NOBLE SQUARE — A cafe serving coffee, doughnuts, bagels and more has opened in Noble Square.
Engine Coffee, 1109 N. Ashland Ave., opened in late May. It is owned by wife-and-husband team Carly Boers and Matt Brown, who are new to the coffee industry.
Boers is a freelance journalist who has covered the Chicago food and restaurant industry and was the former dining editor for Chicago Magazine. Brown previously managed several properties around Chicago, including the building Engine calls home.
A furniture dealer left the space during the pandemic and Brown was having trouble finding a tenant. That’s when he starting thinking it might be a good location for a coffee shop, especially for neighbors east of Ashland Avenue in Noble Square.
“I know that there’s plenty of [coffee] options across Ashland and Division for people to go to, but I think that this area is a little underserved, and I just wanted something a little more low-key,” he said.
Brown said he’s hired experienced baristas with more expertise in coffee to help him. Boers has leaned on her knowledge of the local food scene to connect with bakers and companies for Engine’s food offerings.
The shop sells doughnuts from Brite Donuts and Baked Goods, breakfast tacos from Cafe Tola and bagels on Saturdays from Pretty Good Bagels. Brown and Boers are also featuring a pimento cheese spread from Bif Cheese, a local company that also started during the pandemic. Coffee beans are from Big Shoulders.
The emphasis on food is what Brown and Boers hope sets their shop apart from others nearby.
“I will go out of my way to go to a coffee shop that I know has good food offerings, and I can’t be alone in that. So I started trying to think of who we could tap into that maybe places nearby don’t have,” Boers said.
Engine’s name has a few inspirations, chiefly the fire station down the block, Brown said. A photo of Brown’s grandfather, who was a firefighter, also hangs in the shop. And the espresso machine Brown ended up buying is bright red, complementing the shop’s red front door.
“We just started spitballing and came up with Engine Coffee,” Brown said.
Engine will also featuring rotating art from local artists. Later this month, the shop is hosting an exhibition featuring the work of Black femme and non-binary artists, which will be displayed through July.
Boers said Engine also plans to host early morning events for families, including regular storytimes.
“As parents, we know that we are up at the crack of dawn and looking for some sort of free entertainment,” she said, laughing.
Brown said he hopes Engine will serve as a relaxed, unpretentious spot in the neighborhood where people can work on their laptops or grab a coffee on their way to the nearby Division Street Blue Line station. The couple plans to expand Engine’s food and drink menu as they get the business off the ground.
“I love Intelligentsia and those kinds of places, but I always feel a little bit intimidated when I’m going in, because I like coffee, I just don’t know what I like sometimes,” he said. “I just wanted a place where people could come in, relax, try new coffees, try new food.”
Engine Coffee is open 7 a.m.- 3 p.m. daily.
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