Grinding Beans While Grinding Gears

As the sun assumes its summertime position in the cloudless sky, Chicagoans take to Lakefront Trail to jog, peddle and walk. But a Saturday morning sweat session isn’t complete without taking a breather at Big Shoulders Coffee Works’ Coffee Truck, the city’s only “full coffee service truck,” said shop owner Tim Coonan.

A line begins to form outside Big Shoulders Coffee Works’ Coffee truck, parked at its usual summertime location, Fullerton Beach. (Elizabeth Bacharach/MEDILL)

A little over a year old, Big Shoulders’ four-wheeled café offers customers caffeinated creations like lattes and cappuccinos to the simple bottled lemonade. The truck boasts the ability to make just about everything it has at its 1105 W. Chicago Ave. storefront. Yet, according to barista Avalon Kahn, its most popular items are “iced coffee and water.”

“I think at the Lakefront…there’s a lot of joggers or cyclists, so the water makes sense, and then, like, iced coffee is just kind of refreshing,” Kahn said.

Just as Kahn predicted, Holly Householder of East Lakeview ordered an iced coffee on her way back from yoga. Despite passing “it all the time,” this was Householder’s first experience at the truck. “It’s really good,” she said, “I like strong coffee. So, I don’t like that stuff that taste like coffee-flavored water.”

Truck barista Avalon Kahn hands a customer an iced latte on a warm Saturday morning. (Elizabeth Bacharach/MEDILL)

The bright orange truck takes to the street during the summer, primarily parking at Fullerton Beach and sometimes CineSpace Chicago Film Studios, 2621 W. 15th Pl. Its hours, however, are still amendable. “Since the truck is new, we’re still kind of figuring [timing] out,” Kahn said.

Despite this—as Kahn called it—“learning process,” Coonan said, “It’s been really successful so far,” especially since the truck is essentially, “a moving billboard for our business.”

“I’m not going to out of my way to go there,” said Wicker Park resident Hunter Dowd. But because he was on the way to the beach, Dowd stopped peddling to grab an iced coffee since “it’s convenient,” he said.

For more information about Big Shoulders Coffee Works, visit

Photo at top: According to Big Shoulders Coffee Works’ owner, Tim Coonan, the coffee truck “draws attention to our brand and creates market visibility that we can’t necessarily reach in the same way from our retail location.” (Elizabeth Bacharach/MEDILL) 


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