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Sep 29, 2006 05:18 AM

Euro Coffee in Chicago?

I hate the American western style of burnt roasted dark coffees, always have. Even when I lived in Seattle I thought they sucked. But what I really hate is what these corporate American places have come to symbolize as well; corporate domination (i.e. yet another chain restaurant), really bad taste, high prices and snobby “baristas” with tip jars. Not to mention a vile yuppie language called "Starbuckian" that all the good little “Bucks” followers seem to speak so fluently with words like; vente mocha latte; no soy frappachino blah, blah, blah... What ever happened to; “hey Mac, gimme a large black coffee, please”??

So I work downtown, and live in Gurnee, on my 50+ mile daily commute I must pass at least 10 Starbucks, several Dunkin Doughnuts and few oddball Caribou’s and then maybe an occasional Seattle’s Best, but what I don’t pass is a really good Euro coffee house!

So the question is this, where, in all of Chicagoland is there a true European style coffeehouse? And is there anything downtown?

Oh, and before anyone fires over some suggestions (or dings me for picking on the gods of American coffee), here is my personal preference; I mail order Gevalia since I prefer the European coffees, I typically find them to be more delicately crafted and full flavored like a good wine, as opposed to the ever so popular burnt roasted and thin flavored coffees like a “Bucks” which I equate to a can of cheap lite beer.

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  1. It's not in the Loop, but it certainly is a "true European style coffeehouse":

    Julius Meinl
    3601 N. Southport Ave.

    My current favorite in the Loop is:

    Intelligentsia Coffee
    53 E. Randolph St.

    The coffee's local (it's roasted on the north side), you can actually get an authentic cafe cortado, and, wonder of wonders, it's open on Sundays!

    6 Replies
    1. re: jbw

      There are a few places that brew beans by Cafe Umbria which I find to be much milder but with deeper flavor than the typical brands. A few places that brew are:

      Loop: RoM (in Prudential Plaza with more locations coming). This is more of a modern Italian coffee bar...very sleek but very comfortable as well.

      Wicker Park: Letizia's Bakery on Division St. Mentioned several times on this board, Letitzia's is Italian owned and has a really nice can sit here for hours and not be bothered.

      Bucktown: Caffe de Luca. This is also a European style coffee house...very dark, unassuming. They have food and wine as well.

      1. re: NDJ

        I had a pretty terrible espresso at RoM. Was anybody else's experience better?

        I like Intelligensia.

        1. re: rubinow

          I have an Espresso at both their locations every week, I have always enjoyed my Espresso. I really like the Carmely-citrus flavors and appreciate the fact that they serve it in a Ceramic Espresso cup. I also like their Lattes- the milk is steamed to order and is perfect each time! We always stand right at the Bar and drink our coffees and I can honestly say I hear people comment on how good the stuff is!!!

          1. re: jimjerry1

            I thought mine was over extracted at RoM. I realize that this may happen from time to time, so I'd be willing to try it again if somebody could vouch for them.

            Intelligensia, though, has never failed me. They're always perfect. I always get a latte there. No need for sugar b/c they steam the milk correctly. And it's funny: last time I was there, they had just served me my latter (with leaf pattern, of course) and three tourists in line stopped to ask me what it was. They're run of the mill drinks are that impressive!

      2. re: jbw

        Mil gracias (a thousand thank yous)! I lived in Barcelona for a year and had a torrid love affair with the cortado (in Catalan it is called a "tallat" which is pronounced "tie-YACHT"). I returned in September for an all too short-lived fling. I'm not near downtown but will definitely make it a point to seek out my old flame when I'm in the neighborhood.

        1. re: LaPaty

          Caffe Cortado is not very prominent in Chicago coffee emporia, but you can certainly get one (and a good one) here:

          Intelligentsia Coffee
          53 E. Randolph St.

      3. I would recommend Lavazza. There is one near the Board of Trade and another near Marshall Fields (err...Macy's) near the corner of Dearborn and Washington.

        1 Reply
        1. re: juilletdix

          Lavazza sounds perfect! I know I've bought that coffee in the import stores and have liked it, plus the location is dead on too since I'm at Monroe & Clark, thank you!

        2. I am so with you on this. I confess I do bow to the Starbuckian Ways out of caffeine desperation at times and I feel wracked with guilt upon leaving their premises. No matter...most places are covered here that I could suggest to you...but since you like Gevalia...Have you tried the brand of coffee they have at IKEA? You might like it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: twodales

            IKEA? Yes I have had it, but only at the store, as I remember was another good mild well-balanced Euro coffee.

            I think the term is "city roast" as in the bean is not fully darkened when roasted. Ironically, I think it's also called an "American Roast" in some circles! By the way, it is a little known fact that the lighter the coffee roast the higher the caffeine content, so in other words you get a bigger bang from a cup of Dunkin Doughnuts, then you do from a cup of Starbucks! Check out this site on home roasting faqs:

            Couple brands that I have had good results with (for home and office brewing):
            Gevalia - Sweden (Kraft owned
            )Tchibo - German
            Jacobs Kroenung - German (Kraft owned)
            Lavazza - Italian

            Oddly enough Kraft owns two of my favorite brands but their Maxwell House brand just does not measure up with the others!

          2. After returning from Paris and Munich, I was on the hunt for the coffee I had everywhere in Germany. Lo, and behold, it's at TREASURE ISLAND! Dallmayr coffee is the most incredible coffee I've ever had. It comes only pre-ground (not my first choice!) but the flavor doesn't suffer one bit. It's not a coffee house, but it's GREAT coffee.

            1. Lavazza is not that great. Go to Julius Meinl on Southport in Lakeview.