Chicago may be best known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and deep dish pizza, but the Windy City can also brew an impressive cup of Joe as well.

In fact, the latest edition of the food and wine magazine Saveur highlights some of the best coffees in the world – and two of the top picks are Chicago-based brands (San Rafael Lot 1 from Metropolis Coffee Company and Hacienda La Esmeralda from Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea).

And if there’s anyone who appreciates good coffee it’s the Ames family. My own sister, fellow Realtor Nathalie Ames, founded her own coffee shop in Mesa, Colorado after finding the area to be nearly devoid of coffee venues. Now, in a place where the nearest Starbucks is 18 miles away, Mesa has a wonderful boutique coffee shop in Nathalie’s Blink Coffee.

Thankfully, here on Chicago’s North Side, one need not go to such extremes to get great coffee. In fact, even though Starbucks is still the most (in)famous name in town, there is still a rich offering of small chain and independent coffee shops here as well. Below are some that offer both the best ambience and the best coffee and tea.

Peet’s Coffee and Tea
Lincoln Park
1000 West North Avenue (at Sheffield)

The Chicago branch of this San Francisco-based chain is known for its extra-friendly staff, the permeating “coffee smell” of its café, and their “Freddos” (Peet’s answer to the Starbucks Frappuccino). Located in the same shopping complex as Whole Foods and Best Buy, Peet’s reportedly makes a mean hot chocolate as well, and their coffee is good and strong.

Tea Gschwendner
Gold Coast
1160 North State Street

This tea vendor may lack both coffee and a pronounceable name, but it more than makes up for this with a vast selection of leaf teas and a genuinely knowledgeable staff to advise tea novices. They’ll even brew you a sample or send some home with you before you buy.

Noble Tree Coffee
Lincoln Park
2444 North Clark Street

There’s no mistaking this East Lincoln Park café for any other. Encompassing three floors of a vintage building on North Clark Street, the Noble Tree features an inviting, library-like environment replete with countless volumes of free books to browse. The seating is comfortable, the Wi-Fi is free, and best of all, there’s pie by the slice to go with your simmering cup of coffee.

3123 North Broadway Avenue

My husband swears by this trendy Chicago-based coffee bar chain, and regularly swings by their East Lakeview location to stock up on their beans. The rest of the neighborhood seemingly shares his sentiment as this café always does swift business, drawing customers with its hip atmosphere, comfy couches, tasty local dishes, and of course, fantastic coffee. Intelligentsia cafes are now also open in the Loop by Millennium Park  (53 East Randolph) and in Chicago’s historic Monadnock Building  (53 East Jackson) as well as a location in Los Angeles.

Nada’s Tea and Coffee House
1553 West Fullerton Avenue

In west DePaul, a Zen atmosphere, an assortment of quality teas, free Wi-Fi, and a charming owner all contribute to this pleasant little Japanese-style tea house. It’s the perfect place for a change of pace from your usual caffeine fix.

Julius Meinl
Southport Corridor
3601 North Southport Avenue
Lincoln Square
4363 North Lincoln Avenue

With cafes in two of the city’s trendy North Side locations, Julius Meinl is an authentic Austrian café with table service and a full menu. If you have the time to sit, you can enjoy your drink on a silver platter and doily accompanied by your choice of crepe, torte, apfelstrudel, or other pastry. Julius Meinl truly offers an experience not found elsewhere in the city.

Café Latakia
3204 North Broadway Avenue

Everything one could ask for in a café is here: coffee, iced/blended drinks, ice cream, made-to-order sandwiches, pastries, great ambience, free Wi-Fi, and a friendly owner.

My Place for Tea
3210 North Sheffield Avenue

This is the place for tea with a quiet, cozy location, a huge selection of leaf teas, bubble teas, and tea pots, and a fantastic owner who presides over it all. If you’re looking for a break from coffee, this is the place to find it.

Stubbs Café
North Center
3827 North Lincoln Avenue

The independent coffee shop spirit is alive and well at this North Center café with friendly service, a laid back attitude, and original artwork and décor. The coffee is locally roasted, and goes well with the small but tasty menu offerings and the free Wi-Fi service.

Dollop Coffee Co.
4181 N Clarendon Avenue

Built in a former Buena Park pharmacy, this café offers unique charm with its vintage furniture and high ceilings. The staff is nice, the Wi-Fi is free, and there is great coffee, smoothies, and locally made treats to be enjoyed.

The Coffee Studio
5628 North Clark Street

Friendly staff, great coffee drinks, delightful treats, and a largely organic menu all lend themselves to this modern Andersonville café with a cool, laid back vibe.

Too groggy to tell north from south before you get your morning java? Consult the Google map below to see which of the above establishments is nearest to you.

Metropolis Coffee
Edgewater Beach
1039 W Granville Avenue

A unique, delightful coffeeshop with friendly service, free Wi-Fi, and amazing, award-winning coffee.

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  • Hi Jenny,
    I don't think I saw Metropolis on your display. Please add as quickly as possible as it is recognized nationally as one of the finest roasters anywhere. I vouch for the beans, which by the way are $2 off per pound on Thursdays. By the way, it is on Granville between Sheridan and Broadway.
    Take care!

  • Oops! And they were one of the two brands recognized by Saveur. Metropolis is now on the list. Thanks, Tom.

  • Hi Jenny,

    Have you seen Asado Coffee Company, opening on Irving Park just west of Southport in Lakeview? They're opening just in time for Christmas. I hear they roast on site and brew all their coffee by the cup.

  • Asado Coffee is opening on Irving Park just west of Southport Dec. 16. They roast on site, and brew individual cups.

  • Jenny

    Thanks Sarah. We'll be sure to check it out!

  • Thanks Sarah. We'll be sure to check it out!

  • Thanks Sarah. We'll be sure to check it out!