Best place to remind yourself print isn’t dead

Many coffee shops now function primarily as coworking spaces for the laptop-bound, but City News Cafe in Portage Park is still unabashedly devoted to the printed word, with racks upon racks of magazines, both famous and obscure.

There are magazines for serious photographers, budding musicians, and fans of fashion and fine art. Comics and graphic novels have a section, too, as do coloring books and sudoku puzzles, and the cafe offers an unparalleled selection of regional publications hailing from towns from Maine to California. There are periodicals about planes, trains, and automobiles, and an extensive selection of Fire Apparatus Journal (which is exactly what it sounds like). City News has books, too—music biographies, science, popular history, and plenty of Chicago-centric fare, often at discount prices. And yes, adult magazines still exist, it turns out. They’re in their own little back section, roped off and shrink-wrapped for their protection.

City Newsstand and City News Cafe
4018 N. Cicero
Mon–Sun 9 AM–10 PM

Up front, the cozy cafe section serves hot beverages, scones, and kołaczki, along with City News signature chocolate truffles. And on weekends, an old-school coffee shop vibe sets in, as folk and jazz musicians play to singalong crowds who happily slide their change into the tip jar. Other customers simply enjoy a background soundtrack for their reading, browsing, and munching. A chess club plays on Sundays, and City News also regularly hosts silent film screenings complete with live music, just to add to the retro sensation.

But it would be a mistake to think of the cafe as merely a 20th-century throwback. For starters, there’s Wi-Fi—in fact, there are three wireless networks linked to three different Internet providers, with speed test data from each posted alongside the passwords. And City News has a robust social media presence: recent posts urged customers to hurry down while Time’s Person of the Year edition was still in stock and to order a box of those chocolate truffles in time for Valentine’s Day. Rather than just a cozy anachronism, City News Cafe feels like a portal to a more hospitable dimension, where the digital and analog manage to peacefully coexist.

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