Hunting for the best coffee shops on Chicago’s North Shore is a tough gig, but someone’s gotta do it!
During my years lap-topping and caffeinating in the suburbs of Chicago I witnessed the North Shore coffee revolution firsthand as Starbucks took over, followed by the rise of local competition, and ultimately, the elevation of coffee to an art form.
Defining the “North Shore” of Chicago is a fuzzy undertaking, but the general consensus is that the area includes the towns lining the Lake Michigan shore from Evanston in the south to Lake Bluff in the north.
And while some suburbs are still lagging, the North Shore coffee scene has been heating up!
Yes, downtown Chicago still dominates the coffee game. But all hope is not lost if you reside in or are visiting the suburbs. You can still get a tasty caffeine fix in a beautiful setting!
I’ve done the coffee-fueled research for you so all you have to do is show up and sip.
When choosing the best of Chicago’s coffee shops on the North Shore, taste was of the highest priority. But once a place nailed that, it also had to please the eyeballs (think cool lighting, beautiful tile-work, wall art, and stunning desserts to pair with that perfect brew).
And of course I took some photographs — because the proof is in the pudding (I mean, camera!).
Before we dive in, here’s a quick reference for the 7 best coffee shops on Chicago’s North Shore:
- Hometown Coffee & Juice
- Alchemy Coffee House
- Reprise Coffee Roasters
- Patisserie Coralie
- The Brothers K Coffeehouse
- Coffee Lab
- Baker Boys
1. Hometown Coffee & Juice (Glencoe)
Hometown Coffee & Juice is a relatively new spot but it was worth the wait! This place makes me feel as though I’ve been transported to California. Bright and airy with a clean white aesthetic, this place finds the right balance between posh and accessible.
They also get top billing for offering coffee from one of my favorite roasters — La Colombe — the smoothest, most flavorful beanage you can get in Chicago. <Btw, I’m making “beanage” a word from hereon out!>
Not sold yet? They also offer a variety of milk alternatives, including almond, soy, coconut, and oat. Oat milk is my favorite, and I can barely ever find it in Chicago. Even our local Whole Foods stopped offering it at their coffee bar! So finding it on the menu at Hometown changed the coffee experience from great to sublime.
But you’re here for the ‘gram… and this place delivers on the photo front! Crouch down, and you can snap that beautiful bevy with the cool b/w tile pattern lining the checkout counter. Or get a delicious avocado toast to pair for the perfect table flat lay.
Feeling naughty? Get a giant donut because YOLO! (I’m acutely aware that no one but me is still saying this lolz). The entire interior is minimalist and stylish and just begging for a photo op.
Natural lighting pours in from giant windows lining the south and west sides of the shop so you can #nofilter all you want, the shot will look fab!
If you’re all about health, Hometown has juices and smoothies galore to fill your feed with green goodness. I recommend the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” smoothie with avocado, apple, cucumber, spinach / kale, mint, and lemon — super refreshing and recharging! If you want a juice version of this combo, order The Coolest.
Bonus points: Hometown get extra kudos for doing juices, smoothies, and teas just as well as it does coffee (no easy feat)!
Cons: If you’ve come to work, the noise level can be a bit high so bring those headphones.
Covid-19 Update: Hometown has made to-go orders super easy with their own mobile app and their patio is open! Plus you can always call in your order for pick-up.
2. Alchemy Coffee House (Wilmette)
The sign inside says “Good Coffee” but it’s incorrect — the coffee here is great! Alchemy Coffee House is a minimalist’s dream coffee spot. Adorable and tiny, it packs a photo punch with minimal decor composed mainly of artistically-carved wooden chairs and tables.
A happy orange wall is at the ready for your latte’s photoshoot. Or head outside and shoot that lovely beverage in natural light with the entire coffeeshop as a backdrop!
Bonus points: Lovely biscotti and scones pair perfectly with your coffee. I recommend the mango scone! Another huge plus — they roast their own beans so a bag of coffee goodness is ready to go home with you (if you want to recreate the experience).
Cons: No credit cards and no WiFi (say what?! yes, no WiFi — very unusual for a coffeeshop nowadays but a great opportunity to unplug!). Only open until 5:30pm most days of the week (yes, I’m one of those people that can drink coffee at 6pm and still go to sleep by 10pm!). And on Sunday Alchemy closes at noon!
Covid-19 Update: Alchemy is offering take-away and delivery options of their coffee and scones through Sign Up Genius (though I should note that their instructions for using the latter are somewhat unclear on their voicemail; hope they fix this soon!).
3. Reprise Coffee Roasters (Winnetka)
I’ll admit, I was late to the game in discovering Reprise Coffee Roasters, but now that I have, I’m hooked! You can taste Reprise’s dedication to roasting and serving award-winning coffee with every sip.
You can also feel great about coming here, knowing that your coffee-dollar are supporting sustainable coffee practices:
Reprise Roasters has a main focus on sustainability, working to create an environment that thanks everyone on the supply chain from coffee farmer to barista.
We are committed to changing the way business is done by valuing people & the Earth over profits.
Bonus points: If you like their brews (which you will), you can buy a bag to recreate the experience at home! Reprise has created the perfect work atmosphere — the music is low and soothing, there are plenty of tables and outlets, and the wifi is strong. I’m sitting at Reprise as I’m writing this and I’m crushing my to-do list!
Cons: What is it with Chicago coffee shops on the North Shore closing so early? Reprise closes at 2pm most days (aside from Saturday when they stay open until 3pm)! One other con — it’s a bit chilly inside. Some may see that as a “pro” but I’m one of those “forever cold” people so I have to stay bundled up while I’m in here.
Covid-19 Update: Reprise is offering take-away with no wait time if you order ahead and their patio is open!
4. Patisserie Coralie (Evanston)
So this is a cheeky addition to this list, I’ll admit. As the name implies, Patisserie Coralie is more of a dessert spot than a coffeeshop, but the coffee is solid (they brew Julius Meinl) and the insane sweets make the perfect coffee photo pairing. They also offer free refills on the house coffee if you really want to go to town on the caffeine.
When I want to pretend that I’m back in Paris, I come here! The interior is STUNNING – white and bright with pops of black from the marble tables. Metal accents in the form of antique cooking implements and chandeliers (clearly I have a thing for these) beg for you to click away. I always try to come early on weekends to snag a cushy love-seat.
And while we’re on the topic of sweet treats, definitely go for the macarons. Countless flavor options (passion fruit, sea salt caramel, hazelnut, blackcurrant, pistachio I can go on and on); you can’t go wrong. If you don’t like macarons *gasp* try the chocolate croissant, hazelnut tart, or canele!
Bonus points: During what Chicagoans call “patio season,” Patisserie Coralie lines its exterior with cute tables and it is absolute heaven to sit outside and people watch while sipping a latte and eating macarons. (I won’t even pretend that I have just one!) A mural with the Eiffel Tower the outdoor photo backdrop.
Cons: Once in a while I’ve gotten a stale macaron (but the friendly staff is more than happy to switch it out). If you’re an uber-hipster with an impressive, time-consuming beard and a refined taste in pour-over coffee, this may not be the spot for you.
Covid-19 Update: After closing for several months, Patisserie Coralie is open now and their patio is as lovely as ever!
5. The Brothers K Coffeehouse (Evanston)
The Brothers K Coffeehouse in Evanston is super popular with the “watch me write a novel” crowd. This place is seemingly always busy and for good reason — fantastic coffee, bright interior, high ceilings, and a pretty tiled floor.
Yes, the Chicago coffee shops’ tiled floor craze has made it to the North Shore! You’ll be tagging #IHaveAThingWithFloors before you’re out of here.
Think tile shots are over-done? Choose a bold yellow wall as a backdrop or any of the whimsical artwork. BOOM, insta-gold!
They’ve perfected the latte heart, and I’ve seen them execute a passable swan. Donuts and scones are at the ready to complete your photo table-scape!
If you want some “real food” there’s tasty vegetarian fare from stuffed pies (spinach and feta and 3 cheese) to quiches to a veggie burrito. Added bonus – Brothers K buys local so you’ll be supporting local establishments like Blind Faith Cafe, Bennison’s Bakery, and West Town Bakery!
Bonus points: If you want to take a bag of beans home for a flat-lay (or, you know, to drink lol), they sell freshly-roasted Stumptown and Metropolis coffee! Also, the summer patio tables are lovely when the weather cooperates (are you noticing a trend with Chicagoans and their patio-love?!).
Cons: Only open until 6pm. What is it with suburban places and early closing times?! Don’t they know some people want to caffeinate in the late afternoon? Also, the fact that it’s so busy means that you’ll almost definitely get weird looks if you go all out on a latte photoshoot!
Covid-19 Update: Brothers K is open for take-away Monday – Sunday 7am-1pm! Plus they have a fab “keep calm and carry out” sign.
6. Coffee Lab (Evanston)
The Evanston coffee scene rivals the coffee shops you’ll find in downtown Chicago. It is HOT HOT HOT and only getting hotter as new arrivals vie for coffee supremacy. But any newcomers will have to contend with the exemplary brews coming out of Coffee Lab!
Opened in 2010, Coffee Lab bills itself as:
“a radically welcoming and inclusive coffee shop that specializes in specialty coffee and espresso.”
I could feel the truth of this as soon as I walked in. As I came up to the register I was greeted with a big smile and a warm welcome!
The friendly barista explained all of Coffee Lab’s caffeination options (and they are plentiful!). I was tempted by the pour-over selection (especially since it is poured into a beaker! be still my science-nerd heart!), but I was in the mood for something else.
I wanted a warm beverage that would double as a dessert so the barista suggested the Nutella latte. I got it half sweet with oat milk and it was heaven – a hug in a mug!
Coffee Lab is bright and airy with exposed brick wall panels so you know it’s hipster-certified. It’s a place where you’ll want to hunker down for a while and be productive or spend some quality time with a loved one.
Bonus points: Lots of milk-alternatives including oat, soy, and almond. And you can caffeinate extra late since Coffee Lab is open until 9pm M-W and 9:30pm on Th (Friday and Saturday it’s open until 7pm). They also have a “Print With Me” printer area in case you need that option and don’t want to hunt down a FedEx!
Cons: Only open 11am-3pm on Sunday! As with other Evanston coffeeshops, you may have to pay for parking ($1.50/hr.), but for coffee this good, I don’t mind.
Covid-19 Update: Coffee Lab is open for take-away until 5pm Monday – Friday and until 3pm on Saturday.
7. Baker Boys (Highland Park)
Yes, this spot is known more for its ridiculously delicious cupcakes than its coffee but Baker Boys gets an honorable mention for the well-executed espresso-based drinks and the wonderful array of cupcakes!
Underestimating the coffee would be a mistake imo. They recently had two of my favorites brews – La Colombe and Intelligentsia!
In mini and full-size form, their delectable cupcakes photograph beautifully (if you can keep yourself from biting into them prior to shooting)! Very hard to choose favorites, but the Banana Chocolate Chip (pictured), Fluff Brownie, Red Velvet, and Cookie Dough are stand-outs. Also, the eclair is insane. Get it. Do it!
Reviews also frequently mention the homemade frozen custard, but I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t speak to its deliciousness. I’ll likely remedy this oversight soon!
Bonus points: As someone who likes to put honey in her latte, I appreciate places that offer quality honey (Baker Boys offers lovely Heller Honey). In the summer, this spot has patio tables which make the coffee sipping, cupcake eating experience even more sublime. Also, if you’re local, don’t forget to ask for a customer appreciation card and get it punched. You’ll be back.
Cons: On summer evenings, when Ravinia (the local concert venue) is open, it can get extremely busy. Try to arrive early or your favorite cupcake may be a goner. But arrive too early and the cupcakes may not be ready — I suggest 11am or so as the sweet spot!
Covid-19 Update: Baker Boys is open for take-away Wednesday – Sunday 9am-3pm and you can call in your order at 847-433-0430 or email email@example.com (please contact them by 3pm for next day curbside pickup; no same day orders). You can find their updated weekly menu on their IG!
Now more than ever, it is the perfect time to support these local businesses. There’s no better pick-me-up in these difficult times than a perfectly-roasted cup from any one of the places above!
Did I miss any of your favorites? I’m always looking for more places to get my latte-on so please drop your recommendations below!
Also, now that you’re fueled up for the day, why not burn some of those coffee and pastry calories with an energizing workout in a outdoor setting in downtown Chicago?!
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