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a cafe for reading?

I've been looking for the equivalent of the vienna coffeehouse without much luck recently. a place where I could go, have a nice hot chocolate and something small to eat and lounge out for an hour, reading the nyt without it being overly loud. yes, starbucks kind of works but it's like a band-aid on a severed limb.

anyone feel like recommending a place? should I try a hotel?
where do you feel comfortable reading alone in the afternoon or early evening?

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  1. I don't have any recommendations, but, man - I always wanted to try a hotel lobby for afternoon reading. One of us ought to give it a try.

    1. I love the hot chocolate at The Perfect Cup on Damen and Leland (?). The space itself is funky with comfortable seating and even a bookshelf with books that you can pick up and read. They make a great cup of regular coffee too. The people who work there are extremely friendly without that "fake" vibe.

      4700 N. Damen

      1. In the early afternoon, you can go to Savories on Wells just north of North Ave. They have some comfy chairs and plenty of other people in there reading. Unfortunately, they close at 4 PM on weekdays. Their food is only so-so, but it is a great atmosphere for reading and a nice, quirky place.

        In school I sometimes studied at the Bourgeois Pig, but it can get a little loud (usually I would go there to meet people and study together).

        My friends would often study at Uncommon Grounds, usually only during the day though. They often have live music in the evenings (which is great, but not conducive to quiet reading).

        The Starbucks at the corner of North and Wells is the only 24 hour starbucks in the city and there are lots of people there studying, reading, etc, plus there are people stopping in before or after Second City shows. It is a Starbucks, but there is a more interesting crowd there than most Starbucks, especially when it gets late or around exam times.

        Also, Nookies on Wells will let you sit and read while you have a cup of coffee or eat a meal (as long as it is not during their really busy weekend brunch times). Its a diner rather than a coffee shop, and there are no couches or comfy chairs, but the food is really good.

        3 Replies
        1. re: SuzMiCo

          wow, some great recommendations. I think I will try out nookies today.

          for the record: I have tried reading in the lobbies of both the drake (dracula's castle .. never again) and the james (too attentive, I felt guilty for taking the space) but I have yet to find a decent hotel lobby to read. the intercontinental and hilton of course aren't even worth considering.

          1. re: memostothefuture

            What about the Palmer House Hilton? They have a huge lobby and I can't imagine them being too attentive.

            1. re: SuzMiCo

              Just so you know, they closed the Big Downtown bar (it's being converted to a ramp to get to underground parking for the hotel! My friend bartended there) and they are in the process of rebranding the bar and opening it up in the lobby soon. I stopped by earlier in the week to see if it was open yet (it wasn't) but the bar is huge (and looks stunning) and cuts into a large part of the lobby. All of the chairs in the lobby seemed to be pushed together in a crowded manner. So I don't think it would be a good place to read anymore...

        2. I second the Bourgeois Pig. The upstairs is comfy and usually pretty quiet. I don't think I would have finished my Master's thesis if it weren't for the 24-hour Starbucks at North and Wells, but it certainly doesn't have the character of some of the other places mentioned and it can be loud and difficult to find a place to sit depending on the time of day. Is the Third Coast on Dearborn (about 2 blocks north of Division) still open? That used to be a great reading spot as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cookiegirl

            The Third Coast is still open and I agree its a great place to read. They have live music some nights, but otherwise it is quiet with lots of character and a decent and eccelctic menu.

          2. In Lincoln Square, there is a book store called the Book Cellar, and the food/drinks there are really good. Just a lot of people hanging out, being quiet, reading books, and drinking coffee or wine.

            1. Myopic Books on Milwaukee in Wicker Park is a great place to sit and read. It's not actually a cafe (and their coffee is pretty bad) but they have some beautiful spots upstairs where you can sit and read unmolestered with your own cup of joe. You can spend all day there reading and no one will bother you. Turn off yer cell phone though.

              1. Ooh, I second the Book Cellar. Lots of comfy chairs. Also on the north side is Dollop Coffee right around Buena and Clarendon, Pause Coffee just east of the Berwyn Red Line stop, and of course, Metropolis Coffee - east of the Granville Red Line. Metropolis is by far the largest of the three, Pause and Dollop are small and cozy. Dollop wins in terms of better pastries (the pie is made by Hoosier Mama, a Chicago favorite), and Pause has a more eclectic crowd.

                1. You may want to check out the Bloomingdales building. They have free wifi and seating available on various levels. The foot traffic is relatively low during the week and no one will disturb you. Many come in to sit and read or just relax and have a cup of coffee. If you get hungry you can opt for Potbelly's on the low end or even try Basi Thai's all you can eat brunch for $10 dollars.

                  In regards to the Drake, it can be stuffy to some but the staff are really attentive. I go there frequently. It might be easier just to order a pot of coffee and have a seat in the Palm Court. The refills are free and no one will rush you off. It is a nice alternative when you want something quiet yet elegant.

                  1. My absolute favorite coffee shop is Julius Meinl on the corner of Southport and Addison. In addition to a full menu of espresso drinks, including hot chocolate, they have a variety of desserts and pastries, as well as an awesome European type menu. The ambience is warm and inviting, much more unique and cozy than the Starbucks down the street. Afternoon and early evening during the week would be the perfect time to visit this neighborhood gem, as the weekends get pretty busy here.