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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.