7 Small Shops to Support This Holiday Season

Now that we’re a week in to November, I hope you guys are finally accepting all the holiday content that’s infiltrating the blog! I don’t feel that bad, actually, at all. I got the Thanksgiving Food Magazine issue in early October and my personal inbox has already been bombarded with gift guides. Something tells me now is the exact time we should start talking about all things holiday. We’ll have a few more posts in the next month sharing gift ideas but it all kicks off with small online shops to support. I’ve pulled together a list of my favorite e-stores by fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs to shop from. Shop small and support the people you love. Instead of just hitting "like" the next time you see something from a shop or blogger you follow on Instagram, head over to their shop and see if there’s something you can purchase to support them and cross a gift off your list…

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6 Cozy Spots Around Chicago

Colder weather calls for cozy get togethers. If there’s one thing Chicago knows how to do well (other than take advantage of summer), it’s survive winter and the colder months. We’re a social city! We like going out for brunch and meeting friends for a cocktail after work. Five months of bitter cold won’t keep us hibernating...well, not the entire time at least. We can appreciate a good occasional hibernation. For those colder months when the tips of your fingers start to turn blue and your nose goes numb, the cozier spot to meet up, the better. Cozy, by definition, means “enjoying or affording warmth and ease.” In my words, that translates to a fireplace, casual and/or comfortable seating arrangements like couches or comfy chairs, and a warm drink with alcohol optional…

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The Lady Boss' Guide to Chicago

Chicago is one of the best cities for self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs. Going off on my own almost four years ago now, I’ve had the chance to get to know the city in a different way. It became my office playground like many other people who are in similar career paths and work environments. I’ve explored different neighborhoods and found a few favorite spots to return to and a few spots that are better for casual coffees with friends. For a productive day “out of the office,” I learned quick that cafes and coffee shops with a strong internet connection are vital. It’s also a perk if they offer real food and not just snacks or pastries as well as plenty of outlets. To meet with colleagues or clients, it’s important to find spots with a lower noise level or at least moderate so you can have a conversation without screaming. Some of the best spots are tucked away in the neighborhoods of Chicago and others are right in the heart of downtown. All it takes is a little exploration to find the right ones!

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Announcing The Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop!

Happy Sunday! How many of you watched the Royal Wedding yesterday? I can’t stop scrolling through the pictures, I’m obsessed! Her dresses were absolutely stunning and both 100% my style. Givenchy has always been one of my favorite designers, especially because of his friendship with Audrey Hepburn and all the stunning designs that came out of it. While the wedding of the year was on everyone’s minds this week, I was otherwise occupied. If you follow me on Instagram and happened to see my stories Friday night, I finally launched the Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop!!! It’s been a long time coming and something I have been looking forward to for a few months now. It’s both terrifying and exciting to finally have it launched! Consider this post your official introduction...

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The Collections
The Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop has two original collections. One might even look a little familiar. The Taking Charge Collection is inspired by the tagline for this blog: taking charge of life with a latte in one hand and suitcase in the other. It’s a slogan I like to live by even though traveling might not always be consistent. It’s a slogan that is also meant to be taken metaphorically. When I rebranded to Lattes, Life & Luggage, I was closing one chapter of my life and starting a new one. In this chapter, I’ve really taken life and run with it. There have been ups and downs and a lot of risks but no regrets. If someone were to caricature this chapter, I imagine it would be me in a casual outfit dragging a suitcase behind me and sipping a latte. After all, that’s basically how I look on a regular basis. Just swap the suitcase out for an over-sized bag! It’s also so many women around the world making it someone many of us can identify with.

The second collection is titled, Rome Today. The design features a bistro table set and the slogan, “Rome Today, Paris Tomorrow.” Rome and Paris are cities that everyone recognizes and they’re places most people dream of visiting. While I’ve had the opportunity to spend months in Paris, Rome is still a dream for me, one day to become a reality. This collection embraces my own travel dreams with the hope to inspire yours. I imagine that if we had this mug on our desks every day, it would motivate and inspire us to book that plane ticket sooner rather than later.

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The Store
The shop is launching with the two collections described above. Both collections currently feature a few different mug types, tote bags, zip pouches, notebooks and water bottles. More items will be coming soon to both collections including travel mugs and additional types of bags. Starting later in the summer, we’ll be rolling out new collections every other month. There will also be seasonal collections for fall, winter, the holidays, and more. We will also host occasional sales and discounts so make sure to follow @LattesnLifeBlog on social media to stay in the loop.

That’s all for now! Happy shopping and as always, thank you for your support!
❤️ Christine

5 Things To Do Along Magnolia Avenue | Fort Worth, TX

I’ve never considered myself a hipster. I don’t have the confident, carefree attitude they seem to emit and I love The Gap way too much. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not ashamed by any means. Not everyone can be hipster otherwise by definition, no one would be. I’m perfectly content in my gap tees and LC by Lauren Conrad jeans sipping Starbucks coffees more often than not. I embrace basic life. However, I am all about those hipster neighborhoods. They seem to have the best boutiques, the best coffee and the best brunch. I would have never guessed it but the South Side or as I like to call it, Magnolia neighborhood, in Fort Worth is a hipster haven.

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Magnolia Avenue is a street in the Southside neighborhood in Fort Worth lined with restaurants, boutiques, nightlife and more. It’s near the Fort Worth Medical District and “behind it” is the “Fairmont” neighborhood which is full of old homes (more on those further down). It’s a casual avenue that you could explore for days. The restaurants alone will keep you occupied for weeks not to mention the ones that host live music and entertainment. From wine tastings to homemade ice cream and specialty shops to cafes, there is so much to do and as if that’s not enough, the entire area is charming on top of it all. It almost reminds me of those small towns you see in Hallmark movies (don’t judge, we’ve all seen one or two). This isn’t the first time Magnolia has appeared on the site and it won’t be the last. Until next time, here are five of my top recommendations on what to do along Magnolia.

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Brunch at Brewed
Brewed is my one of my favorite spots in Fort Worth. The eclectic inside has tons of seating from traditional tables and chairs to comfy sofas. The patio in back has a gorgeous layout with even more seating. It doesn’t end there though. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Brewed has a crazy good brunch menu featuring everything from pancakes to chicken and biscuits. And if you worried about the coffee falling short, don’t. Their coffee is always on point and I have had a few cappuccinos and lattes to prove it. Coffee not your thing? I’m sure you’ll find a wine, beer or cocktail to your satisfaction instead!

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Lunch at Heim
A local favorite for good reason, Heim recently made Texas Monthly’s list of top 25 barbecue joints. Heim was recommended to me by a DFW local. It’s still on my list, meaning I haven’t actually made it here yet, but believe me when I say it’s at the top. The trick about Heim is that you need to go with a little patience. Heim is so popular that it’s known for a lunch line. Yes, you read that right! A line at lunch! Who has time, right? Well, from what I’ve been told and everything that I’ve read, the line moves quick. I’ve also been told that the bacon burnt ends are to die for. I don’t see them on the menu so I don’t know exactly how you get your hands on these but if you have a chance, do not turn them down!

Grab a Pastry at Great Harvest Bread Co...or a Sandwich
New to the block, Great Harvest Bread Co. is serving up breakfast, lunch, and plenty of sweets including pooch-friendly options. The service is friendly and the space a bit small but cozy. Bread and baked goods are made in house every morning. Great Harvest features a seasonal menu on top of regular baked goods including treats to take home to your furbaby. During my visit, I had the Sophisticated Grilled Cheese Sandwich with sharp cheddar, provolone, sliced apples, bacon, and pepper jelly. It was DIVINE! I also went home with a cinnamon roll and let me tell you, Great Harvest has become one of my new favorite Fort Worth spots.

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Get Your Dairy Fix at Melt Ice Cream
For the best vegan ice cream in the south, Melt is the spot. For those who love the classic ingredients, there’s plenty of that as well. Classic flavors always available include “Beans” - Vanilla, Chocolate Chocolate, “Salt Lick” - Salted Caramel, “Cup of Texas” - coffee, and Velvet Vegan. They also serve seasonal flavors throughout the year including Black Forest, dark chocolate cake and almond meringue swirled into cherry ice cream, and Sunbrittle, vegan sunbutter ice cream sprinkled with pieces of vegan peanut and pretzel brittle. They also do seasonal cone pairings and “Taco Tuesdays” featuring two ice cream scoops topped with vanilla whipped cream, homemade salted caramel sauce and chocolate sauce. As if Melt wasn’t good enough already, they also partner with fellow local businesses for some of their ingredients. The owners of Melt saw that Fort Worth was missing an ice cream spot and boy did they make a name for themselves.

Walk/Drive around the Fairmont District
Just south of Magnolia Avenue is the Fairmont District. Once you step off of Magnolia, you’re in the district. It’s full of historical and old homes, many of which were built or used to be owned by rather famous people at least by Texan standards. Some of the homes are a bit broken down and need some love, others are just as beautiful as they must have been the day they were built. The homes are in the bungalow style which means they’re simple, smaller in size and functional - typically meant as single family homes. Even if you’re not on the market for a new home, it’s great to walk or drive down the streets and look at the houses. The contrast of some of the more broken down ones versus the ones in tip-top shape is eerily beautiful. They’re also very colorful - many are painted different colors, even vibrant hues! If nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to grab some photos

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Chicago Coffee Shop Series | Wicker Park, Bucktown + Ukrainian Village

Ok you coffee addicts, I have five new coffee shops to share for the latest Chicago Coffee Shop Guide. Sadly, Filter Cafe which was also supposed to be included closed in November. This spot was one of my particular favorites so far while researching for this series so I’m hoping that they reopen with new plans this year. With that said, there have been a few additions to the coffee scene since I posted the other four guides in the series which means I’m going to work on follow-ups to those with more recommendations and new additions plus any closing information that’s recent. The difficult part is that there are SO many coffee shops and only so many days in the week and it’s taking me longer than anticipated to get to all these spots. I promise I’ll continue visiting the ones I have mapped out and report on them once I have enough to put together a guide. In the meantime, make sure you’re following on Instagram because I post real-time experiences.

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Caffe Streets | 1750 West Division Street
With a prime location along Division Street in the Wicker Park neighborhood, Caffe Streets delivers an exceptional coffee experience. The cafe serves locally-owned Metric Coffee along with pastries and snacks. The space has an industrial design to it, very simple with a few quirky elements scattered about. The weekday crowd is mostly people typing away at their computers with a few friendly meetups. Weekends have a combination of people working and meeting up for coffee talk. When the weather is nice, Caffe Streets has a large patio with plenty of seating. It’s a great spot to people watch and enjoy the day, especially since they serve up a mean latte.

Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Pastries, snacks and small breakfast items (ex. granola with yogurt, scones)
Service: Friendly and efficient
Noise Level: Mild to moderate
Seating Space: Mixture of high and low seating plus an outdoor patio
Outlets: Plenty
Music: Eclectic collection and never the same. Perfect volume, soft enough for conversations and working but loud enough to hear.

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Cup & Spoon | 2415 North Avenue
Part of the WOW District (West of Western), Cup & Spoon introduced me to a new Chicago neighborhood that I didn’t know existed! Stop in for a locally-sourced cup of coffee and bite to eat. The cafe features brews and bites from Metric Coffee, Littlefoot Coffee, Phlour Bakery, Pear Tree Preserves, and Jo Snow Syrups. It’s a local business that supports other local businesses. The latte is creamy and delicious and the Savory Breakfast Bagel is the perfect fuel when you don't have time to make breakfast. Cup & Spoon also works as an art gallery, showcasing work from local artists. They are on North Avenue right past Western which keeps it from being part of the Wicker Park neighborhood and instead a member of the WOW District.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Breakfast served all day, lunch sandwiches, and pastries
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Quiet during slow hours, Moderate during busy hours
Seating Space: A dozen or so tables, small space in general but decent seating
Outlets: Plenty
Music: N/A

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Ipsento | 2035 North Western Avenue
Ipsento provides a relaxed coffee experience on the edge of the Bucktown neighborhood. The service is exceptional and the coffee delicious. The Western Avenue location is the original spot and a bit small but perfect for getting work done. It’s quiet and the back room has plenty of seating away from the bustle of the barista counter. There’s another location, also in Bucktown but along Milwaukee Avenue - Ipsento 606, that serves up cocktails as well as coffee. Both are easily accessible with public transportation. The Western blue line stop is actually the closest “El” station to both.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Snacks and Sandwiches
Service: Friendly and Efficient. My coffee was a little overfull so one of the baristas helped me to my seat by carrying my plate of food. SO nice of them!
Noise Level: Quiet to Moderate, there’s background music but everyone was super chill and quiet during my visit.
Seating Space: A few seats in the front but more seating in a room towards the back. Still not a huge space though so get there outside of busy hours.
Outlets: Plenty
Music: Mixture of throwbacks, indie and top 40

Star Lounge Coffee Bar | 2521 West Chicago Avenue
Star Lounge is part of the Dark Matter Coffee company, one of the more well-known local roasters and shops in Chicago. Star Lounge is part of the West Town community in the Smith Park/Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Smaller in size, the coffee bar serves up brews both caffeinated and alcoholic. Dark Matter has a philosophy that centers around sustainability and offers products that are socially responsible, innovative and sustainable. They have a committed community and fan base and it’s no wonder because their coffee is really delicious. Star Lounge itself is very hip and cool. The crowd is indie/hipster and the vibe laid back. It’s a great spot but the lack of seating because the space is smaller and more like a bar setting doesn’t make it ideal to work but if you can grab a seat, by all means! You’ll see more Dark Matter locations in future coffee guides.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ok
Food Selection: Snacks and Pastries
Service: Quick
Noise Level: Moderate
Seating Space: Limited because of the small space
Outlets: Scattered
Music: N/A

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The Wormhole Coffee | 1462 North Milwaukee Avenue
A Wicker Park favorite, Wormhole is one of those places you have to visit to experience. Get nostalgic surrounded by 80s pop culture from posters to a model of the DeLorean from Back to the Future. They play a mix of 80s, 90s and current music from the last 20 years (I can’t believe we’ve been in the 2000s for almost two decades - pinch me!). Wormhole serves Halfwit coffee along with other specialty roasters and a variety of pastries. It’s a fun space to grab a seat and hang out with friends or get work done. It’s one of the more popular coffee shops in the neighborhood though so don’t be surprised if it gets crowded.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for Working: ✓
Food Selection: Snacks and Pastries
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Mild to Moderate
Seating Space: Plenty
Outlets: Scattered
Music: Mixture of throwbacks and current music

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Happy International Coffee Day!

Happy International Coffee Day! If you haven’t figured it out already, coffee is the main attraction around here. Without it, I’d probably resemble something that walks out of the gates of Mordor each day in both physical appearance and behavior. Work would not get done, conversations wouldn’t be had and sanity would definitely be lost. If you caught a few of my latest Instagram stories, you’d know that I’m dealing with a malfunctioning Keurig at the moment. Let’s just say, mornings have gotten a little extra strenuous managing a French Press and I have greatly increased my Starbucks spending habit. I know...pathetic. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta to for a good cup of the strong stuff. That’s all I’m going to say.

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Back to International Coffee Day though. To celebrate this glorious food holiday, I’m sharing my favorite spots to grab coffee from each coffee guide that has been on the site as well as a few recipes you can make in the comfort of your own home. Once you’ve browsed through, tell me in the comments below where your favorite place to grab a cup of the good stuff is and what your favorite coffee beverage is!

Downtown + River North Neighborhoods: While I love all the coffee shops in this guide, Two Zero Three is my favorite. It has a prime location in the Virgin Hotel and I can always count on a spot to sit and trusty internet to use. The drinks are great, the music not too loud and the ambiance perfect for getting things done.

Logan Square Neighborhood: This was a tough one. Gaslight has the best grilled cheese and tomato soup combo I’ve ever had plus the space is hip making me feel like one of the cool kids. But since it’s International Coffee Day, I’m going to have to go with Brew Brew Coffee Lounge on Diversey. They serve up great espresso drinks and it’s particularly charming during the holiday season.

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South Loop Neighborhood: This neighborhood is continuing to grow and change which makes it so exciting. Our list of coffee shops for the South Loop might be small but I have no doubt it will continue to grow over time. With that said, Overflow is our top pick. There’s a ton of seating making it the ultimate remote office location. They have good internet and tasty coffee drinks including seasonal options.

West Loop + Ukrainian Village Neighborhoods: Considering the West Loop is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago right now, it should be obvious my #1 pick would be from this area. Sawada Coffee gets the top spot for originality, location, vibe and caffeinated beverages. I had one of the best lattes of my life in this coffee shop and the space is so fun. From the graffiti door to industrial, loft-style space, it’s one of the more unique coffee shops I’ve been to and especially one of the more laid back.

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Beacon Hill: Anytime I visit Boston, Tatte Bakery & Cafe will be on my list of spots to visit. The Charles Street location feels like it could be a second home with how welcoming the atmosphere is. And while this might not be coffee, they have Belgian Hot Chocolate that is to die for. Besides that, it’s in my favorite Boston neighborhood.

Cambridge: Crema Cafe on Brattle Street is a local hot spot. It makes sense since they know how to brew a good cup o’Joe. This two-level space has tons of seating but it doesn’t matter because it fills up quick! Don’t be surprised if you need to share a bistro table with a stranger. I did but I had a wonderful conversation with two New England natives.

North End: Also know as Boston’s Italian neighborhood, it’s no doubt this part of town knows how to make a good cup of coffee. Thinking Cup on Hanover Street is one of the larger coffee shops I’ve ever been in. Extending way back, there is plenty of seating and a full menu making it a great location when you have a full day’s work ahead of you.

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Jane on Larkin will always hold a special place for me when it comes to San Francisco. Serving up a bomb cappuccino and quiche, this corner coffee shop is everything you’d expect in San Fran. It has an urban yet chic vibe but isn’t stuffy. It’s not a large space but there is a bit of room to sit down and get work done. It became my home away from home for a few days.

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Dallas: This is a tough one thanks to the Bishop Arts District which was so much fun to explore. The winner here is Sip | Stir Cafe in Uptown. What quickly became my favorite neighborhood in the city, it’s an urban spot that’s also casual which I love. There’s also tons of seating both inside and outside and good internet which is something that’s important to me.

Fort Worth: BREWED will always be one of my favorite spots to visit along Magnolia Street. It’s a coffee shop, a brunch spot, a bar, a patio, a live music scene. The food is great, the drinks better and it’s always a great time.

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For those of you interested in making your own caffeinated beverage at home, check out these seasonal coffee recipes as well! Happy International Coffee Day!


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Chicago Coffee Shop Series | West Loop + Ukrainian Village

Coffee is in my blood. I swear the smell of it alone can instantly put me in a good mood. Unique coffee shops with interesting stories or funky vibes indulge my addiction. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is find the local favorites. What I love to do in my own city is become the expert so I can share the best spots whether you’re looking to unplug, catch up with a friend or get things done. We’re heading to the West Side of Chicago for a few gems that have become personal favorites. From hidden spots in the West Loop to a unique coffee shop with cool history in the Ukrainian Village, you’ll be heading to at least a few of these whether you’re in town visiting or a local.

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Atomix | 1957 West Chicago Avenue
Located in West Town, Atomix Cafe is more diner-like than coffee shop. Classic diner tables, chairs and booths fill the space for a cafeteria-like feeling. For not being a particularly large space, Atomix has plenty of seating . You'll find people getting in a few emails during a break or using the coffee shop as a makeshift office for a few hours. Their food and drink menu is expansive offering organic goods as well as vegan options. It’s a spot for everyone with plenty of natural lighting, good music and most important...lots of outlets. **Expert tip: Make sure to try the chips and salsa. DIVINE!

Wi-Fi: ✓ ← can be slow at times
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Full breakfast, lunch & dinner menus including vegan and vegetarian options.
Service: Friendly staff
Noise Level: Mild. Nothing too extreme to note.
Seating Space: Plenty of tables to crank out your day.
Outlets: Plentiful
Music: Great mix

Big Shoulders | 1105 West Chicago Avenue
For a classic corner coffee shop with tons of natural light, an ideal location and great coffee, Big Shoulders is your spot. With plenty of space and large tables for co-working, this would be a great spot for group work sessions. Host team meetings, interviews, whatever you need. If you need a place to chill between appointments, Big Shoulders is right off the blue line for easy transportation access.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: pastries and snacks
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Low
Seating Space: Decent. Spacious but it’s a small space so it fills up during peak times.
Outlets: Not too many
Music: N/A

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C.C. Ferns | 2806 West Augusta
As far as uniqueness and originality go, C.C. Ferns wins the award. Located in Humboldt Park, C.C. Ferns is unlike any other coffee shop you will visit, guaranteed. The coffee shop has a funky, old-school vibe...kind of like you entered your grandfather’s dream den from 1955. It’s the type of place you could picture Marlon Brando or James Dean having a cigar or cigarette in the morning reading the paper and sipping the coffee. Did they even read the paper? Regardless, you get where I’m going with this. As if the design wasn’t enough to contribute to C.C. Ferns’ originality, they also sell a curated cigar selection. What’s even more, there’s a space in the back where you can book events or attend local musical gigs once in awhile. Like I said, award-winner for originality.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Selection of doughnuts from Doughnut Vault, house-made croissants and local oatmeal
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Low-Medium
Seating Space: Tons
Outlets: N/A
Music: N/A

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La Columbe - West Loop | 955 West Randolph
La Columbe and I had a rough start. When visiting a coffee shop, I almost always expect wi-fi...that was until I met La Columbe. I must have been the only person on the planet that didn’t know it was a “thing” that they didn’t have wi-fi. So when I stopped in on my first visit, expecting to have a productive morning, you bet I was let down. After that first visit and knowing what to expect, my next visits were much more pleasant. For example, I didn’t look like a complete idiot by asking the barista what the internet was. I also made sure that I had a day of writing planned for myself. The internet is a deadly distraction when it comes to productivity sometimes, especially while writing. Many of the visitors at La Columbe have their own means of attaining internet capabilities but I like to visit for an internet-free day of work. I’ll use my tablet or phone to stay on top of emails and social media but when I’m turned to my computer, my focus is on point. As far as customer service, they’re pretty chill. Besides that weird look I got that one time I asked for internet, I’ve always had friendly baristas who handle your drink order in superhuman speed.

Wi-Fi: NONE! I did not know this the first time I visited so please be advised if you don’t have some sort of traveling wi-fi or hotspot.
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Pastries and Snacks
Service: Efficient and Friendly
Noise Level: Varies
Seating Space: Plenty - Long tables for co-working and smaller tables for privacy
Outlets: Bountiful
Music: N/A

Sawada Coffee | 112 North Green Street
Located across the street from Soho House Chicago, this is one of the most un-coffee shop like coffee shops I’ve ever been to. It’s a funky spot in the West Loop that has become one of my favorites. The entrance door is adorned with graffiti making it blend in. If you’re not looking for it, you’ll definitely miss it. The coffeeshop is located within a loft building (like every other business in the West Loop). It expands farther because it’s also home to Green Street Smoked Meats. Find a selection of doughnuts from Doughnut Vault at Sawada while they last and expect one hell of a fantastic cup o’ joe. They also happen to own C.C. Ferns! Masterminds, these people are! **Expert Tip: Beware the blinding sun at the window seat in the morning. It’s brutal.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Pastries available at the coffee shop but if you get hungry, just walk over to Green Street.
Service: Fantastic
Noise Level: Low during non-meal times, a little noisy when diners come in for lunch but not too bad.
Seating Space: Plenty of space especially since it extends into Green Street Smoked Meats.
Outlets: Scattered generously
Music: N/A

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