All Points Wheelman

A hot pink and black promontory at the center of a burgeoning city neighborhood, lit at its center by an 8-bit heart. An inviting corner coffee shop that reflects the knowing serenity of its sibling owners. A dynamic duo of sass, sandwiches and smoothies that sit in the refracted shadows of the CTA Brown Line, catering to a stream of yoga mothers and bustling El takers.

Three shops with distinct identities, bound by the sensibilities of their owner and core staff. A Box that Knocks and a McFly-pimped DeLorean jammed into a Wicker Park storefront. What does this disparate collection of Chicago coffee destinations have in common, besides their dedication to business independence? The answer’s easy when you taste it.

From New Wave Coffee in Logan Square to the Brothers K up north in Evanston; from both Beans & Bagels locations to the bohemian trio of Dollop, Noble Tree, and Kickstand Espresso Bar; from Humboldt Park’s own Knockbox to Wormhole, that weird and wild new kid on the scene, there’s no question that Metropolis Coffee caters to a bunch of businesses that value their independence as much as they like to show that shit off.

But that’s what we do, too. We thrive on our independence; we value it like we value old vinyl, ping pong tables and clever tattoos. You could say that’s how we roast.

It goes on from these outfits. There’s a network of kitchens across this fair city, each of them full of pros preparing tasty morsels to a hip hop beat that bustles from a corner boom box–it might be different hip hop, but it’s always hip hop–and those types are usually happy to see the coffee show up. (Sometimes they aren’t; hell, sometimes they’re just too busy.) There are hotels downtown where tourists and out-of-town business folks perk up at the aroma of a Metropolis varietal.

And there’s a guy in boxer shorts in his kitchen at midnight, setting the timer on a Mr. Coffee so his wife will have a fresh pot of Peru or Brazil or Nicaragua or Kenya or Rwanda to greet her in the groggy-but-promising AM. Hey man, your neighbor can see you through the window. Nice skivvies.

The point of all of this is simple. You like being you as much as you expect others to be themselves, so why shouldn’t you expect an outsized personality from the coffee you consume? Best of all, the place you get it is probably going to offer some quirks of its own, too.

That isn’t the way we planned it–well, maybe it is–but then again, who ever thought there’d be a coffee shop in Chicago with a full-size time machine/stainless steel-paneled sports car in its window? Embrace the crazy. Drink more coffee.

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