Not all coffee shops are created equal. I suppose it would get boring if they were, but the unique profile of each and every coffee shop (not to mention its coffee) can create daunting circumstances in which to attempt a coffee-shop review or ranking. It would probably, in fact, be quite opportune for someone to create a spreadsheet listing the categories in which a cafe can fail or excel, with a feature allowing individual critics to weigh each category according to their own personal Hierarchy of Coffee-Shop Needs, and produce a definite score for every coffee shop visited. (It would also make Yelp reviews a lot nicer.)
Take the Laughing Ladies cafe in North City, for example. This one has been on my mind for about a week now, as I've been pondering a way to concisely state my feelings about it without success. It's a fabulous little cafe, but it would be untrue to say that I loved it without any stipulations.
My own Hierarchy of Coffee-Shop Needs consists, in its most basic form, of five categories: convenient location, quality coffee, good food, solid customer service, and positive ambience and/or seating. According to these standards, Laughing Ladies pans out so:
Convenient location? Well, no. It's in Shoreline. So, as far as I am concerned, it is only slightly less inconvenient than, say, a coffee shop in Georgetown. It is, however, extremely easy to find, and has easy parking. Therefore, I'd give it a 2/5 for most of us in Seattle proper.
Quality coffee? This is a tough one. Laughing Ladies serves coffee from Seven Coffee Roasters, which I've previously loved, but which (judging from several other cafes I've visited) has not been as consistent with their coffee quality in the past month. The espresso at Laughing Ladies was reasonably good, but not as good as Seven Coffee Roasters gets. The baristas were also reasonably good, and prodigiously conscientious about serving well-made coffee. But, at best, I can only give a 3/5 in this category.
As far as food goes, I am biased, because the array of gluten-free options is not only vast, but also far above and beyond what is offered at most coffee shops. Cookies from Skydottir and cake from Jodee's top the list of edible amazingness at Laughing Ladies. And for those without food allergies, the rest of the pastry, sandwich, and breakfast options look excellent as well. Being unwilling to give a 5 for almost anything, I give a 4/5 in this category.
Customer service, as well, is absolutely great. The baristas apply themselves earnestly to making good coffee, for you. Everyone behind the counter is friendly, and happy to see you stop in. There is a general air of hopefulness that you'll be as pleased that you visited as they are. This category easily earns the cafe a 4/5.
And finally, ambience and seating are quite agreeable. The openness of the room, the variety of table sizes and seat spacing, and a tasteful assortment of art make it a pleasant place to sit over coffee and talk with a friend. Or sit alone and study. Or to have a meeting that lasts over two hours, during which not a single soul interrupts, crowds, or in any other way disturbs you. 3/5 at the minimum must be awarded in this category.
So there you have it. Since I do not have a spreadsheet to point to, that is the most concise review I can possibly offer! Out of 25 points, Laughing Ladies has scored a 16. An above-average score would be 15, and a truly outstanding score would be 20.
Synopsis? The Laughing Ladies cafe is well worth checking out. Open every day at 7 a.m., it stays open Friday & Saturday until 10 p.m., and all other days until 8 p.m.