Maura Johnston
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It should come as no surprise that a coffeehouse near a college campus would attract college students looking for a caffeine fix. Maybe the bigger surprise is that more coffee houses don’t follow the lead of Kafein and give it to them when they really need it.

Kafein, located just south of the Northwestern University campus on Chicago Avenue, has been pouring cups of coffee for more than 20 years. And it does it well into the late-night hours. Kafein is open from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. As you can see, they aren’t catering to the commuter crowd.

“We’ve got good food, good coffee and a good place to study,” said Kafein’s owner Sony Javid, who also owns Café Descartes, which has seven locations in Chicago.

A native of Pakistan, Javid grew up in the coffee culture. He opened his first business in 1991—an espresso cart at the University of Illinois Chicago.

“Coffee has always been my passion,” he said. “I like that Kafein is a place to enjoy coffee and meet new people.”

Kafein definitely has the vibe of a local, indy coffeehouse that expects people to hang around for a while. It’s extensive menu offers beverages for just about any taste—it has any coffee concoction you could want, plus chai teas, juices, sodas, milks, and what they call Zombies, which feature three shots of espresso, milk, coffee and whipped cream. If that doesn’t help you stay up for an all-nighter, nothing will.

Andrew Seaman

Anyone with a sweet tooth also will appreciate the ice cream, cakes, pies and shakes available at Kafein. But that’s not to say Kafein is a place that just draws in college kids in search of caffeine and sugar. With its location in downtown Evanston, Kafein is a great place to relax after a meal, and the patio makes for an excellent hang-out on warm evenings. For those looking for lunch, or even dinner, good sandwiches and salad are available.

But what really drives people to Kafein are the extensive variety of coffee drinks, ice cream and sweets. Take your pick from literally dozens of mochas and milkshakes. Take a date. Take your time. Take a walk around downtown Evanston and stop in for a snack. This isn’t a place to grab a to-go cup and run to the el. Kafein rewards those who enjoy lingering in a creative space with creative people—and really enjoy their coffee.


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