Once a simple coffee kiosk on the George Washington University’s campus in D.C., Sol Café has since transformed into a bright, open Chicago spot that offers so much more than just a cup of coffee. When café owner Simone Freeman heard that the Rogers Park neighborhood needed a business to service its diverse community, she stepped up to the plate. “Rogers Park is extremely diverse, racially and socioeconomically,” said Freeman, “I wanted to open a café that provided something to everybody, something that tastes good without breaking the bank.”
Freeman delivers on her promise in her Howard Avenue coffee shop. Spacious and clean, Sol Café draws in both the young and the old for a variety of classic and specialty coffee and tea beverages, pastries from local bakeries such as Bennison’s, and snacks ranging from gluten-free KIND bars to Snickers and Reese’s. Thrifty customers can stop in for a cup of coffee from Bow Truss or Passion House, two local roasters, for just $1.35 (a “tall” at Norbucks will cost you $1.65 for comparison’s sake), while coffee connoisseurs can choose from a variety of coffee shop classics like lattes, mochas and chais. Sol also offers several specialty house beverages. The Afternoon Delight combines green and jasmine teas, vanilla and your choice of milk (Sol recommends soy) for a perfectly soothing drink on a chilly spring afternoon.
Sol’s purpose, however, does not lie in coffee sales; Freeman’s primary reason for relocating to Rogers Park was to provide a much-needed hub for the neighborhood. Sol uses coffee to bring the community together: it hosts a running club on Sundays, free double feature movie nights with a coffee concession stand and evening dance classes led by local instructors. Freeman even has plans for a “study in” — she wants to keep the shop open all night during finals week so that students from Loyola, Northwestern and the surrounding area can have a separate space to unwind, grab a cup of joe and settle in for a night of hard work. Sol acts as a blank canvas for any Rogers Park residents to come in and promote their businesses — literally. The brick walls of the café are studded with collections by local artists, which Freeman rotates on a monthly basis so that every painter gets some time in the spotlight.
The ten minute El ride to Sol Café is entirely worth it; skip the old Kafein routine and head to Sol for a new scene and a cheaper cup.
Address: 1615 W. Howard Ave., Chicago IL 60202 (right off the Howard stop on the red line)
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri: 7am to 7pm, Sat: 8am to 6pm, Sun: 8am to 5pm