I went to Europe last fall to join my friend, Naomie (she’s the talented photographer behind the blog’s pictures). She was studying in Brussels for a semester, so I decided to escape before Montreal’s big stormy winter for a bit.
One day, as we were wandering around and discovering cafes/eats/boutiques all cooler than the next, we entered Chicago Café, located on the (hip) Rue de Flandre. For the décor, they had recycled theater seats scattered a little bit everywhere, and the tasty americano they served me was so good, I wanted to share this place with you guys. I talked with Fouad Benarbia, one of the three owners, so he can tell me more about his conceptual-not-conceptual coffee shop.
What do you do at Chicago Cafe?
I essentially take care of the “art direction”. Mr. Ramzi, the second associate, is nicknamed Mr. The Builder. He understands every technical issue and can repair them all. Finally, Julie, the third partner, is the face of the place – she loves greeting and talking to clients.
Can you tell me about the concept of your project?
Honestly, I don’t like the term “concept”, it implies too much effort… Obviously, we thought the project out before launching it, but nothing too intense! Oppositely, we wanted to reach a level of simplicity and naivety. In the end, it’s mostly about not being conceptual.
How would you describe the atmosphere?
We like coffee shops where everyone feels at ease. I hate cool places in which the barista is super stylish and tries to drip the PERFECT cappuccino. My mom would certainly not feel comfortable there and I think about her first when I work. Not about the cool kids in the neighborhood.
However, I’m not aiming for that vintage coffee shop where all the tableware and furniture come from my childhood. We’re in 2015, let’s live in the present for Christ’s sake!
Our main goal is to provide an oasis where all generations can cohabit without any cultural discrimination. I’m aware that there are many other places doing this exact same thing, sometimes better and sometimes worse. Nonetheless, I hope people will come here to enjoy what we tried to achieve: an environment that is calm, tasteful and, most importantly, for everybody.
What can we expect food wise?
Au menu: english, arabic and french breakfasts. Also Belgian standards, croque-monsieurs, burgers, quesadillas, jacket potatoes and homemade pastries.
What are your plans for 2015?
Collaborations! We want to build a cantina that will gather young and elderly people to chat and exchange.
What do you like the most about your job?
Seeing people satisfied when they leave the cafe.
Coffee shops are so personal to everybody. Some people purely enjoy gourmet caffeinated drinks while others are in search of an inspiring oasis where they can work. Tell me about your favourite spot!