Finals week: a guide to coffee shops

Green tea latte at Sawada.

Finals week is the academic equivalent to hearing your mom walking through the door and realizing that you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer like she had asked you to six hours ago. On a moment’s notice, time stops. Your heart rate flutters. Flashbacks of binge-watching your favorite show, spending too much time on the wrong floor of the library, and googling conspiracy theories form a collage of regrets and guilt so abstract that it almost resembles a Picasso.

Finals season is the time of year we all try to become the student that we tell our parents we’ve been for the past 15 weeks. However, because the entire campus is experiencing the same academic existential crisis as you, finding a place to study can be difficult. Wi-Fi, calm music, and an atmosphere of activity make coffee shops the perfect place to settle down. Whether you’re a morning person, night owl, or just want a place to escape the madness and take a break, here’s your guide to Chicago coffee shops as you prepare for the busiest time of the academic year.

For the Early Birds

Sip Coffee House
1223 W. Grand Ave.

This isn’t my first time writing about Sip, and that’s because it’s one of my absolute favorite spots in the city. What makes this an ideal early morning place to work is the diversity in the type of seating they offer, abundant natural lighting and variety of breakfast foods. Sip has a lot of tables on the main floor and a couple of secluded tables on the second. What I love is that they also have a few couches and sofas tucked away in corners, so there’s comfortable seating available to match the nature of the type of work you need to conquer. On top of that, enormous windows illuminate the entire space. Being located in the quiet West Town neighborhood, the natural light warming the space brings a tranquility that is seldom found in the hustle and bustle of the city. Coffee from Intelligentsia and a wide variety of food make this spot perfect to wake up, fuel up and get working.


Heritage Outpost
1325 W. Wilson Ave.

Trekking up north to Lincoln Park brings us to Heritage Outpost. What I love about Heritage Outpost is its minimalistic interior, big windows and simplicity. In a world of overstimulation, walking into a place like Heritage is a breath of fresh air. While taking that deep breath, you’ll smell freshly brewed coffee, specialty lattes and maybe even some pies from local shop Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits. White walls accented with a carpet on the floor, a few bicycles hanging from the ceiling, and a soft blue couch make this spot the perfect place to spend the morning coupling serenity and productivity. The coffee is as good as it gets. That, combined with the pies and biscuits from Bang Bang and other Chicago establishments, makes Heritage a must-go place during finals week to unwind and buckle down.


Dollop Coffee Co.
343 S. Dearborn St.

For people who feed off of the energy of their surroundings, the Dollop location on the corner of Dearborn and Van Buren is the place to be. Located conveniently by the Pink, Orange, Brown, and Purple ‘L’ stops, Herald Washington Library, and Columbia College,  Dollop is upbeat, fast paced and lively in the mornings. That doesn’t mean it’s distracting, though. On the contrary, the coffee shop is spacious and offers ample seating, so you can bask in the energized environment from a distance that still allows you to get work done. On top of that, the windows in Dollop look onto State Street and the L, so the movement and traffic outside of the shop will provide you with the visual stimulation you need to keep you going, if that’s your preferred study environment. Dollop serves coffee from Metropolis, so you know what to expect in terms of the coffee. On top of that, the assortment of pastries, sandwiches and other small-bites will provide you with fuel to stick around for hours as you watch the world go by outside the windows, and your to-do list dwindle.


For the Late Nighters

Ipsento 606
1813 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Ipsento 606 is the second location of Chicago coffee company Ipsento Coffee — one of the city’s best coffee roasters, without a doubt. What makes this the ideal late night shop is that it’s open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight Friday and Saturday. During the day you’ll find a simple, tranquil environment with black wooden tables spaced throughout the shop and bar seating. At night, the lights go down a little bit, and candles are placed on each table, giving the space a smooth, hushed vibe. They serve alcohol here, too, so at night the space tends to become a little livelier. So, if you can study through a little noise, then this spot is ideal for you. As mentioned above, Ipsento is one of the city’s premier coffee companies. I personally recommend the nitrogen-chilled cold brew they serve on tap. Hands down, it’s the best cold brew I’ve ever had.


Bridgeport Coffeehouse
3101 S. Morgan St.

Some of us have different ideas of what exactly “late night studying” means. Bridgeport closes at 9 p.m., but I decided to include it on this list because it’s the type of shop you can head to in the late afternoon and stay here for hours, working away. Not only does Bridgeport source and roast their own coffee — making it some of the highest quality you’ll find in Chicago — but they also have a menu filled with sandwiches, wraps and other food items. This allows you to head to Bridgeport after lunch, stay for hours, and not have to leave for dinner because you can grab some great food here and keep working away. The seating is ample and diverse: bar seating up against the windows, desks in the main space, and more desks and tables in two rooms in the back that are a little more secluded. Overall, the word “coffeehouse” is very appropriate, as the atmosphere is very cozy, and home-like. The diverse seating options, food and fantastic coffee make this the perfect spot to come during the day and let your studies spill into the night.


210 W. North Ave.

If you’re really desperate, this Starbucks is open 24/7, and has tons of seating. There’s not much that needs to be said about Starbucks, and, honestly, I don’t have too much to say myself (other than Peppermint Mochas are the key to world peace, but that’s a different conversation). 


Study Break Shops

The Wormhole
1462 N. Milwaukee Ave.

During finals season, everyone feels like a nerd. But if you’re a true nerd at heart and want to relive the days when being a nerd had more to do with retro video games and movies, and less with breakdowns after spending 72 hours in the library, Wormhole is your spot. The ’80s themed coffee shop features a DeLorean (yes, like the one from “Back to the Future”), Nintendo games, movie posters and references to the glory days of everyone’s childhood scattered throughout the shop. High quality coffee is guaranteed, and specialty lattes like the Cool But Rude latte with ginger and curry sauce make both the coffee and the space quirky and cool. Rather than a score of tables and chairs, you’ll find nice oversized couches and sofas that make it possible for you to unwind, relax and exhale a little bit. Nestled in the heart of Wicker Park, too, you won’t find a shortage of places to visit outside of the shop, if so you choose.

Sawada Coffee
112 N. Green St. 

Located in the vibrant West Loop neighborhood, Sawada Coffee is guaranteed to be one of the most unique coffee shops you’ll step foot in. Coffee shops are known to be calm and simple, typically with soft music in the background. Sawada is vibrant, upbeat, has a million and one things going on with its interior (in a good way), and features an upbeat playlist to compliment its décor. Opened by master latte artist Hiroshi Sawada, you’ll find the best latte art in the city at this shop. They feature an incredible green tea latte and the military latte, which combines the warmth and purity of matcha, kick of espresso, and creaminess of a latte. Seating can be found on the bar facing Green Street, and one central table that tends to fill up quick. But fear not: Sawada is also connected to Green Street Smoked Meats (which is halal!), which offers much more seating. On top of that, you’ll find doughnuts from Chicago icon Doughnut Vault. Under one roof at Sawada, you’ll be treated to good vibes, great coffee, fantastic food and a killer doughnut.


Café Jumping Bean
1439 W 18th St.

Café Jumping Bean has been operating in Pilsen since 1994, making it Pilsen’s first coffee house. On top of that, it also serves as an art gallery, featuring and promoting local artwork, making it a community staple. The interior is very bright and colorful — so much so that you may even temporarily forget the gray of finals week. The upbeat, vibrant space makes Café Jumping Bean the perfect place to escape the monotony of quiet study spaces. On top of that, Café Jumping Bean’s menu serves fresh soups, salads, sandwiches and a variety of pastries to go along with their full-service espresso bar. Being located in Pilsen, Café Jumping Bean is in walking distance from UIC, which factors into why it’s on this list. Taking a walk is an incredible de-stressor, and walking through the beautiful neighborhood of Pilsen and checking out the local shops and galleries leading up to the buzzing café will leave you not only recharged, but inspired to let your soul speak through your work, as the artists featured in the shop beautifully do.

Though this list ends here, the studying continues. I wish you all nothing but the best exam scores, cappuccinos, pour-overs, and company. Check out @farooqscoffeestories on Instagram while procrastinating studying, and, perhaps, get inspired to do your best.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email