About two years ago,
Shannon Valko was at a Chuck E. Cheese with her 2-year-old son,
Will, when she realized she'd had enough.
"I couldn't take one more minute in there," she says. "He was
having fun, but I was bored out of my mind."
So Valko and her brother Rob, 26, began plans for Little
Beans Cafe, which opened last week on a a semi-industrial
corner of Webster and Elston Avenues. The cafe is as much a sorely
needed coffee-and-play spot in the Lincoln Park and Bucktown
neighborhoods as it is a statement about what parents really want
review of Little Beans Cafe]
The coffee - Intelligentsia blends - is top-notch and the decor
is open, airy and sun-lit, trimmed with original timber and brick
for a hybrid warehouse-meets-ski-lodge feel. Valko says the ideal
age range is 2-5, but the carpeted play area also includes a crawl
space, surrounded by a charming white picket fence, for a younger
Will, now 4, "test drove" every play feature in the place, Valko
says. And he and his 4-month-old sister, Cindy, both have
shout-outs in the form of street signs with their names on
"It seemed fair that if they were going to lose their mom for a
year while [I planned] this, that they'd get something," Valko
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