Toodle-oo, Caribou!

Free Wi-Fi.

Customers who come for more than the Wi-Fi; a coffeehouse where no one reads a book or has a conversation may be a good study hall but it's not a good coffeehouse.

A reasonable level of cleanliness. It's one thing to bus your own dirty table; you shouldn't have to bus someone else's.

A convenient location. When parking is involved, it doesn't cost as much as half a tank of gas.


The right music. For me, that means music that allows for quiet conversation and thought. Peet's has the guts to play classical.

Pastries that don't taste like the paper cups.

Peet's likes to tout its true local origins, telling the tale of its founder, Alfred Peet, a Dutch immigrant who opened his first coffee store in Berkeley in 1966. So renowned was his expertise that in the early 1970s, he was asked to supply beans and his roasting skills to a new enterprise in Seattle. That enterprise was named Starbucks.

The truth is that Peet's is now owned by the same German conglomerate that owns Caribou. As its name spreads around Chicago and the suburbs, I hope the distant bosses keep finding the kind of employees who know how to make something corporate feel local and communal.