Art and Enlightenment in Ballard

As someone who has visited an average of two new cafes per week over the past year, I have to confess that I've reached the danger point of occasionally feeling somewhat blasé toward the whole scene. Good coffee, bad coffee--most cafes offer such similar concepts that whether they are fabulous or frightful, many are fundamentally very much the same. It is a rare treat when something truly different comes along.

So it was with great delight this weekend that I accidentally tripped over the Enlighten Cafe and Art Gallery on my way through old-town Ballard. Just up Ballard Avenue from the farmers market (which still makes its weekend appearance, wintry weather notwithstanding), Enlighten looks more like a furniture store than a cafe through its windows. And that initial impression isn't entirely false; every piece of furniture in the store is also a work of art available for purchase.

Owned by Kalan Intawong and Chris Wilcynski, owners of the Root Table, Enlighten offers an outstanding sense of natural, grounded existence. Filled with wood art (boxes, lamps, paintings, furniture), the space feels a little like walking into the heart of a tree. The art and furniture at the cafe feature the skill of Thai artists who work with found or recycled woods, fostering a sense of history and narrative in every corner--from the box that may have once been a boat to the table that was once a forest. Add to that the fine acoustics and selection of music, a room spacious enough to allow for multiple private conversations to take place around well-separated tables, and the lesser-used presence of Seven Coffee Roasters, and you get a cafe that is unique.

As an art gallery, Enlighten has been around for about seven years, but has only been serving coffee and pastries for about as many months. Check them out on Facebook to find out about their live-music schedule, or drop by any day between 10 and 10 to browse the art and enjoy an espresso.

Enlighten Cafe and Art Gallery is located at 5424 Ballard Ave. N.W.

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