Free Wi-Fi in Uptown Chicago, Pt. 1

Log on like a Superhero! How to get free Wi-Fi in Uptown, while dodging bullets.

"Uptown Theater Marquee," from Red Line Project, via Make It Like a Man! Free Wi-Fi in Uptown

When I’m not manning the kitchen, I’m looking for a spot to drink coffee, grab a bite, and write. In its Log On series, miLam will tell you where to find such places, with free Wi-Fi, in Chicago.

Free Wi-Fi in Uptown

Log On, Chicago. Edition I/i

Broadway & Lawrence Starbucks

4 Stars (4 / 5)

As far as I know, no one’s ever been shot in this Starbucks.

"Uptown T-Shirt," from Red Bubble, via Make It Like a Man! Free Wi-Fi in UptownYeah, it’s Uptown. One day, people will be fighting for the window seats Uptown’s cafés. But what, with brain parasites, neurotoxins, the Real Rage virus, neurogenesis, and nanobots, we’ll all be zombies  by then. Meanwhile, enjoy the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. This is the 1st of a multi-part post that will give you the low-down on free Uptown Wi-Fi.

Can you work or study here? Yes. There’s a lot of room to spread out here with your laptop. Plugs: It’s kind of dark near the floor, so it’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t seem like there are enough plugs. In the back, there’s a row of tables along the wall. There are plugs along that wall, but they’re not near the floor; they’re higher up on the wall than you’d expect, under the table tops. The curved bank of windows in the front corner is cool, but, tragically, I don’t believe there are any plugs there. If you’re hanging out here late enough that the Green Mill sign is lit: bonus. NEW!→ This summer: outside seating. Breakfast-time shade, generously provided by the Bridgeview Bank building, makes your laptop screen easy to see. No outdoor plugs; who would expect them? The seating section is next to a major bus stop in a district with, surely, the greatest representation of certifiably crazy Chicagoans per capita, so there are scads of distractions. If it’s not the man in the hospital gown, over a camo safari shirt, with super-size, unlaced high-tops, who’s drunk-stumbling across Lawrence … it’s the guy in the 70’s gym shorts with a black leather vest (no shirt) and baseball cap, swaying to whatever he’s got coming through his radio over-the-earphones, complete with 12″ antenna. ←6/16/14 Bathrooms? This joint doesn’t have its own bathrooms. Instead, you go out the backdoor, which leads directly into the bank building, and use the restrooms at the end of the hall – which are actually nicer than any Starbucks bathroom I’ve ever enjoyed … or endured … or let’s say “experienced.”

Coffee: good, as usual.

6/16/2014, 8:05 – 10 AM
3/3/2014, 12:52 – 2:00 PM
4600 N Magnolia Ave

Why Choose this Place?

Because you love a fixer-upper. This is a great place to meet the urban frontiersman of your dreams.

Tank Noodle, from Make It Like a Man! Free Wi-Fi in Uptown

Tank Noodle

Because you need to come to terms with phở. You may regard Asian restaurants the same way you do tigers and snakes: fascinating in captivity, but frightening in the wild. In other words, any Asian restaurant that is not confined to a strip mall or food court scares the beejesus out of you. You need to get over that, and this neighborhood is a good place to start. Why don’t you start with some phở?

The most important thing about phở is that nobody knows how to pronounce it. No matter how your friends say it, it’s critical that you tell them that they’re wrong. Insist on it.

The second most important thing to know about phở is that it’s a delicious soup. Imagine Ramen noodles. Now imagine that Ramen noodles were made out of something other than chemicals. OK, now imagine that this imaginary biologically-based Ramen soup were as tasty as something your grandmother might make, with fresh herbs and tasty pieces of beef or chicken. And finally, let’s say that all these years, you had no idea that your grandmother was Vietnamese. That’s phở. Let me suggest Tank Noodle to you. Don’t be fooled by all the Caucasians you see through the floor-to-ceiling windows; this place is fantastic.

Le's Pho, from Make It Like a Man! Free Wi-Fi in Uptown

Le’s Phở

You might also try Le’s Phở. My second favorite thing about this place is that they’re so organized, they segregate the diners alphabetically and make them enter through separate doors (see photo). But my first favorite thing is that if your name starts with K-Z, you don’t even get to eat here! That’s how exclusive this place is! My third favorite thing about Le’s Phở is that Urban Spoon can’t bear the thought of listing it as an Uptown restaurant. They refer to its location as “Uptown/Edgewater.” C’mon. No one in Uptown gets shot that far north of Lawrence! You don’t have to pretty it up for us, Urban Spoon.

Because you’re tired of all your Jewels. And your Whole Foods. And your Trader Joe’s. And you’re afraid to step foot inside a J.J. Peppers[1]. If you’re looking for a store with an entire aisle of different soy sauces, Uptown has many from which to choose. Some of them will remind you of your own white-bread grocery store once you get inside. Others won’t look familiar to you in any way. You’ll wonder if you’re even allowed inside. These are the ones you should definitely go into! They’re awesome! And don’t worry, as soon as they get one look at you, they’ll speak English politely and you’ll realize that the only one who thinks this is weird in any way is you.


[1] J.J. Peppers: Follow the link to J.J.’s Yelp review if you like. I’ll summarize it for you: “isn’t heavy on the crazies,” “one scary place,” “the homeless … are completely harmless,” “sketchy,” “great beer selection.” Sometimes, the staff at J.J.’s is high, and that can make a trip there truly amusing. But I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you that this past summer I walked past J.J.’s just as someone was shot in the parking lot. So, wear your running shoes.

Other places to log on: Archer Heights, Boystown, Edgewater Beach, Fulton River District, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Pilsen, Ravenswood, Rogers Park, West Loop, Wicker Park, West Town

Next→Wilson/Mag Strbcks

Candied Ginger
Jeff's Ginger Whiskey Highball (My Leftover Hangover)

7 thoughts on “Free Wi-Fi in Uptown Chicago, Pt. 1

  1. In the Uptown section, you failed to mention Fiesta Mexicana and Inspirations Kitchen. Both of these are worth checking out.

    • A overwhelmingly tragic oversight; I agree. I recently completed a quest to eat every possible taco at Fiesta Mexicana: every possible variation of shell type, filling, condiments, etc. A rewarding quest. However, my favorite of their menu items is, by far, sauteed calamari. Many of you probably know calamari in its deep-fried version. This is nothing like that.

      I’ve never been to Inspirations. I’ve heard only good things. It’s an incredible concept for a restaurant, and sounds worthy of support.

    • Yes, I have. I haven’t been there. Have you? I feel obliged to check it out.

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