One look at the Kermit-green walls sporting a sprawling mural, the artsy humanities crowd grabbing a meal between classes and the Bjork-blasting stereo behind the counter and it's clear that Cobb Coffee Shop's ambience is as much a draw as its super-cheap coffee. Located in the basement of Cobb Hall at the University of Chicago since the 1960s, this coffee shop is entirely student-managed; students make executive decisions on everything from the menu to the marketing (one poster reads "I heart Cobb" with a picture of Jesus Christ).
Despite the lack of windows, Cobb Coffee Shop has an open, inviting air, with standard tables and chairs clustered around circular bars. An abundance of handmade signs will point you in the direction of straws and sugar, break the news that there's no soup that day ("No soup for you!") and fill you in on the daily deals. Bring your own mug or grab one from the mismatched collection hanging from a pegboard and score a cup of coffee for less than a buck.
There's a large rack of energy bars, candy and Pop-tarts, as well as bagels, granola and cookies. Box lunches from nearby restaurants, ranging from pad thai and sushi to hummus and tabouleh are on-hand for those seeking a heftier meal. The eclectic spot also serves up slices of pizza from the Medici on 57th as well as soups and pre-packaged salads, sandwiches and ice cream.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood