I’ll admit it, I have a coffee addiction. Throughout high school, I invented a new way to make dining hall coffee into delicious iced coffee, I did massive Starbucks runs for the people in my class, and I did almost all of my homework in a coffee shop. Coffee, as much as I refused to acknowledge it at the time, was an inherent part of my identity. So naturally, one of the things that attracted me to UChicago when I first visited was the sheer number of unique and student-run coffee shops that my tour guide pointed out in seemingly every other building on campus. This is a truly unique aspect of UChicago’s student life, and I’m here to give you a quick rundown of my favorite coffee shops.
- Ex Libris: Ex Libris, located on the first floor of UChicago’s main library (The Joseph Regenstein Library, also lovingly known as ~The Reg~), is truly a classic and is probably my most frequented coffee shop. Ex Libris is a nice mix of modern and brutalist, but where this coffee shop really shines is in the energy and community. Despite being in a library, ‘Ex Lib’ is a hub of student life and is almost always bustling with undergrads, graduate students, and even professors. It’s difficult to go into Ex Lib and not recognize somebody. Ex Lib has good study space, meeting space, and lounging space to truly accommodate all kinds of coffee shop vibes. Being that UChicago houses so many student-run coffee shops, it’s not uncommon to know a barista or two at some of the shops, but I do like to show off a bit about my Ex Lib connections—I have four friends who work the bar and registers. However, Ex Libris doesn’t only provide me with coffee, they also have plenty of meals and sandwiches from restaurants around the neighborhood. They also have the best donuts and scones of all time; you just have to make sure to get there early before they’re all sold out!
Hallowed Grounds: Hallowed Grounds, located on the second floor of Reynolds Club, is probably the weirdest of all of UChicago’s coffee shops. Known for its eccentric music and well-populated pool tables, Hallowed Grounds is one of the best coffee shops to hang out in, whether it's to play pool, “do work,” or meet up with some friends. Every barista applying to Hallowed Grounds must submit a playlist of their own music, which is what makes it such a unique place to hang out or study in. One time, “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical came on while I was playing pool with some friends, and almost everyone started singing along. It was a weird but magical experience.
Harper Café: Located on the third floor of the Harper Memorial Library, and right next to one of UChicago’s main (and prettiest) study spaces, Harper Café is an amazing place to catch up on work or grab a coffee or pastry on your way to class (trust me, these are probably the best pastries on campus). Even though it’s located next to a silent reading room, it is always lively and bustling with students and professors alike. The iconic red walls of the café reflect and enhance this lively and fun feeling. The baristas are always friendly and quick to get you your order. Aside from the pastries, I have to recommend getting the Americano.
Cobb Coffee Shop: Located in the basement of UChicago’s oldest academic building, Cobb Hall, Cobb Coffee Shop is definitely one of the cheapest coffee shops on campus. Known for their good prices and unique aesthetic, Cobb is also probably the most convenient coffee shop. Almost every student is guaranteed to take at least one class in Cobb Hall during their time as an undergraduate, so Cobb Coffee is perfectly located for a quick pick-me-up before class. Being so centrally located, Cobb has people from all over the UChicago community, from the College to the Medical Center, come to get a drink of coffee. It’s a quick, cheap, and definitely unique experience every time.
Grounds of Being: While there are plenty of other coffee shops scattered around campus to explore, the last coffee shop I’ll be covering is the one with probably the best coffee: Grounds of Being. Also known as the place “Where God comes to drink coffee,” Grounds of Being is located in UChicago’s Divinity school. Grounds of Being has fun divinity-related names for their drinks such as the “Hail Mary” or the “Irish Catholic.” Their coffee and food resources are very sustainable, and the entire store is cash only! Grounds of Being is definitely the place to check out if you’re looking for a more traditional, but very cool, coffee shop experience on campus!
While there are plenty of other student-run and non-student run coffee shops around campus, there are the ones I recommend checking out at least once, or maybe a hundred times, if you ever get the chance to visit UChicago!