Five coffee shops with quirky decor.
Souped-up DeLorean at the Wormhole
Crammed with ’80s movie memorabilia—posters for The Goonies, The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters and Top Gun; a large E.T. doll; a stuffed Caddyshack gopher—this Wicker Park shop’s main attraction is the DeLorean sports car in the window, retrofitted with a Back to the Future-style flux capacitor.
“After selling my Web-hosting business, I was extremely bored and needed a clubhouse to hang out in that reminded me of simpler times,” explains owner Travis Schaffner. He raided his mother’s basement and bought more knickknacks on eBay, and the shop gets a steady influx of swag from customers.
The vehicle comes from the DeLorean Motor Company in Crystal Lake, which removed the engine so Schaffner and his pals could install the futuristic guts. He says the hefty price tag was worth it. “It magnetically draws people in here. We don’t even have a sign.” 1462 N Milwaukee Ave (773-661-2468).—John Greenfield
Giant eggbeater at Lovely
Decked out in vintage decor, this Wicker Park bakery resembles a country general store. So perhaps it was fate when sculptor Shannon Goff approached Lovely co-owner Brooke Dailey about temporarily placing a piece there: a nine-foot-tall, plywood replica of a hand-crank eggbeater.
The sculpture’s a nod to Goff’s childhood spent working at her family’s 24-hour diner, where she says the industrial-size kitchen equipment felt like “big, oversize toys.” She placed the sculpture in Lovely’s front window, where it will remain until it sells.
The sculpture is functional—if you turn the hand crank, the beaters will spin—and Dailey says she (and her customers) have grown fond of it. She’s “in talks” to keep it permanently, though she has yet to figure out the funding. 1130 N Milwaukee Ave (773-572-4766).—Erin Ensign
’80s tribute at New Wave Coffee
A rotating selection of about eight framed album covers, including skinny-tie faves like Blondie’s Eat to the Beat, the Cars’s eponymous debut and Duran Duran’s Rio, hang behind the cash register of this Logan Square café. Cyan, magenta, yellow and black floor tiles are laid out in “exploding square” patterns in front of the counter à la Space Invaders.
“I was noticing a resurgence of ’80s fashion, with women wearing leg warmers and Flashdance sweatshirts,” says owner Zach Zulauf of his inspiration for the Reagan-era decor. “The two age bubbles I saw in the neighborhood were cool, young parents who grew up in the ’80s and twentysomethings who are just finding out about the decade. So that gave us cover to make the shop playful and funky.” 2557 N Milwaukee Ave (773-489-0646).—John Greenfield
Spaceship chic at Atomix
Taking inspiration from ’50s tin toys and spaceships, Atomix is an ode to the Sputnik era, says original owner Adam Paul, who sold the shop to open the recently shuttered vegan takeout spot Life on Mars. A giant mural of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin painted by Juan Angel Chavez takes up an entire wall. The furniture includes Eisenhower-era school desks and chairs in institutional colors. A sign on the counter announces, UNTIL THE ROBOTS ARRIVE, PLEASE BUS YOUR TABLES!!! YOUR FELLOW HUMANS THANK YOU EXTREMELY MUCH. It all fits in with the shop’s tag line, “The future of coffee.” 1957 W Chicago Ave (312-666-2649).—John Greenfield
Goofy collages at Coffee & Tea Exchange
Like the three sister shops Peter Longo runs in Manhattan, Lakeview’s outpost keeps its freshly roasted beans out where you can see (and smell) them, in large wooden barrels. At the Chicago shop, opened in ’75 by Longo and Steve Siefer, the barrels are covered with Plexiglas discs bearing taped-on pictures of, among other things, mean old ladies smoking, Jim Henson cuddling with Kermit and a skeptical lemur next to the headline WHO’S YOUR DADDY? trimmed out of what the font tells us is an old Us Weekly. As varieties cycle out, or lids become sun-bleached next to the store’s huge windows, the staff strips and redecorates the quirky covers.
“We always have at least one artist working here,” says manager Lauren Winter, who’s also Siefer’s daughter. “We usually make them do it because, you know, they’re creative.” 3311 N Broadway (773-528-2241).—Zachary Whittenburg