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Cafe Chien Serving Coffee With a French Accent in Albany Park

By Patty Wetli | September 15, 2015 5:16am

ALBANY PARK — Albany Park is known as a melting pot of myriad cultures, so it's not surprising that the neighborhood's newest coffee shop, Cafe Chien, has a decidedly French feel — even though its owner was raised in suburban Plainfield.

"I'm a Francophile," said Maxine Chaikouang, explaining the French tri-color flag and Eiffel Tower tchotchkes that decorate the cafe, 4749 N. Spaulding Ave.

The name Chien, French for dog, makes reference not only to her unlikely obsession with all things Gallic — "It came out of nowhere," she said — but the pooch, Athena, she shares with boyfriend Allen Causevic. The rescue dog, posing in a barely tolerated beret, is the cafe's mascot and features prominently in the shop's logo.

Meet Athena, the reluctant inspiration behind Cafe Chien's logo. [All photos by DNAinfo/Patty Wetli except where noted.]

A personal trainer by trade, Chaikouang opened Cafe Chien in a storefront adjacent to the Causevic family's real estate business, for the simple reason that she loves coffee.

"I drink coffee all day, even before bed," she said. "I visit coffee shops all the time."

But apart from Starbucks, there weren't many options for a caffeine fix in Albany Park, where Chaikouang makes her home.

"There's not a local place for people to hang out," she said.

With Cafe Chien, Chaikouang has remedied that.

She's serving Metropolis roasts and has trained staff to brew lattes, cappuccinos and espressos according to prescribed measurements.

For now, food is limited to pastries from Gingersnap in Uptown, but Chaikouang has plans to add paninis and salads in the future.

Customers are welcome to settle in with their coffee, croissant and free wi-fi for as long as they'd like.

"The French do it — they'll order one little macchiato and sit for hours," Chaikouang said.

"It's why it's so cute," she said of the cafe's aesthetic, which manages to be both rustic and elegant in a shabby chic kind of way.

Chaikouang outfitted the place herself, haunting antique shops and the monthly Vintage Garage bazaar for light fixtures and other furnishings. Causevic's uncle built the cafe's communal tables and benches by hand, using instructions he found on Pinterest, she said.

"Everything I have is piece by piece," Chaikouang said.

Maxine Chaikouang, owner of Cafe Chien and a self-described Francophile.

Cafe Chien's inviting interior is designed to catch the eye of all the foot traffic Chaikouang has noticed passing by, both students on their way to and from school and office workers heading Downtown.

The shop's location is just steps off of Lawrence Avenue within eyesight of the Kimball Brown Line station, and just blocks from the Kedzie station's Spaulding exit.

But Chaikouang also wants the cafe to become a hub for Dabble-type activities — French lessons or book clubs — as well as special events like baby showers.

It's one reason why Cafe Chien closes at 4 p.m. during the week and 2 p.m. on Saturdays (for now, the cafe is closed on Sundays).

"I want people to use the space after hours," Chaikouang said. "I do want more of a sense of community."

Cafe Chien, 4749 N. Spaulding Ave., is open 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.

[Facebook/North River Commission]

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