A Taxonomy of Chicago Starbucks

Kati Heng


A map of Chicago’s Starbucks.

I live in Chicago and I go to Starbucks usually three times a week and 95% of the time I order the exact same thing: a Grande Dirty Chai. The results are always different.


The Starbucks at Dearborn & Division

I used to work right in the neighborhood, so I’d go here all the time. This one barista (is it baristo for a guy? That looks wrong; it’s now unisex for the rest of this article. And forever), I think his name was Mario?, worked the register most of the time, and he began to remember my drink and eventually he remembered my name, too. Then one day, he wasn’t even working the register when it was my turn to order, but he ran over, and was like “Hey, Kati, I got your dirty chai!,” and then when I got my drink, saw he didn’t even write my name on the cup, he just drew a heart on it. I had to take away a star because Mario should have watched more Meg Ryan movies/known that you’re supposed to write your number, not just draw a heart, if you want to get the girl, plus, she should probably be single, too.

Star Rating (Based on My Experience): ★★★★

$$$$$ Rating (How Much I Actually Spend There): $$$$$


The Starbucks inside the Barnes & Noble at State & Elm

So one day I ran here on a break from work, went to the counter and told the kid grande dirty chai, and he was all, “okay, cool. How do I make that?” Apparently, the ENTIRE staff of the Starbucks quit within a single week, so the B&N just pulled kids from the fiction section and plopped them in front of the espresso machine with no training. I had to walk this boy through everything from how to charge me for my order, to how to make the chai, when to add the espresso – everything. Also, I got it wrong somewhere so it tasted gross. This is why I pay for someone to do it for me. It still got 3 bucks because I stop in sometimes for soda. They have better soda than a traditional Starbucks.



The Starbucks at Rush & Oak

Also known as the “fancy-ass Starbucks,” or the “Rich Person Starbucks.” It’s one of two Starbucks in the city that’s trying this “Starbucks at Night” thing were they serve fancier small plates, like meat skewers with some vaguely Asian sauce, and wine. YOU CAN ORDER WINE AT THIS STARBUCKS. Which, you basically have to, because all the customers in here are bitches who stare you down for your seat and talk into space about what broadwidth is this Wi-fi? It only gets four stars because I just remembered that one time a barista (girl) told me she liked my outfit when I wasn’t even trying.




The Starbucks at Michigan & Adams

This is the other Starbucks in Chicago that offers “Starbucks at Night” booze options. It’s also the closest ‘bucks to my current office. But it is the worst, guys. Everyone who works there looks depressed. I used to go there all the time, since it’s right by my office, but I had to stop because they messed up my order like 75% of the time. Also, it’s super loud, so my cups always said “Casey” or some shit like that. Also, they weren’t even dirty chais. Sometimes they were tea. I may have picked up the wrong drink 75% of the time. Ok, I’ll give them two stars, because that could be on me, but only two, because, seriously, smile people. Like, once a week.




The Starbucks at State & Adams

My current place. I think it’s The One. The first time I knew? I said “Grande Dirty Chai,” and the boy at the counter was like “how dirty?” in this creepy, pornographic voice, then the girl on the register next to him was all, “oh my god!!” and we all had a good laugh. Plus, every time I go to the end of the bar to pick up my drink, the man calls it out “Kati’s Signature Dirty Chai!” Like, how adorable is that? I have a signature drink! It’s like I’m Lady Gaga, basically.




The Starbucks at Clark & Diversey

I guess there’s nothing *really* wrong with it, it’s just the most boring Starbucks I’ve ever been to. I’ve been there at least five times and I can’t even remember any interaction except eavesdropping on these two old ladies sitting near me and giving up after five minutes because their conversation was so boring. This Starbucks is a Target Starbucks without a Target.



A Starbucks Somewhere In Wicker Park

Last summer, I was SO PUMPED that Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti was playing at the Do Division Street Festival that I showed up for the party wayyyy early. It would have been fine, but it was one of those gross fluke weather days where it went from sunny to pouring buckets in an hour, and I was alone. So I tried to tough-girl it out and sit in the rain. A guy I was sitting near offered me a Keystone Light from his backpack and I thought what the hell and drank it. Eventually I got hungry, too, so I bought fair food, but not the good stuff from Carriage House or the nice places represented, just the crappy ambiguous meat on a stick. A little while later, after sitting in the rain some more, I started feeling real sick, but I didn’t want to go home, so I walked in some direction, saw a Starbucks, ran into it’s bathroom and puked. I wanted to buy something so I wasn’t a total douche bag of Adam Levine proportions, but since it was street fest time, the line was sooo long, so I just left. I’m sorry, Starbucks.


I owe you $


The Starbucks in Andersonville (Clark & Berwyn)

Ah, the days before I had internet in my apartment. I used to spend so many hours here. All the staff is super nice and also, decisive. Sometimes when I’m the ONLY person even close to being in line and I need to get something besides a dirty chai because maybe it’s summer and I’m hot or maybe I’ve been at this Starbucks for four hours, I like to bounce my order off the barista, like “do I want a Refresher or just iced tea?” There’s nothing I hate more than when I ask and the barista is like, “WHOA GIRL, I don’t know your life, pick your own damn drink!” Because really, for $5, can’t a girl get a latte and like, some semblance of advice? Anyway, once I went to the counter and said “I want something cold,” the barista said “I’ll make you something and if you hate it, it’s on me,” and I LOVED it.




The Starbucks at O’Hare

I don’t even remember if this has extra expensive prices or if the staff is even nice, because I don’t even care. By the time I land, or by the time I’ve gotten here, checked my bags and gotten through security, they could spit on me and charge $20 and I’d still get coffee here.


All of my $$$ if they want


The Starbucks at Midway Airport

Oh wait, they don’t HAVE a Starbucks at Midway Airport. Not because they have a Caribou Coffee or a Dunn Bros, or any other coffee shop, either. IT’S THE WORST. I have to get my coffee at Potbelly’s, and this is one of the worst parts of my life at the moment. I have a pretty easy life.


THE ABILITY TO HAVE $$$$$$ (Attn: Midway Airport)


The Starbucks inside the North & Clybourn Red Line Stop

I’ve only been here once, but it was on this amazing Saturday night. My best friend had the deepest desire to go to this bar called Exit he thought was a club. I was kinda sleepy as soon as we got off the train, so I picked up a drink for the walk to this bar, that, when we got there, turned out to be like the hardcorest biker bar in Chicago where abortions probably happened in the alley. He was so disappointed because he really thought we were going to have fun dancing in our black skinny jeans, so I tried to cheer him up by buying him shot after shot of tequila. Eventually, we decided it was time to give up, so I went to pay my tab, and when I got back to where he was sitting, he was talking to this HUGE greasy biker guy, complimenting him on his bandanna. THEN HE STARTED PLAYING WITH HIS BEARD. My friend, a little boy in skinny jeans, was playing with this biker’s beard and I could see this guy was about to kill him, so I cut in, grabbed my friend and we ran out, and all I can say is THANK GOD I had a latte before all this occurred so I was awake for it.




The Starbucks at Broadway & Roscoe

I hear you when you say “ugh, that street is just full of young married couples! Yuck!” But you know what young married couples have that I don’t? CUTE GOLDEN RETRIEVERS, BLACK LABS AND BEAGLES. And do you know who can’t come inside Starbucks? DOGS. And what does this all add up to? KATI GOING H.A.M. ALL OVER THE PUPPIES TIED TO BENCHES OUTSIDE THIS STARBUCKS.




The Starbucks by Wrigley Field

I go here a lot before going to concerts at the Metro. The trick is to go on days the Cubs aren’t playing, because then you get coffee. Free, even, sometimes. Once, I had a lot of time to kill before a show and went up to the counter and just point-blank said I don’t know what I want. Then the guy making drinks is like, I’m making you something right now! And it turned out to be a Vanilla Latte, which is a solid drink, and I was like, where do I pay, and he said don’t worry about it! Plus, they always have Birthday Cake Pops. Birthday Cake Pops are THE BOMB.