Picking a place to meet someone during the day can be stressful. You don’t want to commit to a full meal, it’s too early to drink, and as nice as it sounds to just sit on a park bench, it’s weird to have a meeting in the park.
Fortunately, there are coffee shops. And while many of them are either uncomfortably silent, far too loud to concentrate, or full of people with no intention of ever giving up their seat, the places on this guide are different. They have plenty of comfortable seating, reasonable noise levels, quality caffeine options, and (in many cases) good food, in case you decide to hang out for a while.
Aster Hall is a two-level food hall inside the 900 N. Michigan building from the same group that owns Au Cheval. The upstairs bar and study area is quiet and lounge-like with plenty of space to meet a client or a boss. It also has a great view, in case you need to be reminded why anyone would want to hang out along the Mag Mile. The downstairs area has 16 different places to eat and drink, including outposts of 3 Greens Market, Green Street Smoked Meats, and Small Cheval.
First, the coffee at Limitless (the cold brew in particular) is fantastic. Second, the space is big and bright, with high ceilings and plenty of tables. Third, it has delicious food like biscuit sandwiches, pastries, and a banana brulee toast. There are even little whiteboards next to some tables so you can draw a stick figure next to a dollar sign and say “This could be you!” to a potential investor.
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 meetings to worry about, you do, and that’s why you need to know about La Colombe. This coffee shop has no distractions and plenty of tables. Just know they turn the wifi off on Saturdays and Sundays.
Dollop is a great go-to coffee shop for any kind of business meeting in Streeterville. There’s lots of seating, and floor-to-ceiling windows make the space bright and give you a nice view of the neighborhood. Plus, the music is just loud enough to make sure no one can hear the awkward interview you’re conducting. Grab a donut or pastry while determining if the candidate is the right fit for your company (they’re not).
Depending on the type of meeting you’re having, you might want to go to a coffee shop that feels somewhat professional, or at least looks like it has wifi instead of dial-up. Neither of these apply to C.C. Ferns in Humboldt Park, which looks and feels like an ’80s rec room. But if you’re having a casual meeting with someone who has an affinity for retro video games and/or DOS, this place should make them feel right at home.
Heritage is a combination bike shop and coffee shop, and there are a few of them in Chicago. The West Loop location is larger than the others, with lots of space in between the tables. This might be so you can maneuver a bicycle around, but it also ensures you can have a meeting without worrying about anyone eavesdropping on your trade secrets.
Technically The Allis isn’t a coffee shop. It’s a cafe on the ground floor of the Soho House in the West Loop, and it’s the only area that’s open to the public. The space is more like a fancy living room than anything else. Come here for a meeting with your accountant, who if they’re doing their job correctly will help you eventually afford a membership upstairs.
The Intelligentsia in Lakeview can be busy, so getting a seat during peak times might be tricky. But if you’ve arranged to meet around mid-afternoon you should be fine. Sit at one of the large back tables and you won’t feel claustrophobic, even when the cafe is full of people. Plus, it’s private enough that no one there will hear you list off your goldendoodle’s medications to the potential new dog walker.
There are a few Fairgrounds in Chicago, but the one in the West Loop is the largest and has a full food and cocktail menu. More importantly, this place has a variety of tables that work for meetings of all different sizes. The coffee bar in the center of the shop has wooden swings for seats, in case you’re meeting up with someone who has the playful heart of a child and came into your life to teach you valuable lessons.
Wicker Park is the unofficial coffee capital of Chicago (CCC), and most of its coffee shops are perfect for studying, hanging out, or reading books about crystals. But the lounge in The Robey hotel is a more upscale cafe that’s useful when you need to get together to talk with someone and don’t want to be surrounded by students or Greenpeace canvassers.
3 Greens Market is useful for a few different kinds of meetings. There are normal tables for performance reviews and big couches for recruiting friends to sell skin care products. But it also has a great salad bar, hot bar, and Small Cheval burgers available if you get hungry. These elements make 3 Greens Market one of our favorite spots to get things done. It’s also a good place to not get anything done because the coffee bar also sells cocktails, and there’s a putting green, too.
If you’re working in the Loop, you’re surrounded by offices full of conference rooms. But in case one of them isn’t yours, or you want to meet someplace more vibrant than a cubicle-filled office, this is where to go. Two Zero Three is the coffee shop at the ground level of the Virgin Hotel, and 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 there when you’ve finally decided to tell them you bought that alpaca farm you’ve always dreamed of.
Brü in Wicker Park is a laid-back coffee shop that is not only a great spot to get some solo work done, but has a separate shared workspace, too. It’s basically the coffee house equivalent of a WeWork, but it doesn’t cost you anything to be here, and it can tide you over until you finally pull the trigger on an office space where you can actually have your mail delivered.