Influenced by Greenwich Village's Cafe Wha?, the venue that helped launch the careers of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Woody Allen, Cafe Wha Who? hopes to give the River North neighborhood
the same sort of bohemian but classy vibe, offering Italian-brewed coffee, a respite for browsing art lovers, a space for occasional live shows and -- in a move young Dylan would've surely approve of -- free wi-fi.
While also serving up food, music and paintings, Wha Who? could live or die by the coffee, and its brew is simple, stiff, and tasty. Cafe breve, lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, espressos -- you know, the usual -- are just as delightfully beany. Plenty of solid coffee pairings ranging from savory pastries (cookies, quiche) to semi-meals (paninis, hummus) highlight a modest and reasonably priced menu. And no coffeehouse could be complete without booze (well, a few could), and the bar offers up red, white and sparkling wines, as well as solid collections of beers like PBR, Fat Tire and Guinness, as well as a wide variety of hard liquors.
Hardwood floors, comfy leather couches, and brick-layered walls lend the joint a sort of yuppie-meets-bohemian vibe. But make no doubt: Wha Who? supports the neighborhood art scene, with the walls lined with artistic works like it's a mini-gallery (when this reviewer visited, the paintings appears to be themed hopeless post-apocalyptic landscapes), and an upper level prepped for live entertainment. Friendly and warm, the cafe has all the makings to be a decent hangout at least for as long as that wi-fi is free.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert