Six spots that we think vie for the title of perfect neighborhood Wi-Fi café
BY STUART LUMAN
During these long winter months, Chicago's local coffeehouses provide a warm nest for vagabond freelancers, virtual office workers, road warriors, college students, and recreational Net surfers. Below find six cafés that we think vie for the title of perfect neighborhood Wi-Fi café.
Café Express offers free Wi-Fi in three sprawling rooms, with additional seating outside in warm months. The place offers a large menu, including salads, soups, sandwiches, pies, and desserts, and, of course, a full espresso bar. In the back, a bookshelf holds books and games for the rare times when you're not working. 615 Dempster St.
METROPOLIS COFFEE COMPANY
This neighborhood favorite offers three rooms, with lots of light, clean, comfortable tables and chairs, and plentiful outlets. Multiple hot spots enhance the free Wi-Fi. Lots of people settle in here in the middle of the day on their laptops, many of them students from nearby Loyola University. Metropolis serves its own excellent roasted coffee, which it sells nationwide, and an assortment of cold sandwiches, pastries, and desserts. 1039 W. Granville Ave.; MetropolisCoffee.com
CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
Big pluses: Good central Loop location, free Wi-Fi, lots of seating—and nobody cares how long you stay (they're city workers!). The ground-floor café offers the standard lattes, cappuccinos, drip coffee, and pastries. A negative is finding one of the electrical outlets—they're few and far between. 78 E. Washington St.
BLUE MAX COFFEE
Two-year-old Blue Max Coffee, located within a lovely house, is homey and welcoming. Free Wi-Fi requires no passwords, and a fireplace, a leather sofa, and granite-topped tables in a front room are inviting—if you can find a seat. In back there's a large and sunlit (but drafty) enclosed seating area, along with a deck for warmer months. The house-roasted, fair-trade coffee and wide range of food options, including all-day breakfast, make it a cozy place to work, eat, and surf. 26 Lathrop Ave.; BlueMaxCoffee.com
BRIDGEPORT COFFEE COMPANY
Opened three years ago in an old storefront, this South Side spot feels wonderfully old-Chicago, with a tin roof, a metal stoop, and an old organ near the entrance. Bridgeport serves strong house-roasted coffee (also available wholesale), tea, pastries, toasted sandwiches, and shakes. 3101 S. Morgan St.; BridgeportCoffeeCompany.com
SIP COFFEE HOUSE & GARDEN
A giant interior space with skylights and two-story-high ceilings makes this place special. Spread throughout are designer tables and chairs, sofas, and reading lamps. Stairs lead to a loft with more seating. Free Wi-Fi and plentiful outlets supplement a communal rack of newspapers and magazines. They serve tasty Intelligentsia coffee, but their food is limited to sandwiches and snacks. 1223 W. Grand Ave.
Photograph: Kendall Karmanian