Northwestern students know Kafein, 1621 Chicago Ave., as a popular local haunt for artists, musicians and coffee junkies, and now the shop has won a national reputation for quality as well.
New York City-based Complex Magazine recently ranked Evanston’s Kafein coffee shop 50th on its list of the 50 best college coffee shops in America. The publication cited Kafein’s “good food” and “outdoor seating” as reasons why it made the list.
Chris Waldron, longtime barista and current manager of Kafein, said it was “super cool” for a business that prides itself on being a unique, independently owned local hangout to be nationally recognized.
“It’s mostly the fact that you can sit down and relax,” he said. “Usually the people who work here have somewhat of a similar personality where they’re generally pretty cool people, and they’ll come and talk to you like a human being. It’s a really down-to-earth place.”
The shop and the University have shared a symbiotic relationship for years. Kafein’s business hinges on student customers, and in return the shop’s owners support school functions like Dance Marathon and Wildcat Welcome orientation week, Waldron said.
The murals on the walls of a coffee-drinking Mona Lisa and Adam and God’s shared love of espresso were painted by an NU student in 1992 and student musicians often provide live entertainment.
Although during the school year the coffee shop is nightly dominated by students, many Evanston residents frequent Kafein year-round as well.
David Muir, Evanston resident and copywriter, said Kafein’s “energy and atmosphere” are conducive to his work ethic.
“I can crank out whatever work I need to do, and it doesn’t feel like work,” Muir said. “I like mixing the social element with work as opposed to when I’m in the office: it’s dead quiet, and it’s kind of depressing.”