Tempo Café

Tempo Cafe in Chicago's Near North neighbourhood.When I used to stay in downtown Chicago, my hotel was just around the corner from Tempo Café, an amazing 24-hour diner in Chicago’s Near North (I say “used to stay”: it was all of three times!). However, I loved the place and made sure I visited for breakfast at least twice on each trip. Therefore, when I was back in Chicago as part of my coast-to-coast extravaganza last year, and unexpectedly found myself north of the river, I made a beeline to Tempo for a late brunch.

Tempo, along with Boston’s Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, is one of my favourite American diners, although compared to Charlie’s, it’s a very different place, slightly more upmarket in layout and feel, but still great value for money. All the usual diner staples are there, but you can also get full meals and everything is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Comfort food at its best!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Tempo Cafe, on the corner of East Chestnut and North State on Chicago's north side.
  • There's a neat outdoor seating area, sectioned off by some planters.
  • Mind you, not long after I arrived, it began to rain, big time. No sitting outside for me then!
  • It rained and rained, in the way that only Chicago can on a sunny, summer's day.
  • Fortunately there's plenty of seating inside. This is a panorama from just inside the door...
  • ... and this is from the corner of Chestnut and State. You can see the door to the right.
  • Finally, the view from the opposite corner.
  • There are pllenty of options to choose from: conventional two- and four- person tables...
  • ... or the round tables against the padded benches in the middle of the room.
  • Of course, there are my favourites, the booths, which line the back wall...
  • ... and the left-hand wall running alongside State St.
  • Finally, there are these counter-style seats overlooking the kitchen.
  • Mirror, mirror on the wall...
  • The large pot-plant in the centre of the room was a nice touch.
  • Although there are windows along two of the sides, there are plenty of lights...
  • ... which is just as well since Tempo Cafe is a 24-hour a day operation!
  • These are perhaps my favourite lights of all!
  • My 'usual': eggs florentine with a side of toast from my most recent visit.
  • Just to show that nothing (much) has changed, this is Tempo Cafe in 2009...
  • ... and this is what I had back then. Look familiar?
  • I'll leave you with a shot from 2007. Unbelieveably, I didn't photograph my breakfast!
Tempo Cafe, on the corner of East Chestnut and North State on Chicago's north side.1 There's a neat outdoor seating area, sectioned off by some planters.2 Mind you, not long after I arrived, it began to rain, big time. No sitting outside for me then!3 It rained and rained, in the way that only Chicago can on a sunny, summer's day.4 Fortunately there's plenty of seating inside. This is a panorama from just inside the door...5 ... and this is from the corner of Chestnut and State. You can see the door to the right.6 Finally, the view from the opposite corner.7 There are pllenty of options to choose from: conventional two- and four- person tables...8 ... or the round tables against the padded benches in the middle of the room.9 Of course, there are my favourites, the booths, which line the back wall...10 ... and the left-hand wall running alongside State St.11 Finally, there are these counter-style seats overlooking the kitchen.12 Mirror, mirror on the wall...13 The large pot-plant in the centre of the room was a nice touch.14 Although there are windows along two of the sides, there are plenty of lights...15 ... which is just as well since Tempo Cafe is a 24-hour a day operation!16 These are perhaps my favourite lights of all!17 My 'usual': eggs florentine with a side of toast from my most recent visit.18 Just to show that nothing (much) has changed, this is Tempo Cafe in 2009...19 ... and this is what I had back then. Look familiar?20 I'll leave you with a shot from 2007. Unbelieveably, I didn't photograph my breakfast!21
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Situated on a sunny corner of East Chestnut and North State Streets, not far from Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” (Michigan Avenue), Tempo Café cuts a striking figure, a white, single-story building, its name emblazoned on both sides. South facing on Chestnut Street, it catches the sun, where there’s a generous outdoor seating area, sectioned off from the pavement by a series of planters.

Inside, Tempo Café is roughly square, with the door in the right-hand corner on the Chestnut Street side. The kitchen is tucked away largely out of sight to the right, while the back wall is windowless, but adorned with a lovely mirror. The other two walls are punctuated with equally-spaced arched windows stretching from floor to ceiling. The front wall, running along Chestnut, has three arches (the door is where the fourth would be) while the left-hand wall, running along State, has four.

The seating consists mostly of rows of square two- and four-person tables. To break this up, there is a row of back-to-back padded bench-seats in the centre, running parallel to Chestnut Street. On either side of this are some round, two-person tables. For more variety, a row of booths runs along the back wall, with another down the left-hand wall overlooking State Street. Finally, along the right-hand side, there is a small bar with a few chairs, overlooking the kitchen.

During daytime, the many windows mean that there’s plenty of natural light, giving the place a bright, airy feel, but at night, the multiple light-fittings take over. Overall, the décor is bright, with yellow-painted walls and a white ceiling between wooden beams. Wood abounds in the furniture, while there is a gorgeous, tiled floor. Even though it can probably seat nearly 100 people, it feels open and uncluttered.

Tempo Café played an important role in my falling in love with American diner culture. It’s at the high end of the scale, with more of a restaurant feel to it. However, all of the usual diner staples are there, including eggs pretty much any way you like them, all manner of pancakes, waffles and French Toast, plus a nearly countless array of omelettes. There is also more lunchtime fare, with salads, sandwiches and burgers all making an appearance. On top of that, full meals can be had any time of day, which include steak, chicken and seafood dishes, all rounded off by a very tempting dessert display, centred around cheesecake, fruit pies and ice cream.

All this stretches over many pages of menu, but of course, I rarely get beyond the eggs, plumping for my favourite, Eggs Florentine, which arrive on English muffins accompanied by home-fried potatoes, to which I usually add a side order of toast, and, if I’m feeling indulgent, a pancake or two. Be warned though, while excellent value for money, the portions at Tempo Café, like most American diners, are huge. Eat all this for breakfast and you might not need to eat again all day!

6 EAST CHESTNUT STREET • CHICAGO • IL 60611 • USA
+1 312 943 4373
Monday 24 Hours Roaster N/A
Tuesday 24 Hours Seating Tables, Booths, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 24 Hours Food Breakfast, Cake, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 24 Hours Service Table
Friday 24 Hours Cards Cash Only
Saturday 24 Hours Wifi No
Sunday 24 Hours Power No
Chain No Visits 8th June 2015

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