Sawada Coffee is a collaboration between Japanese barista and champion latte artist Hiroshi Sawada and prominent Chicago restaurant group Hogsalt Hospitality. Both Sawada and Hogsalt are renowned for their style and attention to detail and they have come together to create one of the best coffee experiences in the city.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Christopher Blatner Contributing writer
Sawada Coffee is one of the most unique coffee shops in Chicago because of its stunning assault on your senses.
When you first step inside you’re hit with the smoky smell of barbecue. Unexpected … until you realize Sawada shares its space with the barbecue restaurant Green Street Smoked Meats. But as you approach the coffee bar you begin to take in a sweet, grassy scent mixed with the deep roasted aroma of fresh ground coffee beans and brewed coffee. That sweet, grassy smell is matcha green tea, the key ingredient in many of Sawada’s drinks and most importantly their signature drink, the Military Latte.
This is where the assault on your taste buds happens. The Military Latte is a diabolical mash-up of matcha powder, espresso, cocoa powder, vanilla syrup, and milk. It’s unlike any latte you’ve ever had, a must try.
While enjoying your latte you may hear anything from the country twang of Waylon Jennings to the futuristic sounds of VHS Collective to the soulful hits of Motown coming over the airwaves.
The constant advance on your sense of taste continues with a variety of drinks infused with the aromatic matcha powder, including a green tea latte, a cortado, and an Americano. The tea-infused menu also includes The Black Camo, which is made with a charcoal-roasted green tea. Sawada Coffee also crafts righteous espresso drinks using beans specially blended for them by local roaster Metropolis Coffee Company. The espresso can be ordered by the shot, in lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, mochas, and Americanos. If you’re feeling like something stronger, there is a menu of “Boozy Steamers” featuring sake, bourbon, scotch, and shochu prepared steamed or iced, and mixed with coffee, tea, or cider depending on what you pick.
The Sawada space is also visually stunning. The café sits on a mezzanine that is carved out of a storage room once used by the barbecue restaurant. The industrial style café is painted black and corrugated metal sheets are bolted to the walls, retaining some of its old storage room aesthetic. A wall of windows faces the street outside and floods the space with natural light. A heavy wooden Ping-Pong table anchors the room, with built-in stools perched around it. Extension cords drop from the ceiling down to the table, inviting remote workers to plug-in and stay awhile. Golden-hued string lights hang from the ceiling throughout the café and the restaurant giving a comfortable glow to the two spaces.
The vibe is upbeat and energetic thanks to the eclectic soundtrack playing through the sound system. The playlists are definitely curated by someone that knows how to set a mood. We found ourselves pulling out our phones more than a few times to Shazam a song and happily discovered quite a bit of music that was new to us. While enjoying your latte you may hear anything from the country twang of Waylon Jennings to the futuristic sounds of VHS Collective to the soulful hits of Motown coming over the airwaves.
Sawada Coffee stands out as one of the most unique coffee experiences you will encounter in Chicago and the country. They are expertly blending coffee, tea, design, and atmosphere into a must-see event.
Entertainment? Head to The Front Room for live jazz or a DJ spinning classic jazz records, or upstairs to the Backdoor Saloon for late-night burlesque shows
Hungry? No need to look further than Green Street Smoked Meats to get a barbecue fix.
Cocktail time? Get yourself over to Lone Wolf Tavern for a strong old-fashioned