freshly-brewed coffee from Beverly Bakery & Coffee Roasters (photo: Joseph Storch)
Not that long ago, Intelligentsia and Metropolis were considered the little guys in town. Both of the original stores - on Broadway and Granville, respectively - had small roasters in their cafes. Their commitment to small farmers in Guatemala, Ethiopia and Costa Rica has never been questioned. But due to their quality - and growth - neither of the original locations have a roaster on-site anymore. Their coffee is regularly carried on finer restaurant menus and they both roast their beans in massive warehouses to keep up with demand; Intelligentsia has expanded to Los Angeles.
In some respects, both brands have become the Kane and Toews of the local coffee scene. But the great thing about Chicago is that there's always someone else trying to break into the business. I never really realized it until recently, but thanks to trailblazers like these two established brands, there seems to be another wave of small, artisanal roasters on the local coffee scene.
Each of them have similar attributes: a personalized approach - you can probably talk to the person roasting your coffee, since they spend most of the time in or adjacent to the cafe. Coffees are roasted to exacting specs, and always done in small batches, so you can be sure they haven't been sitting around very long. We'll never consume coffee like the caffeine freaks in Seattle, Portland or Vancouver, but Chicago's burgeoning coffee culture is certainly worthy of your attention, if not your cream and sugar.
1. Asado, 1432 W. Irving Pk. Rd., 773-661-6530
2. Beverly Bakery & Coffee Roasters, 10528 S. Western Ave., 773-238-5580
3. Casteel Coffee, 2922 Central St., Evanston, 847-733-1187
4. Ipsento, 2035 N. Western Ave., 773-904-8177
5. Star Lounge Coffee Bar, 2521 W. Chicago Ave., 773-384-7827