Press

  • Chicago Reader Best Coffee Shop 2023

    Chicago Reader Best Coffee Shop 2023

    We won best coffee shop in Chicago! click through to see all the other winners and finalists.

  • STORE EXPLORER: Where Magician Dennis Watkins Shops

    STORE EXPLORER: Where Magician Dennis Watkins Shops

    The city’s preeminent magician practices no sleight of hand when it comes to quality.

  • Here’s To Never Growing Up: A Review of “The Best Damn Thing” at The Understudy

    Here’s To Never Growing Up: A Review of “The Best Damn Thing” at The Understudy

    The premiere of “The Best Damn Thing,” written by Hanna Kime, directed by Grace Dolezal-Ng and with original music by Sara Geist, is a semi-autobiographical retrospective on pop singer Avril Lavigne. In a show-within-a-show format told from the perspective of two high-school-age women, Ellie (Elisabeth Del Toro), a hyperactive playwright-in-training, and her emo ex-best friend,…

  • Best Damn Book Shop: The Understudy’s New Frontier

    Best Damn Book Shop: The Understudy’s New Frontier

    The dusky-toned books, neon lights, and heart-thumping drums of femme teen philosophy shroud 20-somethings in warmth, forming a spot of laughter in the gray landscape of frozen Chicago. Sitting through a rehearsal for Hanna Kime’s The Best Damn Thing, the first full production at the Understudy (running Jan. 27-Feb. 5), has got me thinking a…

  • Avril Lavigne-Inspired Musical ‘The Best Damn Thing’ Helps Viewers Connect With Their Inner Teen

    Avril Lavigne-Inspired Musical ‘The Best Damn Thing’ Helps Viewers Connect With Their Inner Teen

    The Understudy is transforming from a coffee shop and bookstore into a performance venue to host its first fully-staged production this week. The show follows two teenage ex-best friends, Ellie and Rachel, as they rekindle their friendship while workshopping an Avril Lavigne-inspired musical together. It features a live band playing an original soundtrack inspired by…

  • The Best Damn Thing explores teenage power and pain

    The Best Damn Thing explores teenage power and pain

    As the world premiere finds its home at the Understudy, it’s not lost on the team how Chicago and how punk it feels to produce the play in an untraditional, found space amongst friends. Since opening day of the store last March, the Understudy has been the home to between 50 to 60 events including…

  • ‘Cuppa Joe’ at The Understudy Coffee and Books

    ‘Cuppa Joe’ at The Understudy Coffee and Books

    Andersonville’s The Understudy Coffee and Books offers theater, local authors, and specialty drinks all in one. The owners of the coffee shop/bookstore set out to create a space to cultivate artistry in their neighborhood.

  • Chicago’s Essential Coffee Shops

    Chicago’s Essential Coffee Shops

    Chicago is home to numerous coffee roasteries that painstakingly source beans to produce the perfect blends, as well as serious cafes that brew drips and espresso that put cheap diner swill to shame. Meanwhile, baristas continue to hone their craft, experiment with new roasts, and demonstrate impressive latte art skills. Sip through the city’s many…

  • The 25 best bookstores in Chicago

    The 25 best bookstores in Chicago

    No matter the season, staying in and curling up with an exciting new book next to the fireplace is never a bad idea. Lucky for you, Chicago’s independent bookstore scene continues to grow larger and more diverse—both geographically and by topic. You can now find shops specializing in romance novels, ecology, theatre and so much…

  • 36 Hours Chicago

    36 Hours Chicago

    From there, meander north through the historically Swedish neighborhood of Andersonville, now known for its stretch of bookstores and home-goods shops. Women & Children First, a bookstore, has anchored a busy corner of the neighborhood since 1990 (block lettering on its windows proclaim “Open today, open forever”). Newer to the area are Paper & Pencil,…

  • A dramatic top ten for fall

    A dramatic top ten for fall

    Since opening in March 2023, Andersonville’s Understudy bookstore and cafe has stayed busy by offering a robust selection of theater-related titles, coffee, pastries, and public programming. With the fall theater season about to kick into high gear, we asked the staff what they’ve been reading lately.

  • Best New Niche Bookstores

    Best New Niche Bookstores

    This bookstore-café hybrid, which opened in March, is a theater-themed trove of play scripts, biographies, novels, art books, and other texts that will tickle your dramatic fancy. Founded by husband-and-husband duo and DePaul theater grads Danny Fender and Adam Crawford, it’s the perfect spot to have an inner monologue while enjoying Metric coffee and Brite…

  • Join The Understudy & Metric Coffee For Cafe Queens: A Drag Show & Latte Art Throwdown

    Join The Understudy & Metric Coffee For Cafe Queens: A Drag Show & Latte Art Throwdown

    It’s time to dress up and throw down, to buy in and to show out. And at The Understudy Coffee and Books in Chicago, in collaboration with Metric Coffee, that mean Cafe Queens: A Drag Show and Latte Art Throwdown, an “evening of fierce looks, fierce competition, and fabulous prizes.” Taking place Wednesday, June 28th,…

  • Understudy Coffee Shop in Andersonville is community space for Chicago theatre people

    Understudy Coffee Shop in Andersonville is community space for Chicago theatre people

    Danny Fender and Adam Todd Crawford, the owners of Understudy Coffee Shop, discuss creating a community space for Chicago theatre people in Andersonville and working with local businesses to open the space.

  • Stage Write: A Star Turn for the Understudy

    Stage Write: A Star Turn for the Understudy

    There’s a new star in Chicago’s theater community and it’s surprisingly called The Understudy. Normally, an understudy would only perform when the original star couldn’t go on, but this Understudy was designed for top billing from the beginning. The Understudy, the creation of former DePaul Theater School students, Danny Felder and Adam Todd Crawford, is…

  • The Understudy Opens a New Chapter for Chicago Bookstores

    The Understudy Opens a New Chapter for Chicago Bookstores

    At long last The Understudy Coffee and Books has made its entrance in Chicago. Co-owners Danny Fender and Adam Todd Crawford are the partners (in both senses) behind the highly anticipated theatre bookstore and café, which opened last weekend in the neighborhood of Andersonville. They join a much missed lineage of theatre bookstores in Chicago,…

  • Visit Chicago’s First Unique Theater-Centric Bookstore And Cafe In Andersonville

    Visit Chicago’s First Unique Theater-Centric Bookstore And Cafe In Andersonville

    At The Understudy, it’s all in the details. Half bookstore, half coffee shop, The Understudy sits quietly on Andersonville street, but head inside and you’ll find an airy split space filled to the brim with books, plays, and yes a bustling coffee shop.

  • The Understudy, A Theater-Themed Bookstore And Cafe, Debuts In Andersonville

    The Understudy, A Theater-Themed Bookstore And Cafe, Debuts In Andersonville

    The Understudy opens Saturday at 5531 N. Clark St. after hosting a soft opening Wednesday, married owners Adam Todd Crawford and Danny Fender said. It brings a coffee shop and bookstore to Andersonville — one that is under the same roof and offers a different product from neighboring businesses. By combining a bookstore and cafe…

  • The Understudy is ready for the spotlight

    The Understudy is ready for the spotlight

    At the back of the main bookstore section, there’s a seating area with a plush couch and armchairs for those looking to relax and unwind. This will also be a space for public events, such as panel discussions and readings. A piano that Crawford’s mother found for free on Facebook Marketplace in his native Ohio…

  • Venture Inside the Understudy, a Rare Cafe and Theater Bookstore in Chicago

    Venture Inside the Understudy, a Rare Cafe and Theater Bookstore in Chicago

    “We live in Chicago where theater is defined and lead by storefront spaces that are cobbled together,” says Fender. “Throughout all of the Understudy, we’re trying to honor the hard work it takes to make beautiful things happen.” Divided into two adjacent spaces, the Understudy is primed for flexibility. To the south, patrons will find…

  • Chicago’s Only Theater Bookstore and Cafe Will Soon Take the Stage

    Chicago’s Only Theater Bookstore and Cafe Will Soon Take the Stage

    Chicago theater kids will be getting a hangout of their own later this summer when a new drama-themed bookstore and cafe opens in Andersonville. The Understudy will stock plays, host performances, and have plenty of space for actors, playwrights, and crew members to hang out and drink coffee and talk theater. “During COVID, this is…

  • Will the Understudy be a star in Andersonville?

    Will the Understudy be a star in Andersonville?

    Located at 5531 North Clark in a space that last housed a Chase Bank outlet and has been vacant since 2017, the new venture will be designed by Chicago firm Siren Betty (known for designing Publishing House Bed and Breakfast in the West Loop, Segnatore in Humboldt Park, and Claudia in Bucktown) and architect Keefer…

  • The Understudy, A Theater-Themed Bookstore And Cafe, Is Coming To Andersonville

    The Understudy, A Theater-Themed Bookstore And Cafe, Is Coming To Andersonville

    The couple hopes The Understudy can be useful because of the books it stocks, but also that it can provide a home and gathering space for the industry’s artists and professionals. “As students and professionals, this is a resource we wished was out there,” said Crawford, an actor. “We want this to be a community…