

They make their own syrups (always a plus), have creative spins on the lattes, and offer excellent service and a lovely space to work.

It’s a bit of a drive out if you’re visiting the city, but if you’re local, it’s worth making your way over to Studious. Make sure you order it in a mug so you can fully enjoy it. You will not be disappointed.

Favorite drink: Lavender Latte, Cafe de Olla Latte, Swedish Spice Latte

Whether it’s your first time in the city or you’ve lived here your whole life, I hope this post makes your upcoming caffeine trip a little easier. As mentioned, this list will keep growing as I try all the fantastic Chicago cafes. If there’s one you think I need to check out, please let me know in the comments.

Interested in exploring other parts of Chicago? Here are some helpful guides

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10 Comments

  • Reply Ed October 19, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    Oromo Cafe?

    • Reply Lily October 26, 2022 at 6:07 pm

      Need to check that out!

  • Reply Kurt Lathrop August 4, 2022 at 11:25 am

    Had several U of Chicago students recommend Plein Air Coffee during recent tour. Was not disappointed. Was also a cool bookstore next door.

    • Reply Lily August 4, 2022 at 1:13 pm

      Good to know, thank you! I need to update this post to include Ludlow Charlingtons Coffee Shop, Coffee Lab & Roasters, Afro Joe’s, and Two Mile Coffee Bar. I will be updating soon.

  • Reply Judy CC August 2, 2022 at 10:42 pm

    Two more Bridgeport highlights from my short list: Bridgeport Coffee and Jackalope. 💓

    • Reply Lily August 4, 2022 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply waitingforrain28 July 18, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    I have family in Chicago so I go with fair regularity. I am 100% going to add these to a list of places to visit. They all look so beautiful and tasty!!!

    • Reply Lily July 21, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      Glad I can help add new spots to your list 🙂 I’m sure you’ll love them!

  • Reply Cosette July 18, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Oh, these look like lovely places to sit down for a drink or two. Thanks for the list.

    • Reply Lily July 18, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

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