For here or to go? The coffee shops of Hyde Park

Nicky Edwards-Levin, Arts Editor

In Hyde Park, Coffee Shops buzz with the hum of excited college students just getting the year underway. Professors and graduate students work computers crammed onto the crowded tables wearing earbuds.

Some people snack on a sandwich, others have finished their food long ago and some make a small cup of tea last the whole afternoon.

True North, Plein Air and Philz are all Hyde Park coffee options if you want a nice spot to work (if you can find one) and you don’t care too much about fancy food or fairly hefty price tags.

True North, which resides on 57th Street right next to Medici, has embraced a somewhat hipster vibe — from the darkened lighting to the slightly worn-down cutouts of Chicago icons on the wall, to the adventurous and very green smoothies.

Though the quality of the food or drink isn’t exceptionally good or bad, that isn’t so much what you are paying for. Your money can be thought of as much as a form of rent for a table as the cost for a bagel.

The food, though certainly expensive, is thoroughly enjoyable; $4.75 for a bagel with delightful chive, green pepper, cream-cheese is still expensive. The smoothies are also somewhat pricey, at $6.80.

Plein Air, just around the corner from True North, provides a more elevated, culinary-focused environment that is still perfect for anybody who wants to pack a computer and join the overwhelming majority of university members doing work. The lighting is open, providing a clean and welcoming environment, despite the claustrophobic nature of the line system and the surrounding seats.

The food and drink at Plein Air is a step above that of True North. The menu feels more put-together and higher-end. Rather than a simple grilled cheese, Plein Air provides a brioche bun with manchego cheese, piquillo peppers and caramelized onions for $8.95. Depending on what you’re looking for, Plein Air is either the perfect step up, or a possibly pretentious expense.

Philz, the recently expanded San Francisco coffee joint, lives on the corner of Blackstone Avenue and 53rd Street.

The most Starbucks-like of the three, it clearly feels like a chain — the look of the space is more thought-out and meticulously planned. The art on the wall feels curated and not quite as genuine as True North or Plein Air.

The process for ordering food at Philz is rather strange but certainly effective. Initially you give your order to the barista who begins to make your order, and then you walk across the space to the cashier, where you can also purchase any pastries or savory snacks you desire, such as a bagel with cream cheese, cucumber and tomato or a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Both of these snacks, pair delightfully with the truly delicious hot chocolate.

If you feel like getting some work done in a place other than at home, give one of these three Hyde Park coffee spots a try. You won’t be alone — there are surely plenty of UChicago students and teachers to join you, and you can even get a yummy meal out of the deal, even if it might be a bit expensive.