Secret Spot: A Hidden Coffee Shop in Chicago’s Loop

Hero Coffee is located in a private Chicago alley

In a place as busy as the Loop, it pays to stop and look around. You might stumble on a secret Chicago cafe tucked between the thundering tracks of Wabash Avenue and throngs of State Street’s retail warriors. Hero Coffee Bar offers a tiny caffeine reprieve with a European feel.

Secret Street

Pickwick Place is a private alley just steps from Jackson Boulevard. It was hidden behind a steel gate until 22. East Jackson became a coffee shop in 2014. The tiny, 19-by-19-foot space only adds to the alley’s quaint appeal. A few guests at a time can squeeze in to order at the takeout counter.Pickwick Place is a secret Chicago street in the Loop

“It was this weird little place in Chicago that history had kind of forgotten about.”
– Jeff Liberman, Asado Coffee

Hero Coffee Bar is located in Chicago's Pickwick Place

Abson's English Chophouse once stood in Pickwick Place
Source: Patrick T. Reardon

Loop Legacy

Stepping onto the brick pavement of Pickwick Place transports you into Chicago history. The little shop at the end of the lane is one of the oldest buildings in the Loop. Owner Henry Horner constructed the building as a stable in 1892. Horner’s grandson of the same name went on to become governor of Illinois. Over the last century, the building was home to many businesses. Abson’s Chop House was a favorite restaurant of downtown bankers and politicians from 1871 to 1900.

Brewing Up History

Hero Coffee’s compact, 275-square-foot interior pays tribute to the building’s past. The original, exposed brick walls have hosted both stable boys and stock brokers. The characteristic brick is complimented by concrete floors and columns and handmade concrete tiles. A reclaimed oak wine barrel wall and pendant lights offer restrained decoration in the simple space. The building’s past as a meat chop house is referenced by the oak counter tops. It’s industrial yet warm, a vintage space with the comforts of stainless appliances and seasonal lattes.Exposed brick in the historic setting Chicago's tiny Hero Coffee Bar

If Harry Potter lived in Chicago, he’d find his way to the world of magic not through Diagon Alley but along tiny cobblestone Pickwick Lane in the heart of the Loop.
– Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune

A skybridge above Pickwick Place in Chicago

Cafe Culture

The lack of indoor seating brings cafe culture into the alley with tables in warmer weather. Strings of overhead lights reflected on the brick street warm up the lane that was so long forgotten. Even as the glow of Pickwick Place invites you in, don’t forget to look up. A multistory skybridge connects the student housing buildings on either side of the former stable. As progress moves above and around you, enjoy a taste of the past at Pickwick Place.
Hero Coffee Bar
22 E Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
Sources

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