1621 Chicago Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201

The Breakdown:
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11AM – 2AM, Friday to Saturday: 11AM – 3AM
Wi-Fi: Free.
Fair Trade: No.
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly: A good variety of meat-free selections, Nothing specifically vegan.
Menu: Sandwiches, Salads, Soups. Baked goods. Your typical cafe fare.
Outdoor seating: Weather Permitting
Public Trans: A couple blocks from the Davis Purple Line, also Davis Metra stop.
My eats: Double meat club sandwich, Tuxedo Zombie, Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Avoiding the mermaid: Evanston has a Starbucks growing on practically every corner. Thankfully there’s always going to be a thriving indie coffee scene for those of us not interested in sharing coffee time with Yuppies and Soccer Moms.

Taking a jog just north of the Chicago/Evanston border, I recently sat down to a little meal at Kafein in Evanston, with my friend Jason.

Nestled quite close to Northwestern University’s campus, and also an ever growing and changing downtown Evanston (notably a hybrid of well known chain stores and independent boutiques… a ‘something for everybody’ atmosphere,) Woman-owned Kafein is one of several independent or small chain cafes in the area. And while Cafe Mozart has it’s own kitschy appeal, and Peets Coffee and Tea is always a good place to settle for a bit, Kafein has always drawn me because of its unique ability to be so hip and fun, but draw such a diverse patronage. You could be sitting on a Friday night, and see punk kids, artists, a study group from Northwestern (ok, lots of study groups from Northwestern), and an elderly couple all enjoying food and coffee, completely wrapped up in their own experience.

There’s ample seating in this larger-than-usual cafe, which offers booths, tables, a collection of couches, and the recently added pay-massage recliner near the front window.

The walls are decorated with recreations of classic paintings such as Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam, with a Kafein mug in the middle of the hands of God and Adam. Trivial Pursuit cards are placed at all the tables for the customers to enjoy as well. A jukebox near the front sports a wide array of selections, and the Ms. Pacman machine by the counter seems to be in working condition. If music and video games aren’t your bag, maybe pull a book off the wall (tough I noticed mostly Bibles and Clancey/Patterson/Cussler style books, nothing warranting a double take in my opinion – but points for effort) and flip through it while waiting for your order.

The menu is fairly balanced. Offering Hummus plates, Sandwiches and Salads. They have a selection of baked goods, and a fun section of charges for things such as “local directions”, “ordering while on your cell phone”, “Stupid questions”, and “Spontaneous Lapdances.” The price for lapdances? “As if.”

Aside your typical lattes and americanos, Kafein has a specialty coffee drink selection, including an entire “Zombie” section. For those of you not familiar with a Zombie, it’s typically espresso (in this case 3 shots), drip coffee, steamed milk, and whatever flavor is called for. They’re usually served in huge mugs, and bombed out with whipped cream and chocolate/caramel/anything ridiculously sweet. If a ridiculously huge and caffeine injected Zombie is not enough, you have the option to “Spike” any drink… doubling the amount of caffeine (this option comes with a caveat about health risks).

While the cafe tends to get a little loud when it’s busy, it has a lot to offer. Long hours, Free Wi-Fi, and weekly open mic nights. For the sentimental clientele they offer t-shirts and coffee mugs for sale.


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