"Hi! Can I get a drink started for you?" the eager barista greets me. I am barely inside the door, my eyes still adjusting to the room. Counter. Tables. Ceiling fan. Menu. Barista who seems to want something. Ice cream. Hey! Ice cream! My attention wanders from the task at hand. Ice cream sounds good. But the barista has intercepted me and is prying my gaze away from the gelato. "Can I start a drink for you?" she persists, cheerfully. I blink. We stare each other down, and I'm grateful when she flinches first, giving up on me and going to the next person in line. "Hey there! Your usual?" I feel a little as if I've let her down.
It is my first time at the Issaquah Coffee Company, and I am admittedly in a Gilman Village haze. I don't know what it is about the Eastside, but I could almost swear there is an anti-Seattle conspiracy at work to keep people from catching the "specialty coffee" bug. In Seattle, it is possible (and not uncommon) to give directions using coffee shops instead of street names as markers. Hop over the lake, however, and with a few exceptions (such as the Kirkland waterfront), there seems to be a weird desire to conceal coffee shops deep within labyrinthine shopping centers.The Issaquah Coffee Company is located behind the Gilman Village, in one of the rescued historic buildings that make up the commercial hamlet (turn right off Gilman Way onto Juniper Street, and you'll find it more easily than if you turn into the Village and navigate through the parking lot). It is a large building, and there is a lot to take in upon entering: a mix of chairs and armchairs, a children's play area, a room full of people, a giant chalkboard menu, gelato, pastries, and a barista who wants to know what I want. And for everyone else: me, standing just inside the door like a deer in headlights, trying to remember what I'd carefully planned to order with the specific intention of avoiding this exact moment. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to factor in such efficient customer service. It always takes me a minute to settle in and resolve the minutiae . . . like whether or not I want ice cream in/with/near/alongside my coffee.
While it would be possible to continue discussing this coffee-ordering failure (which required fending off the barista for quite some time more), it would be considerably more profitable to skip to the end of the story and relate to you what was learned. Eventually I ordered an Americano (sans gelato), and learned that the Issaquah Coffee Company serves Stumptown, and that the barista was not only eager to make drinks, but also quite adept at it. The room, open and well-lit, provided a comfortable chair in the sunlight by a window, and the mellow music and consistent stream of customers offered excellent background noise for sipping coffee and finishing a book.
For Issaquah, this coffee shop is unique, and it appears to be flourishing on that foundation. If you're in the area and looking for good coffee, it is certainly worth a visit. Or, if you happen to be feeling the urge to eat chocolate rabbits and make your poor kids sit through a picture session with the Easter Bunny, you can plan to head over and grab coffee this Saturday, April 23, at the Gilman Village's 11:00 a.m. Easter EGGStravaganza.