So long, Starbucks! There are groovier spots on the North Shore to grab a cup of joe, get cozy with a good book or meet a friend.
The Brothers K (pictured right) has been a local tradition on Main Street in Evanston for nearly 10 years, and it’s still a hub of activity all week long. The beans are supplied by Chicago-based Metropolis Coffee Company, and the walls are adorned with an ever-changing variety of local art. Of course, like any successful business, The Brothers K is committed to upgrading its technology on a regular basis. No, not the Wi-Fi speed, but upgrades to the Italian espresso maker in order to better modulate water pressure and raise the quality of the finished product. 500 Main St., Evanston, 847-328-7940
What makes this new Glenview hangout special is that it’s a Korean twist on a European coffeehouse, says co-owner and manager, Grace Park. In addition to the traditional coffeehouse menu items such as brewed and espresso coffee drinks, croissants, bagels, muffins, cheesecakes and macarons, Caffebene also has Asian-inspired menu items such as misugaru (a sweetened five-grain powder containing barley, black rice, black soybeans, black sesame seeds and brown rice), bubble teas, and bingsu (ice parfaits).
Design wise, it’s got a great vibe, and of course, free Wi-Fi. “We have distinctive chandeliers that mimic sparkling stars, and a wall of bookshelves. We’re hoping customers will bring in books, toys or board games to share with other customers. Customers can get a free small coffee or tea when they donate a book, toy or board game to our library.” 1749 Milwaukee Ave., Glenview, 224-567-8249
Just steps from the Main Street L and Metra stops is Dollop a combined coffee and homemade pie shop that smells like heaven. While not a huge space, Dollop offers a comfortable couch and long communal tables for chatting, studying or reading.
“Alongside our delicious, sweet pies (you can expect Blueberry, Peach and Chocolate Cream right now) and wonderful Metropolis roasted coffee, you can also get a bit of the unexpected,” says general manager Rachael Barnhart. “Our Chicken Tomatillo savory pie features a cornmeal crust, bell peppers and salsa verde. We try and feature our baristas’ own concoctions as well, and are currently featuring ‘The Honey Badger,’ made with soy milk, chai concentrate, honey, almond syrup and, of course, espresso.” 749 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8863
Glenview Grind—formerly known as the Caribou Coffee at the corner of Glenview and Waukegan roads—is known for its locally sourced, high-quality private-label roasted coffee and pastries by the famousTag’s Bakery in Evanston. Now patrons can also “Unwind at the Grind” with beer and wine served between 4 and 9 p.m. In addition, Glenview Grind has a robust charity program, which includes raffles to support customer charities, local school gift card programs and donated coffee for local events. 989 Waukegan Road, Glenview, 847-729-0111
Ravinia Coffee Station is as fun as it gets. “Positive energy, friendly faces, great coffee, great music, and going back to the basics,” says owner Josh Weisbart. “[It’s a] simple concept with great service.” Located across the street from the Ravinia Metra stop, it’s a great place for commuters, but also for locals looking to hang out and enjoy live music on weekends. 723 St. John’s Ave., Highland Park, 847-8439
Where else can you get house-roasted coffee, Barnaby’s Pizza and a great selection of fine wines and craft beers? The Rock House in Wilmette, of course. The company’s president, Chris Karabas, proudly describes the quirky coffee house as enjoying a “schizophrenic personality.”
“It’s a great hang because it changes personality throughout the day,” Karabas says. “In the morning, it’s full of people working, or meeting with friends. In the afternoons, it’s full of kids taking lessons, hanging out and parents enjoying some wine while they wait. On weekends, it’s an entirely different thing. We host local and touring acts, and the Wilmette residents have really responded to it. It feels more like downtown Chicago or Nashville’s ‘Broadway’ when the live music is happening.”
The Rock House even has a private event space, where customers can host everything from kids’ birthday parties to political fundraisers to full-blown parties for adults. 1150 Central Ave., Wilmette, 847-256-7625
Photos courtesy of each coffee shop.