Saturday, November 20, 2010
5317 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640
When it comes to coffee, there can be almost too many places to choose from when you’re deciding where to grab a cup—I’ve started realizing this more and more as I travel around Chicago sampling different brews. This has only strengthened my belief that in order to stand out, a coffee shop needs to offer something unique, fill some sort of niche. Cafés can do this by adhering to a certain theme, providing a refreshingly different atmosphere, or even just by providing such exceptional quality products so as to set themselves apart. My favorite coffeehouses that I have reviewed on this blog fill at least one of those criteria. Therefore, when I heard about Kopi Café, which is uniquely described as an Indonesian coffeehouse, I knew I had to give it a try.
Not far from the Berwyn L stop and along the hoppin’ Clark Street, Kopi Café sits annoying across the street from both a Starbucks and an Einstein’s Bagel shop. However, as soon as I spot Kopi, I lose my worries that Corporate Coffee will force this brave independent store out of business. With a small outside seating area and an inside seating area clearly visible through the front windows, Kopi is instantly welcoming. In addition, “kopi” is the Indonesian word for coffee, so my hopes are instantly raised that a quality brew will be able to quickly warm me from the blustery Chicago morning.
The first thing I see upon entering is the awesome seating area up front—patrons can enjoy their steaming beverages while sitting cross-legged on pillows. This unique touch, coupled with the musky wafts of incense and strains of Eastern-inspired tunes, earn Kopi instant points in my book. We are promptly greeted by a waitress and told to choose a table. My surprise that Kopi is a sit-down-and-order place is quickly accompanied by worries their service will be painstakingly slow.
As I make my way to a table, I quickly forget these fears. Kopi has a knickknack store in the back that sells interesting trinkets from the far corners of the world, such as jewelry, statuettes, and pictures. This international vibe is doubled when I see an extensive collection of travel books along one wall below five clocks all displaying different time zones.
After scanning the eclectic menu, I notice that they have several lighter food options as well as some more substantial offerings for the bold breakfaster. In addition, Kopi’s menu contains a garden’s worth of creative vegetarian choices that all sound delicious, even for the meat eater in me. In particular, The Elvis, a peanut butter, honey, and banana toasted sandwich, catches my eye. I ultimately decide to go with their house blend of coffee with a bowl of oatmeal.
About ten minutes later (lamentable, but still not quite as bad as I had been predicting) the waitress returns with my oatmeal and mug of brown deliciousness. The coffee is described only as “a blend of three coffees”, so I’m not exactly sure what I’ve gotten myself into. The oatmeal is topped with raisins, dried apples, and dried apricots, making me anxious to give it a try. The coffee has a deep flavor, with something unexpected, but delicious, detectable in the aftertaste. As I had hoped, the oatmeal and coffee go perfectly together—my absolute favorite combination! Although I had to forgo muffins and scones in making my breakfast choice, I have no regrets with my satisfying selection.
All in all, I found Kopi Café to be a nice place to go if you have a little extra time on your hands and want portion sizes a bit larger. The relaxing atmosphere and continual coffee refills from the roving waitress make Kopi a good place to spend 45 minutes or an hour. Their peculiar lunch options also make me want to go back for lunch to try something vegetarian (hey, a guy’s gotta broaden his horizons!). Kopi succeeds in offering a distinctive experience with many menu options that prove to be as different as they are delicious—or “lezat,” as they say in Indonesia.