#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show notes from episode 22 with our summer review and Rhonda Welbel and Al Rose of Kopi Cafe

We kick off this week’s episode with a special Summer Review: recapping July’s Summer Sidewalk Sale, previewing this week’s outdoor movie night with the 48th Ward and the Taste of Andersonville on Wednesday, August 15, and highlighting the new dates for Arts Week this September.  

Then, Laura and Joelle are joined by Rhonda Welbel and Al Rose, co owners of Kopi Café located at 5317 N Clark. With its world-traveler decor, hand-painted table tops and clocks set to different international times, Kopi offers a quiet respite any time of day. Their extensive menu is packed with sandwiches, salads and snacks and features vegetarian, vegan and gluten free items. Kopi also offers wine, beer, and specialty cocktails. If you’re looking to get away from it all, Kopi can transport you to another world for the price of a cup of coffee.

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(From left) Laura Austin, Rhonda Welbel, Al Rose, and Joelle Scillia in Transistor’s main store.

“We are travelers. Both of us have been traveling since we were pretty young, and we fell in love with other cultures and wanted to bring that to our home town of Chicago.”
– Rhonda Welbel

When you’re traveling around the world, some of the favorites places you can duck into are the local cafes.”
– Al Rose

Listen to Episode 22 with Rhonda Welbel and Al Rose!

Here are some references from Episode 22 that you may want to check out:

  • Kopi is inspired by a passion for travel. Rhonda and Al have traveled to many places around the world, and some of their favorite places to duck into in any neighborhood were always the cafés.  This inspired the opening of Kopi Café on September 10, 1991.
  • Kopi means coffee in Indonesian and comes from the time Rhonda and Al spent in Bali. People responded quickly to the store after it first opened.
  • Rhonda’s background is in art and design, and she worked in film and animation and special effects. Al’s background is as a musician/songwriter, as a janitor at the Chicago Public Library, and also had a firewood business with his brother-in-law. Kopi Cafe will celebrate 30 years in 2021!
  • Al is very proud of Kopi’s menu, including the soups and sandwiches salads as well as the fun names that are associated with them. Check out the food menu here! They also feature Smokey the Beet cocktail made with fresh beet juice with Mezcal, tequila, agave and lemon juice, shaken Bond style. View the creative drinks here! The menu has grown immensely over the years. The cafe used to have a very basic muffin/bagel menu, which Rhonda refers to this as a Cafe 101 menu.
  • Kopi serves alcohol and is open very late! Kopi went 18 years without a liquor license and has now had theirs for 9 or 10 years, but still have people surprised to walk in the door and have that option. Rhonda and Al are both late night people and Kopi is open until 11PM Sunday-Thursday and Midnight on Friday and Saturday. Folks can head over after a theater show at Raven (6157 N. Clark) Rivendell (5779 N. Ridge) or Steep (1115 W. Berwyn) for a late night snack, drink or coffee. Joelle highly recommends their Chai!
  • The Kopi Cafe logo was designed by graphic designer and friend to Al and Rhonda, Harlan Wallach.
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A Kopi mug posed in Studio C at Transistor.

  • On Kopi’s new website, the homepage video was shot by Brooklyn Filmmaker Robert Kolodny of House of Nod. He’s also shot music videos for Al’s music. Click for Official Music Videos: I hear the laughing sound of lists and Spin Spin Dizzy
  • Larry Vodak was recently on our podcast (Listen to Larry’s episode here), and Scout (5221 N. Clark) provided the globe light fixture in the front entrance of Kopi.
  • Kopi hosts a Monday Night Music Series at 8PM with no cover and delicious house margaritas for only $6! Hear all about the musicians on the podcast, but checkout the the lineup here.
  • Al and his band have played for 15 or more years at Midsommarfest. He’s toured around the world, has 7 albums out, and will begin teaching a songwriting class this fall at the Music Institute of Chicago.
  • A large number of marriage proposals have occurred at Kopi and it is first date central according to Al and Rhonda. Al ended up officiating the wedding of a couple that met on their first date at Kopi!
  • Kopi also features an in-store boutique featuring local artists from around the world. Rhonda and her partner Lyn Pusztai have a jewelry line in the shop called Roulette 18. The jewelry features all recycled silver!
  • Travel books are sold at Kopi Cafe and both Rhonda and Al feel that they are still useful even in the days of the internet because there are some places you can’t access on your phone. Al’s favorite thing is finding stubs tucked inside and seeing the memories come flooding back.

“I do love having a travel book – it shows it’s history when you’re done. It’s beat up and it’s a little tale of your travels.”
– Rhonda Welbell

  • Kopi Cafe is participating in the Taste of Andersonville again this year. Al and Rhonda love the community spirit and that the event brings people into the cafe that have never been before. This year they are serving Ruggelach on the KNIFE route.
  • If given the chance to trade places with another business for the day, Al and Rhonda would trade places with a bank like North Side Federal (5159 N. Clark). Full of history, the building’s limestone facade encloses a vintage lobby containing all the trappings of a prohibition era Chicago bank. These features include a spiked teller cage replete with bullet-proof glass, gun-ports, and tear gas dispensers.
  • Learn about the bank and more on the Swedish American Museum’s summer walking tour!
Kopi Interior

Kopi Café interior.

“If I yell beer in the middle of the morning shift, it means we are being robbed!”
– Al Rose

Visit Kopi Café on the following platforms:
Online: kopicafechicago.com
Facebook: facebook.com/kopicafechicago
Instagram: @kopicafe