Today's Coffee Shoppers review takes us all the way to the Windy City, which my husband and I (Laura) recently visited for a span of about 24 hours. One of my good friends is a barista in Nashville and loves all things coffee, and she is also from the Chicago area, so I knew she would have good coffee recommendations. Wormhole was her go-to. The Wormhole Coffee is a trendy shop out in the Wicker Park neighborhood (I know this only because we asked), which we managed to get to by taking the L. We went over at night and felt a little bit like we had walked into the set from Rent around that area, but that's probably just because Nashville is a small town compared to Chicago. I don't know for sure, but it feels like it's an area where a lot of 20-somethings live and the cool kids hang out. Even though it seemed a little sketchy just because it wasn't as clean and bright as it is over by Michigan Ave, there was a Starbucks on the corner, and everyone walking around seemed not scary in the slightest, so we felt fine. We just tried to act natural and not at all like we say "y'all" or took pictures at the Bean earlier that day.
The first thing to note about Wormhole is that the entire shop is 80s-themed. Yes, 80s-themed. We were not mad about it.
The menu was written to look like a video game menu, and every detail was nostalgic.
There are 80s movie posters lining the wall, gremlin dolls sitting around, tin lunch boxes populating a shelf lining the ceiling, and yes, EVEN A DELOREAN. Like, a full sized one.
Obviously I was on board from the second I walked in.
It's kind of a small shop, at least compared to the ones in Nashville, but it has seating by the storefront, bar seating along the espresso machines and the front window, a large table, and a few sections of cozy sofas and chairs. Nearly all of which were filled when we got there, which was a Monday night--a good sign.
Most people were there by themselves, intensely focused on like their graphic design homework or sick beats they were creating or whatever trendy people do in Chicago.
When we approached the counter we noticed a perky, fashionable hipster girl taking professional photos. The cashier barista explained that they had just gotten new cups, so she was taking pictures of them.
Yes, I took a picture of the girl taking pictures. It was super meta.
Overall it seemed like a nice place to sit and get some work done or talk with a friend. Most people were wearing headphones, so you probably wouldn't have disturbed them.
I stuck with my usual vanilla latte with skim milk, and it was delicious. These people know how to make coffee.
Taste Rating: 9
My husband decided to venture out and try the Classic Bill Cosby, which was a banana pudding latte.
He was going to get it with skim milk, until after an extensive conversation with the friendly barista, who casually explained that by getting the whole milk your body processes all the sugar better, which seemed like a good enough reason as any. Baristas double as nutritionists right?
If his reaction was any indication, I'd think he'd rate it an 9. I tried it and would probably give it an 8, but banana+coffee was a little strange to me.
The barista who made our drinks did not mess around with presentation. His art skills were finely honed, and the Bill Cosby looked simply delightful.
Latte art grade: 9 Bill Cosby art grade: 9
It should be noted that though I thought my latte art was pretty great, the photographer deemed it unworthy to photograph. She had been looking for a pretty one to take a photo of and telling the barista to make one for her. This place was friendly, and we ended up sitting at the bar in front of the espresso machine because it was literally the only place we could sit, so I jumped in and offered that she could take a picture of mine.
She totally snubbed me, guys. She said it was not his best work.
"It's skim milk, right?" she asked. "Yes," I said as I hung my head in shame. She nodded like I was adorable and then went back to staging Star Wars figures in front of a cup of coffee. PEOPLE WHO LIKE DELICIOUS LATTES WITH LESS FAT HAVE FEELINGS TOO, OKAY?
So if you're familiar with Barista Guy's portfolio of latte art and you are a photographer, I guess my latte art was more like a fart minus in your book, but I stand by my 9.
The service was great, here, though. The barista at the cash register was super nice to us even though she probably realized 2 minutes in that she was far cooler than us. We did get to say that we were from Nashville though, so I think that helped on the scale of places we could've been from.
She asked what we were doing AFTER getting coffee, which I thought was kind of her, seeing as we were promptly going back to the hotel and crashing because it was like EIGHT THIRTY already, but we shrugged like we didn't know and we were breezy and hip and could be doing anything so what did she have in mind? She suggested going for a drink on the loop which we also nodded and acted like we would totally do. (We didn't.)
She also gave me a free layered shot thing, which consisted of vanilla syrup, half and half and a shot of espresso. She said she had never made one before and was trying it out and that she thought we were supposed to do it like a shot.
Having never done a shot before but having seen it plenty of times on TV, I tried to down the shot of espresso in one gulp and failed MISERABLY. It was a lot of coffee, okay, and I don't usually drink straight espresso, which is absolutely all I got in that gulp. No vanilla or half and half.
It was unfortunate that I did that after I enjoyed my coffee because then my tastebuds got all ruined from my perfectly delightful latte, but she GAVE it to me and I was an ambassador from Nashville to Chicago at that moment and I was sitting in front of cool Chicago baristas so I had to go big or go home, you guys. For diplomacy.
Fedora Count: disappointingly zero, though I did see a guy hanging out on the street on the way there who was wearing one. A lot of glasses though.
Level of uncomfortableness upon walking in: 3. This was surprisingly low because unlike Nashville, no one looked up when we walked in. Probably says something about the difference in cultures but I'll let you make your own conclusions.
Level of pretentiousness: 5. The 80s theme brings it down a notch, which I appreciate. Obviously they don't take themselves TOO seriously. But the level of coffee snobbery (I say that as someone who may be turning into one) was pretty high, so I put them right in the middle.
Disheveled facial hair count: there was a lot of facial hair, but it was pretty sheveled.
Price: I think it was about average. I failed at noting how much it was, but I don't remember it being out of the ordinary.
Parking: probably zero because this is Chicago. We took the train.
I really liked this shop and would definitely recommend it if you are ever in the area. Good coffee, fun atmosphere.
One more 80's picture for the road:
Have you ever had Coffee in Chicago? What's your favorite? Which 80's themed element did you geek out over the most?