As a freelance musician and writer, I’m always on the lookout for great cafés to be my home office. (Otherwise, I might never see the light of day). Below are my five favorite coffee shops around my stomping grounds – Prospect Heights – along with a review of each cafe’s coffee, food, music, and feng shui.
1. Glass Shop
766 Classon Ave.
Through Glass Shop’s green painted door frame, you’ll find light-drenched work spaces surrounded by architectural schematics. The space is calm and inviting no matter how busy the café nor the time of day. Glass Shop serves La Columbe Torrefaction beans: not as full-bodied and dark as local competition, but great for those who prefer lighter roasts with milk. Pastries are from nearby Joyce Bakeshop and pre-made sandwiches are also available. In Glass Shop, the electrical outlets are sparse which can make it difficult to work on a laptop, but the communal worktables render the environment very conducive to reading/other intellectual fireworks. Glass Shop most often plays folk music – the shop’s Australian owner admittedly loves Woody Guthrie and all his musical progeny.
2. Breukelen Coffee
764 Franklin Avenue
Breukelen Coffee knows how to properly brew their Stumptown beans – the taste of the beans always shines. Their banana bread is made from a woman around the corner. And their pre-made sandwiches and bagels are made by a local comedian named Steve. What’s great about Breukelen Coffee is its hubbub of local young artists – going there, I almost always meet a new writer, musician or artist. Frank – one of the cafe’s owners – loves to chat about biking and music (he loves N.E.R.D., a rap/funk/hip-hop band with electronic influence). If you visit Breukelen often, the baristas and fellow patrons will learn your name. So, while it may be a little difficult to sit and work amidst the bustle, one primarily travels to Breukelen Coffee because it is a communal nexus.
3. Sit and Wonder
688 Washington Ave.
Sit and Wonder is a dark and cozy café with vintage furniture and brick lined walls. There is a lot of seating and outlets for your computer, making it especially easy to work here for long periods of time. Their coffee (Stumptown Coffee Roasters) is well brewed and their pastries, from Choice Bakery, are especially good (50% off after 3pm). The baristas at Sit and Wonder are particularly proud of their music selection – they often play contemporary jazz and indie rock á la Robert Pollard’s Guided by Voices.
4. Milk Bar
620 Vanderbilt Ave # 3
Milk Bar is spacious and airy – it has blue and white walls washed with natural light from Milk Bar’s large windows. Milk Bar is proud of its environmentally conscious foodstuffs – they serve organic/local milk and Counter Culture coffee, and their pastries come from Manhattan’s famous Ceci-Cela. While Milk Bar is geared more towards the brunch crowd than the coffeehouse reader, the servers gladly invite patrons to stay and enjoy themselves. Milk Bar’s music selection comes mostly from the chef’s ipod – hip-moving salsa, including music from Puerto Rican mogul, Marc Anthony (trust me, Marc Anthony is much more talented than his late 90s pop-years convey). So – enjoy some sustainable coffee, sit on a recycled chair, eat the best poached egg and avocado toastie of your life, then write a novel about the experience.
5. Joyce Bakeshop
646 Vanderbilt Ave.
Primarily a bakery, Joyce Bakeshop is nice if you go there during off hours – weekends and weekdays after 5pm, the shop is overrun by patrons and their children (and I can’t blame them, those chocolate cupcakes would have me running as soon as the bell rang). The café has cream/lime green walls and antique country décor. If you’re looking for a deal – you can get a recession breakfast ($3 for a pastry and pretty-good cup of Gorilla coffee). The shop often plays R&B artists such as Alicia Keys and Aaliyah. The shop does not offer wi-fi on the weekends, which one can only assume is a subtle message to keep the laptop snugged away. Between the strollers and early 2k diva music, I usually choose other locations, but will go here if craving a righteous tart.
Alaina Ferris is a singer, writer and food enthusiast. She will release two albums this year: one with Shadow Pilot, a trip-hop/downtempo collaboration with her brother, Joseph Drew Ferris; another with Small Dream Ada, her chamber/rock band with Denver-based composer (and FP contributor) Tyler Gilmore. She currently lives in Brooklyn where she teaches private music lessons.