Trend Alert: Vices Make Their Way Into Tea and Coffee Shops

Get ready to cede to temptation, because bad habits are all around us at coffee shops, restaurants, and afternoon tea services. It appears that cigars and booze-infused teas and cafe treats are on-trend, because they're popping up throughout Chicago, making it that much easier to give in to vices. As if indulgent steaks, steamers, and pastries weren't excessive enough, now we're swayed by added temptations. 


Virgin Hotel
Afternoon tea gets boozy at the Virgin Hotel.

Let's start with cigars. Although less harmful (and less illegal) than lighting up a cigarette or a joint inside a restaurant, cigars can now be found and purchased at a new downtown steakhouse and a new Humboldt Park coffee shop. For Prime & Provisions, a new steakhouse from the DineAmic Group (Public House, Siena Tavern, Bull & Bear), cigars are a natural extension. Harkening to a bygone, Mad Men-esque era of American excess, Prime & Provisions offers a menu section devoted to cigars, which run the gamut from world-famous cigar-makers to Prime & Provisions' very own custom-blended cigar, dubbed Provisiones. It ties in to the upscale American lore of rounding out a nice steak dinner with a cigar, which ties in nicely with Prime & Provisions' atmosphere of American pomp and circumstance. Patrons at Prime & Provisions will be able to smoke said cigars in a designated area alongside the outdoor patio. 

Steakhouses aren't the only ones getting into the cigar game. Prolific restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff is hopping aboard the bandwagon in an unlikely setting: his new Humboldt Park coffee shop. C.C. Ferns is a new cafe space located around the corner from his California Clipper. Along with the expected portfolio of caffeine (plus doughnuts), C.C. Ferns features an entire wall of cigars. Stock up on the smoky vittles while partaking in that other vice available at this most tempting of coffee shops: boozy steamers. A chunk of the concise menu is devoted to liquor, which is odd and surprising considering the cafe is only open until 3:00 p.m., clearly enabling and encouraging day-drinking. OK! These steamers are masterfully made with the precision of a seasoned mixologist, available in combos like Scotch-almond-honey. 

Speaking of morning provisions infused with liquor, I recently stumbled upon and inhaled a whiskey-infused scone from Caffe Streets. The slick Wicker Park coffee shop has really upped its pastry game as of late, extending their housemade wares to a whole litany of unexpected treats. Rounded out with white chocolate, the whiskey-splashed scone boasts a caramel-y and slightly nutty tinge, which sits particularly well with their cayenne-spiced Vietnamese iced coffee. 

And moving on to more booze-infused repasts, let's talk about the newly implemented afternoon tea service at the Virgin Hotel. Available in the second-floor Commons Club dining area, afternoon tea achieves a whole new level with the addition of tea-infused cocktails. Much more than elegant hot teas, of which there are plenty here, you'll find snazzy tea cocktails like the Pomp and Circumstance made with gin, Chareau aloe liqueur, blue cornflower petal, butterfly pea tea, and passion fruit; and the Sunny Day in London made with gin, brandy, sherry, black tea, honey, and cream. They match nicely with the hotel's assorted dainty scones, chocolate tartlets, and finger sandwiches. 

Downstairs from the Commons Club, you'll find Two Zero Three, a coffee shop that morphs handily into a wine bar once it becomes socially acceptable to do so. Coffee is available all day long — the espresso machine is tucked away behind a door that features the wine menu — and wine and other booze joins the fray in the afternoon. 

- Matt Kirouac