Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Study spaces: Gear up for the dreaded week of finals and hit the books at one of these java-fueled joints.

With final exams just around the corner, you'll need a place to stay alert while you work. These spots may not be as distraction-free as the local library, but they do offer plenty of space for books, laptops and sleep-deprived students.

Cafe Avanti
Cafe Avanti gets an A-plus for being at the top of its class in nearly all coffeehouse categories. Unlike those java shops that provide guests with a timed Wi-Fi card, internet access at this place is completely open and unlimited. That said, you're bound to see the same regular faces frequenting the place and holing up here for hours. But Cafe Avanti's friendly staff doesn't mind at all; in fact, they've grown quite fond of their hardworking patrons and treat them like old friends, striking up conversation the minute they walk through the door. In addition to stocking beans from Chicago's local Coffee and Tea Exchange, Cafe Avanti gets extra credit for its select choice of Bleeding Heart Bakery scones and teacakes. You'll also find a small menu of lunchtime favorites including sandwiches, salads and soups. During the warmer months, a spacious sidewalk cafe provides extra seating.

Dollop Coffee Co.
Despite its quiet Buena Park location, Dollop Coffee is anything but secret. And after waiting around for a table to clear, you'll certainly wish it was. Mismatched tables and chairs provide space for studying and quiet conversation, while a number of tattered sofas (which look as if they were found on the roadside) create an ideal spot for group meetings. A cooler stocked with bottled beverages and a pastry case full of Alliance Bakery cupcakes offer a quick sugar-jolt, and pack twice the punch when paired with one of Dollop's espresso-infused drinks. The shop swears by Metropolis coffee beans and also sells a few select blends by the pound. And if you're up for heading a little farther north, you can get your java straight from the source with our next pick.

Metropolis Coffee Co.
Located just two blocks east of the Granville Red Line station, Metropolis is always packed with commuters in need of caffeine. The place is also a favorite with nearby Loyola students, which often poses a challenge for seating; that's saying a lot for a shop that has three full-size sitting rooms. Pre-packaged sandwiches and salads offer a healthful pick-me-up, while pastries and sweet granola from Milk and Honey Cafe provide a temporary sugar-high (just the thing you'll need to plow through an evening of theory and criticism).

Bourgeois Pig
If the pretentious moniker hasn't already tipped you off to the intellectual crowd that hangs out here, the cafe's floor-to-ceiling book-lined walls should tell all. With its close proximity to DePaul, the multi-level space is nearly always packed with students and disheveled, elbow patch-clad professors. Your chances of scoring seating in The Pig's main room are slim, but a quick trip up a flight of creaking stairs will lead you to an unofficial study den, where the students look as if they've never seen daylight. Bourgeois Pig could be in the running for valedictorian if it weren't for the pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi. But until it's free, we'll forget that the economy is in a rut and continue to splurge on the delicious coffee drinks and sandiwches like the Catcher in the Rye (a Reuben).

Fixx Coffee Bar
It's a good thing that Fixx Coffee Bar isn't any closer to Bourgeois Pig, as the place would pose some serious competition. Appealing also to the DePaul demographic, Fixx offers a full menu of study essentials like free Wi-Fi, spacious tables and an abundance of outlets. And then there are the heavy, java-filled mugs. Fixx stocks beans from Chicago's local Coffee and Tea Exchange and always has a regular and flavored blend brewing. Next to Metropolis, its one of the largest coffee shops we've come across and almost always has an open table. The food here isn't anything to write home about, but plates filled with fresh veggies, pita and hummus are just enough brain food to keep you cranking out those research papers.

This article was first published on Centerstage.
Photo: Students at Metropolis Coffee Co., Stacy Warden

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