If you need to lay off the booze but want the bar vibe, Bronzeville Coffeehouse is the joint for you. This community-centric spot is the Cheers
of coffeehouses, where the best seat in the house is among the animated patrons who man the stools along the coffee bar. But instead of Crown Royal, they're sipping the shop's most popular drink, the Caramel Royale—a latte packed with fresh caramel and caramel syrup topped with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.
Plain-Jane coffee drinkers will find the simple beverages just as appealing. The shop features Fair Trade-certified beans roasted by Alterra Coffee, brewed daily in mild, strong and decaf blends. A large 20-ounce will run you just $1.80. If you're willing to fork over a little more, try sweet treats like the Mocha Blanca (made with white chocolate syrup) or the Dreamsicle (orange juice blended with white chocolate and ice).
Opened in 2005 by Richard Chalmers and Trez Pugh, Bronzeville Coffeehouse serves coffee with a larger goal in mind: revitalizing the community. If the book exchange (leave a book, take a book), bulletin boards covered in business cards, ever-present conversation and warm welcomes aren't enough to convince you of that fact, check out monthly events like jazz sessions and comedy nights (the latter comes complete with free beer and Bailey's...making the shop dry most of the time). Free wi-fi is available.
A note to first-time visitors: Located a few blocks east of the 43rd Green Line, it's an easy walk, but one that gives you a mini-tour of dilapidated, abandoned storefronts.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Schwartz