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Chicago’s Most Exclusive Coffee Roaster Finally Has a Café

Sparrow Coffee’s home in Naperville gives many people their first chance to sample the exacting roaster’s creations.

Photo: Erin Hegarty/Naperville Sun

Until recently, if you wanted to taste Sparrow Coffee, you likely had to go out to eat at one of the city’s nicer restaurants. That’s just changed, as the exclusive coffee roaster has just soft-opened a new café in Naperville (120 Water St.).

Lest you think the “exclusive” label is an exaggeration, look at Sparrow’s pedigree: Sparrow is the coffee provider for most of the Michelin-starred restaurants in town, as well as many other restaurants you’re familiar with. Sparrow creates one-of-a-kind blends for chefs all over the city and instructs their staffs on exactly how the coffee should be brewed and handled.

Sparrow’s new café in Naperville isn’t just any old coffee shop. “We’ve dumped seven figures into this cafe, and you might think it’s ludicrous,” says founder Chris Chacko, who we profiled last year. “I don’t know of a more expensive 2,000-square-foot cafe anywhere, but we wanted to make a difference. I’ve always wanted to open up something that spoke to our values.”

Guests at the café will be able to sample more than 100 different rotating single-origin coffees, topped off with milk from a single, biodynamic farm raising Jersey cows. Baristas had to train for months to meet Chacko’s exacting standards. “Most espressos, even if you go to a high-end coffee shop, are only done properly 50 percent of the time. We think it should be 100 percent of the time,” he says.

Sparrow has brought on chef Matt Danko, formerly of Grace, as its culinary director, and it hopes to launch an as-yet-unspecified food program soon. Once Sparrow has its grand opening later this month, it will offer homemade chai and a full line of tea. In the future, you can expect dishes inspired by countries where the roaster sources particular coffees.

As for now, business is already going well after the soft open. “We can’t stock the shelves enough,” says Chacko.

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