Coffee Shops in Evanston (and some in Chicago)(by E. Tamer -Original: 2007, update Feb 2009)
Note: This not a top ten list and not a list of all establishments I have visited. These are places that I like, for many reasons (location, food, atmosphere,....) and frequent often. Please, do not send me emails agreeing or disagreeing with me :)
There are a number of coffee shops in Evanston, many more than say ten years ago. As the competition for clientele rises, quality has improved and shops try to become unique in their own way. For example, some want you to just buy the coffee and leave (Pete's, or Italian coffee bar) but others try hard to get you to stay longer... They also try to make the atmosphere more enjoyable by displaying local artists.
(not in any order)
Unicorn Cafe (Sherman btw clark and church) : Although their coffee is from a good local roaster (metropolis), I don't go there for that. It is just a comfortable relaxing place, close by. If you go there later in the day, you will be run over by tons of students with their laptops and if you are not particularly in the mood for being in a sort of college sorority house, do not go there after 11. I don't.
Italian Coffee Bar (sherman and grove ): Interesting place with good, good capuccino. Don't count on staying... both locations are just meant to sell you caffein and get you moving... but you will be happy with the coffee. Also, in the summer, they sell Italian gelato (which to me is not an attraction). Go there if you have kids.
Wild Tree (Oak and Davis): I just went there for a few times in the morning. They sell organic local produce (yes, you can get celery and cucumbers!) and pride themselves on the healthy/organic.... the problem for me is when i go to a ``coffee shop'' I don't want to see tomatoes and cucumbers in the display. I would rather see tarts, croissants, and cookies. I definitely recommend it for a quiet afternoon with your favorite book or magazine or work...- it is a welcome addition to that part of Evanston (it would be great if Pine Yard- the chinese restaurant across the street- can control the fumes from their kitchen....). I really hope this place gets the business it deserves. Update: The dispay with the vegetables is GONE! I have been coming here more often mostly for work...
Cafe Express (Dempster and Sherman): I have been coming here on and off since 1994. It used to have a serious smoking section up till the ban. It is definitely a real hard working man's place. Coffee here is what you would get at a diner, the food is cheap and if you go in the morning, Carol (the owner I think) is wonderful. She is full of enthusiasm and ready to offer advice/opinion on any topic. It is a place I go to get away from the stuffy academic environment. Plus, there is something about a place where you can sit a watch the train go by every 5-10 minutes. Update: Carol sold the place, and it is run by a really nice older man. The pastries have improved, but nothing special.
Brothers K (Main and Hinman): Hands down the best capuccino/expresso you will have in Evanston (if prepared by either of the two owners-- they did a wonderful job with this place). Also, they have very good pastries (Kim's scones--)- everything is locally made. I have been coming here on and off also since 1994. The location is perfect: a real neighborhood coffee shop where locals really feel part of and frequent a lot. In the mornings, the same bunch, it feels like the owner should collect rent... Also, check out the art on the walls - order a double expresso, or a two shot capuccino with a ginger Kim's scone... and just relax.
Cafe Ambrosia (Orrington and Church) A nice place that just oppened up. Friendly for laptop people and you can definitely stay here for a while. Nothing special about their coffee or pastries. They have a nice tea collection. I hope they do well. That stretch of Orrington definitely needs it. Update: This is study central for undergrads after 8pm. It is a cooler substitute for the library (especially the core section).
Mozart Cafe: (Chicago and Davis) nice place. A bit too dark for me, but I like the coffee.
Peete's Coffee and Tea (Chicago between davis and church): Some say this has the best coffee. May be... but I cannot judge a coffee shop just based on how good the coffee is. I feel that it is too fast and slightly impersonal. It is meant more for lawyers and people on the run. But, the coffee is good, what can I say.
Alchemist Coffee House (Wilmette: Linden, 1/2 block west of 4th): This is a really good coffee on the go place. Blair, the (too serious) owner delivers on his promise to provide excellent beans roasted in the back of his tiny but charming coffee shop. I always get a double espresso. But, that is not the only reason to come here. He makes a REALLY wicked scone (ask for an extra crispy one). In my opinion, the real treat is the combination of the coffee, and the owner. He is a serious professor of coffee, does a good job buying and roasting it. Overall, a GEM!
Links Cafe (Wilmette: on Greenleaf by the train tracks) This has got to be the "cutest" coffee shop. Family run, with beautiful pastries and sandwishes. The coffee there ought to be excellent -they roast their own- but for some reason it is not there yet.... sometimes too acidic, sometimes too bitter...I am not sure. But, definitely a store martha stewart would be proud off. It is a nice addition to the neighborhood.
Metropolis Cafe (chicago--Granville and kenwood). Also, one of the best double expresso you will have anywhere. Really nice place. The clintele tends to be too much of the hip/young variety...look, some people like that and if you like a good cup of coffee with it, Metropolis is as close to perfection as you want. Just one of those gems...
Charmers Cafe (rogers park-- Jarvis) I have been here only a few times, picked coffee and left. It looks great with nice clientele. You will always meet some of the best Chicagoans in Rogers Park.
Linz and Vail (Noyes or Central in Evanston): The only places in Evanston with Intelligentsia coffee. I am not sure why, but the ownership is down on pastries, not even simple cookies. I go to the Central St. location.
Mud Cafe (across from 1915 Maple ) Interesting place that openned up a few years ago. Coffee is ok but not spectacular. Definitely the winner for music and atmosphere. Unfortunately, it is not in an area with sufficient foot traffic. But, if you are looking to do some work, in a relaxed atmosphere with good music... head there. Update: CLOSED for lack of excitement-