Of all the Scandinavian lifestyle trends, Chicagoans may be best suited for the Swedish tradition of fika. Loosely translated as “coffee break,” it’s far from our American idea of hitting up the closest Starbucks for a jolt of caffeine. Instead, it’s all about slowing down.
“Fika is a social pause,” says Angelica Farzaneh-Far, the communications manager of the Swedish American Museum. “It’s an attempt to connect with people. The coffee pot goes on, cookies come out, and everyone stops what they’re doing. You just enjoy each other’s company.”
Thanks to Chicago’s Swedish heritage, and our inclination to use any excuse to socialize, the city offers a handful of spots where you can indulge in the fika spirit. Grab a friend, turn off your phone, and warm up in one of these cozy cafés.
The Andersonville bakery is a celebration of chef–owner Bobby Schaffer’s Scandinavian heritage, and it’s perhaps the closest Chicago comes to a traditional fika spot. “The main difference I see between cafés here and Swedish ones is the amount of pastries,” Farzaneh-Far explains. “Even a small place will have a wide assortment of pastries.” At Lost Larson, baked goods abound and roomy booths encourage idling well into the winter night. In addition to the individual cakes, tarts, and danishes, you can find lussekatter (saffron buns) and Schaffer’s take on kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls). 5318 N. Clark St., Andersonville
Newport Coffee House
Mikael and Lotta Bengtsson bring the coffee culture of their home country to downtown Evanston with their second location of Newport Coffee House. The sleek, stylish, snow-white café wouldn’t be out of place in Stockholm but is just as inviting to the college students who flock to it. The Bengtssons select beans from countries like Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Indonesia, and roast them on-site, making this a superior cup. In addition to pastries like muffins, croissants, and Swedish cinnamon rolls, they also serve daily soup specials, quiches, and a selection of smörgås (Scandanavian open face sandwiches). 622 Davis St., Evanston
This funky Edgewater café is a spiritual cousin to its Swedish counterparts (and even has a “pro-gluten” neon sign hanging on the wall). There are plenty of croissants and cookies on display, and the cardamom bun — a buttery, knotted pastry— is a great example of Scandinavian’s spiced pastries. Make like a European and take home one of their sturdy breads, like their signature Phlour (stylized pHlour) loaf, which requires a 36-hour fermentation process. 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Edgewater
Many a Chicagoan’s hjärta broke in 2017 when the iconic Swedish Bakery closed after 88 years. Thankfully, its legacy lives on at M.Henry, since a former baker brought over recipes from the Swedish Bakery. Their decadent fruit roulades are perfect for sharing, or hunker down with a piece of princess cake — a traditional Swedish sponge cake coated in marzipan — all on your own. We won’t judge. 5707 N Clark St., Edgewater