You have an office with lots of natural light, great co-workers, and an “idea ball” you toss around to one another during brainstorming sessions. But occasionally the idea ball knocks your laptop off your desk, and you decide you need to work someplace else for a little while.
Or maybe you don’t have any coworkers at all, and you want to take a break from working in your living room. Either way, it sounds like you’re in the market for a good coffee shop. One with wifi, outlets, and maybe even some snacks, because you can’t do anything without snacks. Here are 24 great coffee shops where you can actually get some work done.
We’re big fans of Hexe, a large, industrial-feeling coffee shop located in a section of Roscoe Village filled with office buildings instead of used record shops and brunch places. There’s nothing this place doesn’t do well - along with great coffee and a ton of space to work, Hexe also has outstanding pastries, friendly staff, a fantastic patio, and serves alcohol. Come for work during the day, then stay and meet friends here for drinks at night. Honestly, you might as well sleep here while you’re at it.
If you’ve ever spent time in a coffee shop on a college campus, Cafe 53 in Hyde Park will seem very familiar - we get the feeling that everyone here frequently ruins family get-togethers by incessantly quoting Nietzsche. The interior feels comfortable and lived in, and there are plenty of tables for you to get some work done - as long as you avoid getting into any productivity-derailing debates about the existence of God.
When you just need a comfortable place to work for a few hours, Kusanya in Englewood has you covered. This place wants you to sit and stay a while - it literally says so on its website. It’s a pretty standard cafe set-up, with lots of little tables and wifi, and all the food costs $2-$5 - dishes like baked oatmeal, grits (you choose either sweet or savory), and the Tuna Turner sandwich, which is just fun to say. And if you do end up staying all-day, they frequently host community events (like poetry and author readings) in the evening.
This Hyde Park cafe is light, airy, and located right on campus in a building with a university bookstore. Plein Air is perfect if you need to do anything remotely school-related, and also want the option to eat some very good tartines, salads, and grain bowls at the same time. It’s always busy, but never too crowded to get a seat with an outlet, and the food is way better than your go-to spot with a display case full of cake pops and egg white sandwiches.
This coffee shop doubles as a bookstore, one of those ancient places that existed back before we got our Cheeto prints all over Kindle screens instead of actual books. Build Coffee is located in the Experimental Station on the South Side, and being here feels a lot like working in your living room, but with better coffee and fewer cats trying to lay on your laptop. Come for lattes and wifi, and stay to finally finish reading that used copy of On The Road.
This is not where you go to lounge on a comfy couch and brainstorm ideas for your ferret clothing line (which so far involves just some socks with the toes cut off). This small coffee shop in the Ace Hotel is where you go when you have real work to do. The space is functional - most of the seating is at a narrow counter, with an outlet at every chair. And if you need more surface area, there’s a large table in the center of the room. So one day when the clothing line actually takes off, you can sit there and talk with potential investors.
Andersonville is a pretty neighborhood with cute boutiques where people always seem to be shopping in the middle of the day. While these people apparently have no bosses to report to, you might. And if that’s the case, you need to know about La Colombe. This coffee shop has no distractions, and plenty of tables meant for individuals. In other words, its sole purpose seems to be helping people get work done. Just know they turn the wifi off on Saturdays and Sundays (but you shouldn’t be working on the weekend, anyway).
Not only does Heritage Bicycles serve excellent coffee in a sunlit space, but they’ll also fix your bicycle or custom-make you a new one. (We don’t know how long it takes to make a bike, but you can probably finish at least one chapter of your autobiography while you’re waiting.) Even if you don’t need their bicycle services, you can still come here and get some work done at the large communal table in the middle of the coffee shop, or at the counter by the window.
The Intelligentsia in Lakeview is very busy, so getting a seat can be tricky. But if you’ve been working from home and haven’t talked to a real person in three weeks, it’s worth a try. Snag a spot at one of the large back tables and you won’t feel claustrophobic, even when the cafe is full of people. It’s a gentle way to ease back into human interaction.
Caffe Streets is a modern cafe in Wicker Park that doesn’t let you get too comfortable, which we actually find helpful at times. There are no big couches or distracting pieces of art on the walls - it’s sleek and minimal, making it good for staying focused and accomplishing things. Like finally reading The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People a couple decades late.
The Coffee Studio
The Coffee Studio isn’t as tiny as the studio apartment you lived in when you first moved to the city, but it’s still pretty small. That makes it cozy - it has the feel of a shared work space, with brick walls, wooden tables, and a couple of plants to lighten the mood. There’s no shortage of coffee, food, or outlets, either.
Sawada is a coffee shop that’s attached to Green Street Smoked Meats. This means you can take a BBQ break for lunch, and even use the picnic benches and stadium seating in the back of Green Street to do work early in the day. Otherwise, grab some space at the ping pong table or a counter seat overlooking Soho House. Before you come here, just decide whether or not eating BBQ will ultimately help your productivity.
Gaslight Coffee Roasters
If quality food is as much on your mind as a cup of coffee and all the TPS reports you need to finish, then head over to Gaslight in Logan Square. This place has a full food menu (with omelettes, sandwiches, and pastries), so you can take a break and have a real meal. The large space is comfortable enough that you can easily spend a whole day here, too.
Fun Fact: Hogsalt Hospitality owns 3 Greens Market, Sawada, and C.C. Ferns. We already told you the first two were great for getting work done, so it should be no surprise that C.C. Ferns (in Humboldt Park) is, too. The space looks like a 1980s vacation cabin, but with wifi, Doughnut Vault donuts, and no Jason from Friday the 13th. That we know of.
Elaine's Coffee Call
At the bottom of the Hotel Lincoln is Elaine’s Coffee Call, a small and cozy coffee shop. It has big stuffed chairs that are perfect for lounging, plus fantastic pastries and coffee. This place is always busy in the morning, but clears out after 9am.
Osmium Coffee Bar
Osmium is one of three spots owned by Dark Matter Coffee, a local coffee company that roasts its own beans. Inside, this cafe has a number of tables along one side and a coffee bar on the other, adding up to plenty of space for working. There’s also a patio outside, but you’ll probably want to sit indoors where you can gaze at the artwork on the wall and wonder to yourself whether Salvador Dali painted it in a little-known steampunk phase.
The Wormhole Coffee
The Wormhole has a DeLorean time machine (a.k.a. the car/time travel device from Back to the Future) hanging from its ceiling, and that’s reason enough for us to come here. The whole theme of this place is, fittingly, “back in time and stuff,” which makes you feel like you’re sitting in your bedroom at your parents’ house doing fifth grade homework. Way better than sitting in a tiny cubicle writing up your expenses, right?
Two Zero Three
If you’re working in the Loop, this is where you want to be. Two Zero Three is the coffee shop at the ground level of the Virgin Hotel, and it doesn’t have the same sceney-ness as the other hotel restaurants. The space has a mixture of couches, counter seating, and tables that make it easy to work. At night, it turns into a wine bar, so have some friends meet you when you’ve finally finished overthinking that email to your boss.
If Randolph Street is Restaurant Row, then this stretch of Milwaukee Ave. is the Coffee Canopy. Just north of Caffe Streets and The Wormhole, you’ll find Brü. Not only is it a great place to get some work done, but there’s a separate shared work space, too. It’s basically the coffee house equivalent of a WeWork, but free and with events like art classes and movie nights.
Dollop Coffee & Tea
Dollop is our go-to coffee shop when we need to get work done in Streeterville. There are plenty of places to sit, and floor-to-ceiling windows that make the space bright and allow a nice view of the neighborhood. Grab a donut or pastry while you’re there.
Cafe Mustache is a Logan Square spot for people who need a funky place to sit and do things. There are plenty of mismatched tables and chairs, plus more than a few pieces of mustache artwork. Just know that the wifi is turned off at 6pm, when this place becomes more of a local bar than a coffee shop.
This is the coffee shop inside the Freehand Hotel. It’s easy to sit here all day thanks to an abundance of comfortable couches and good food, like the porridge and the shakshuka. The only risk of hanging out here is that it’s kind of dark inside, which means you might get a little too comfortable. In other words, if you’re someone who likes to nap, this might not be a good option (although conveniently, you can always get a room upstairs if you’re that tired).