Archive for Chicago

The Grind Cafe

Posted in Cafe with tags , , , , on May 10, 2008 by Robb Olson

The Grind
4613 N Lincoln
Chicago, IL 60625

The Breakdown:
Hours: Mon Thru Fri 7 – 10, Sat 8 – 10, Sun 8 – 7
Wi-Fi: Free.
Fair Trade: The Grind uses Intelligentsia coffee, which is Fair Trade and a local Chicago Roaster and coffee company.
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly: Almost exclusively vegetarian – vegan friendly (The vegan baked good are made exclusively for Grind by a local woman)
Menu: Mostly sandwiches and Salads, also Quiche selections, Spinach pies, extensive choice of baked goods and Vegan baked goods.
Outdoor seating: Weather Permitting
Public Trans: near Lincoln, Lawrence, Damen, Western buses, Brown Line Western Stop.
My eats: Large Iced Mocha, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie, Tuna Melt with house salad, balsamic vinegrette.

Avoiding the Mermaid: You could have very easily gone to the Starbucks on Wilson and Lincoln, but you would have missed out on the local children’s art hanging on the walls, the extensive sandwich menu, and the short hop across the street to the Davis Theater to see Iron Man!

The Grind is certainly the cherry on top of the delicious treat that is Lincoln Square. Considered the German neighborhood (or one of them) of Chicago, Lincoln Square brings much charm to the table, starting with the recently placed section of the Berlin Wall at the Western Brown Line stop and going all the way to the annual Apple Festival – and all schools of folk music in-between.

So after a busy day of hitting shops like Ravenswood Used Bookstore, Merz Apothecary, Laurie’s Planet of Sound, and the dozens of other shops, boutiques and restaurants that Lincoln Square has to offer, get your second wind sipping a Latte at this great little shop.

Grind has location, and thanks to that it is usually pretty full of laptop wielding hipsters (gratifyingly Apple-heavy, in my opinion) and guitar-toting musicians headed to or from the Old Town School of Folk Music, a block or so south. But surprisingly, my most recent visit was pre-movie viewing Friday night around 8pm, and it was surprisingly quiet. A good note for those of you who like a little peace with your Doppio.

Inside, you’ll find a simplistic floor plan with a dozen or so two-seat tables pretty much laid out in a grid. Lining the walls is whatever selection of local art they have at the moment, currently (as of this writing) it is a collection of Lincoln Square Children’s art. Adorable. You’ll have to walk through the kitchen area to get to the single occupant, locking unisex bathroom. It’s tiny and has character. What do you want? It’s a bathroom.

Their menu boasts an impressive selection of almost exclusively meat-free sandwiches (some tuna for you pescetarians,) salads, soups, and a nice breakfast selection. Anyone who’s into Hummus and Mediterranean styled light sandwiches (lots of greens, hummus, cucumbers, cheese) will delight in the selection here. Another treat that, in my opinion spices up any menu, is the spinach & cheese baked pies they have to offer. In my travels, these little triangles of simplistic taste bud tantalization are a sign of a fun, friendly place to get your java on.

While on the topic, they stock Intelligentsia coffee, which is, like, the Fair Trade kings of Chicago. I don’t even want to go into detail, just go to their website and bask in their fairness. The drinks are good. My mocha didn’t taste like chocolate milk it tasted like a coffee drink, which goes a long way for me. The sweet-toothed coffee lovers might want to ask for a little extra mocha love when ordering.
The staff is your typical twenty-somethings. Friendly kids, Sharing tattoo stories and offering advice on maximizing our sandwich loving experience.

I’ve been to The Grind a few times now, and am still trying to find the downside. I sometimes balk at how busy it is, but that should never be a deterrent for someone looking for great coffee on the go, or willing to share a table with a stranger. Go to The Grind. A lot, you’ll most likely fall in love.


Kopi – A Traveler’s Cafe

Posted in Cafe with tags , , , , on May 4, 2008 by Robb Olson

Kopi Cup
Kopi – A Traveler’s Cafe
5317 N Clark St, Chicago IL 60640
773-989-KOPI (5674)

The Breakdown:
Hours: Mon thru Thurs: 8am – 11pm Fri: 8am – 12am Sat: 9am – 12am Sun: 10am – 11pm
Wi-Fi: No.
Fair Trade: In Spades.
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly: Almost exclusively vegetarian – vegan friendly (including Chicago Diner vegan baked goods)
Menu: Full Menu
Outdoor seating: Weather Permitting
Public Trans: Near Clark, Damon, Broadway buses, Red Line, Metra.

My eats: Large Mexican Latte, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie, Sunshine on a Shingle.
Avoiding the Mermaid: Thankfully, Starbucks is rare in Andersonville, but Kopi makes it easy to dodge the nearest one, a half block south.

It may seem a little lame to make the first review be of a cafe in my own back yard, but at the same time it makes sense.

Kopi is located in Andersonville, a neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. Andersonville does double duty as a Swedish neighborhood, and also one of two gay neighborhoods in Chicago. With the main shopping vein of the ‘hood situated on Clark St, Andersonville is a pretty popular spot to hit on the weekends, and what’s great about it is it’s still cheap to live in, and not yet overrun by Potbelly sandwich shops and Baby Gap stores. Kopi, situated in the heart of all the action, takes advantage of Andersonville’s still indie feel, but ever growing, thriving culture and night life.

There’s a reason they call it the traveler’s cafe. Kopi’s decor sports a dozen or so clocks on the wall, all timed to different cities around the world. The counter area has currency tacked up from all Africa, Europe, Asia, practically everything but the US, and there are shelves lining one wall, sporting mostly Lonely Planet guide books to almost any country you could imagine. And if that weren’t enough, there’s an entire space in the back dedicated to selling hippie clothes and accessories which, of course, have a distinct international theme.

Beyond all of that, there is an ever rotating collection of local art hanging on the walls, available for purchase, and usually at reasonable prices.

There’s a dozen or so tables inside, and a handful of floor level tables with cushions on the floor for seats in the front window. In good weather, they have a handful of tables out on the sidewalk as well. When it’s busy, you can bet on a small wait, but never anything unreasonable. I’ve never balked at the wait.

They sport a full (And mostly Vegetarian – only certain menu items contain fish, that’s the only meat you’ll find here) menu including breakfast and entrees that are ethnically diverse, running the gamut from a huge Veggie Burrito to selections of imported cheeses, and my current favorite – a vegetarian biscuits and gravy called “Sunshine on a Shingle”.

The Coffee menu is similarly diverse, offering the basic drip coffees and espresso drinks, but expanding out to items like Mexican Lattes (hot chocolate with espresso). They also offer an impressive tea selection, and sell coffee bagged, most of it – if not all – is fair trade/organic/shade grown. The trifecta of coffee Karma.

When you’re done drinking in the decor and the stomach-rumble inducing aromas, you’ll get typically good service from a generally personable staff. Mostly twenty-somethings deliver you a quirky and fun experience. If it’s not talking tattoos while taking your order, it’s encouraging you to vote for them in the month-long Moustache contest.

Overall, Kopi is a must for the traveling caffeine lover. Service is usually spot on, though on occasion i’ve had my drink delivered as a 16oz rather than the expected 20oz size. Be specific when placing your to go orders, seems a recent addition of the 20oz size is causing some confusion amongst the old guard. But it’s nothing that can be held against what I consider one of the best coffee shops I’ve been to.