Great Coffee in Chicago

In the city of Chicago, there are plenty of Starbucks, but there are also plenty of independent brewers who are raising the stakes in the coffee-drinking game. Three of the best contenders are listed below, each ripe for the challenge of delighting coffee drinkers. Each has a unique feel and yet still creates the type of coffee (and accompaniments) that make you want to return again and again.

Julius Meinl Coffee Shop
If I had to limit my coffee drinking to a single coffee shop in Chicago, I could do no worse than Julius Meinl. Meinl has brought the ambiance and ceremony of coffee drinking to new heights. At Meinl, the rich Viennese coffee is served on a silver tray, accompanied by a tumbler of water, a china mug, a wrapped block of sugar, spoon, and small pitcher of cream. With that sort of detail, you’re likely to feel positively giddy before you’ve even had a first sip.

In addition to its delicious Viennese coffee, this coffee house’s brilliant menu includes thoughtful offerings, including crepes, sandwiches, even goulash. For those looking for a twist on their coffee, don’t miss the Vienna Eiskaffee (a rich espresso topping vanilla ice cream). If you can’t be in Vienna, this Southport coffee house makes a good substitute.

Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea
Who doesn’t feel like a smart coffee drinker, when they call friends to meet at Intelligentsia? Still, this coffee bar (as they call it) is more than just a good name; it’s a major supplier of  freshly roasted beans to other restaurants and coffee establishments around the city of Chicago. In addition to great beans, it serves up some unbelievably delicious Black Cat espresso drinks.

In addition to the espresso drinks and freshly-brewed Intelligentsia coffee, this coffeehouse has more than a dozen kinds of tea on offer, which are served in a small pot with hourglass so you know when it’s done brewing.

Argo Tea and Coffee
Founded in 2003 as a chain of tea cafes by three Chicago entrepreneurs, this local company is on the move. Although their focus is on tea, and they sell a wide selection of loose teas (found in local Whole Markets stores as well), the Armitage location of this chain feels cozy and makes a great place to stop for coffee after a day of shopping along Armitage. With its bright, clean appeal, it’s a great place to snag a window seat and people watch.

Those who know and love coffee will be happy to see that not only is the Illy brand (one of the most delicious coffees on the planet) being served, but so too are fair-trade coffees. In addition to coffee drinks and hot tea, those frequenting this coffeehouse will find bubble teas, even “tea-puccino.” Accompaniments include salads, quiches, and desserts, all serviceable if not outstanding.

Whether you drink only coffee (or some combination of coffee and tea), these are three great places to indulge yourself. Each location is welcoming and provides good service. As independent coffee purveyors, they offer more to the community of Chicago and to the atmosphere of the city, in addition to great cuppa joe.