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Caffeine and Cocktails

Take a shot, whether it’s of espresso or whiskey, at these coffeehouse-bar combos.
Monday Nov 05, 2007.     By Karl Klockars
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

coffee and wine!
photo: Clifton Henri; pictured: Iguana
You likely take for granted the ease at which you can score a cup of joe in the morning, but only a handful of coffeehouses stock booze along with their beans. If you've yet to embrace the idea that wine and beer can mix with your coffee fix, consider this: Ever heard of a thick stout beer described as having hints of coffee? Give it a shot by taking a shot—whether it's of espresso or whiskey—at these coffeehouse-bar combos.

Uncommon Ground
This mostly organic, locally focused restaurant has long been a destination for coffee and espresso, but in 2005, it expanded into the world of booze while keeping an eco-friendly focus. When you purchase a $10 Tree-tini, for example, the Uncommon folks will plant a tree while you enjoy your cocktail of pear-flavored vodka mixed with apple cider and spiced syrup (okay, maybe not while). The extensive menu offers plenty of eats to complement what's in your cup—be it coffee, Belgian ale or shiraz. In the a.m., opt for the chilaquiles with spicy chorizo; come dinnertime, the duo of duck or the dinner portion of pumpkin ravioli ($16) make for heartier meals, but will likely require a post-nosh caffeine jolt to keep you going.

Iguana Cafe
This spot positions itself as "Chicago's Downtown Exclusive European Coffee/Wine Bar," a spot-on summarization of its offerings. If you come for lunch, start with coffee or tea, then make your way to apps like spicy tirokafteri feta spread. Move on to the crepes or a make-your-own panini, which starts at $4 and allows you to add ingredients like baked zucchini or sauteed mushrooms. At night and until as late as 2 a.m., Iguana's smoky, eclectic environs beckon you to bypass the cappuccino and dive headfirst into the wine. Rather than push over-complicated cocktails or coffee-booze hybrids, it focuses on inexpensive vintages and large pours. Glasses average between $5 and $7, and a full bar menu is available, too.

Caffe De Luca
The "viva Italia" spirit is at the forefront of this Bucktown eatery and drinkery, open since 1999. Its menu, with appetizers like beef carpaccio, a special daily bruscetta and pizzas, gives a nod to Rome. A standard mug of black here costs no more than $2.15, but patrons in the know order the Bam Bam, a cup of coffee with espresso and honey. Come evening, bottles of Peroni or Stella will only run you $3, and wine is available by the glass or bottle. It's the clever blends of coffee and liquor, though, where this cafe really shines: The $7 Sweet Love mixes espresso, steamed milk, Godiva Chocolate and vanilla liqueur. A drink that's rich, decadent and full of caffeine and booze—salut!

Cafe Prague
European-style coffeehouses often smell of cigarette smoke and boast a clientele of glowering old men who talk about how much better it was in the old country. For a distinctly different environment, head to this smoke-free cafe with a lack of attitude. Along with coffee drinks, the menu sports a list of mixed drinks, beer (including Heineken and Becks) and wine, any combo of which can be imbibed while browsing the internet. (There are a couple PCs hooked up, but it's not a highly technological place.) Entrees range from American standards to pastas to Czech favorites, which cost about $12-$16. On your way out, be sure to stop by the small shop to pick up some eastern European foodstuffs for your next craving.

Map Room
You more likely associate the Map Room, best known as a mecca for beer drinkers, with late nights rather than the break of dawn, but it opens at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, offering piping hot Intelligentsia coffee and pastries from nearby Alliance Bakery. It's worth noting that while some taps start slinging drinks as early as 7 a.m., the Map Room makes its first call for alcohol at 11 a.m.—just in time to toss that cup of joe and ease into a pint of porter. It also hosts Café Scientifique sessions, an informal discussion group that gathers in cafes to talk about scientific topics, so grab the beverage of your choice—whether it be in a mug or a stein—and start hashing out the world's problems.


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