Photo: courtesy ugly mug cafe

Who could possibly think this Bears-themed latte is ugly? 

Mikky James Wright, after stints owning Alliance Bakery and the B&B Wicker Park Inn, still loved the coffee shops he left behind in Seattle when he moved to Chicago in 1997. “It was like the dark ages of espresso in Chicago,” he says. Now, two businesses later, he conjures drizzle and grunge rock at Ugly Mug Cafe (1458 W. Chicago Ave., 312-666-7707), open a month now.

Wright aims to engage the local community, personally. “I’m a brick-and-mortar person,” Wright says. “I love being here at 5:30 in the morning and saying hi to people. I love watching the sun rise over the city and slinging espresso.”

Coffee comes from Passion House Coffee Roasters; breads from Upper Crust Bakery; desserts from Sweet Cakes Bakery; and croissants, scones, and bagels from De La Rue Pastry. Food on offer includes sandwiches such as the Move to Cali, with turkey, bacon, white cheddar, and homemade avocado-citrus crema on sourdough. An oatmeal–banana–Greek honey yogurt smoothie stands out from the Blender category of the menu.

Chicago, we need to inspire our own evangelists like this. It’s still the dark ages of hot dogs almost everywhere else in the world.