Seattle is saturated with baristas who can pull a perfect espresso shot. But it's the cafes which put the house in coffeehouse that earned a spot on our top 10 list. In addition to serving great coffee, these favorite places offer excellent food, smart service and comfortable, well-lit rooms in which to eat and drink.
As always, Erin Thompson compiled our contributors' choices and commentary. The coffeehouses are listed in random order, with the exception of the winner, which is positioned in the number one slot.
10. Caffé Ladro
Ladro has achieved small-chain status, with locations scattered around the city in West Seattle, Fremont, Capitol Hill, downtown, and Queen Anne. Frequent visitors love their espresso and desserts, such as berry pies and a superlative carrot cake, are all baked at their West Seattle outlet.
9. Caffe Vita
This is the perfect place to watch a beautiful, sunny afternoon slip away, ideally while sipping some iced coffee from this quality local coffee roaster, or munching on one of Vita's homemade baked goods. The interior of the cafe is roomy with dark walls and wooden furniture that encourage a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere. When seating is scarce downstairs, baristas will direct you up to the vast room upstairs, but though it's spacious and comfortable, the best people-watching is clearly accomplished beside the huge front windows overlooking Pike Street.
When the funky-cool Roasteria was bounced from its classic spot on Broadway in 2008 after more than 20 years, we thought Espresso Vivace would never be the same. Well, guess what? It's even better in its current digs just blocks away from the old address. The slick space still draws a rag-tag crowd worthy of a day's worth of people watching. The coffee is every bit as good as it always has been, with the smoothest Americano in Seattle. And, yes, we judge a barista on his or her ability to pull a perfect shot for a crema-topped drink unadorned by milk and sticky syrup. Espresso Vivace is this caffeinated city's platinum standard on the Americano and all other coffee drinks for that matter.
This community gathering place in Columbia City offers a solid menu, with beer and wine included. Other than espresso, Empire also offers several options like French press or pour-over, all from Seattle Coffee Works. It specializes in locally sourced foods, with baked goods from Macrina, and chocolate from Chocolati. And don't pass on the panini.
The Central District's Electric Tea Garden does offer your standard coffeehouse fare--espresso, loose leaf teas, free wifi. But it's not content with just that. On weekends and occasional weeknights, ETG transforms into a performance space, mostly focused on electronic music (hence the name). That means, unlike most coffeehouses, the best time to hit ETG is not morning but night, when you can hit the dancefloor fueled by some tea-based cocktails.
Fonte Cafe has been enjoyed for years at high-end resorts, but it was only in 2009 that Seattle got to have a real retail taste, with the opening of the Fonte Cafe and Wine Bar on the first floor of the new Four Seasons downtown. It's an elegantly appointed space, a far cry from the disaffected-slacker dens that make up most of this city's coffee houses. And while the black magic is amazing, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of the food, too, which is also miles beyond what you get at the usual coffee shop, in freshness, style, and taste.
This cash-only cafe takes great care in roasting beans from around the world. Hence, the best way to get a full-throttle coffee experience at Herkimer is to order an Americano, so smooth that you need not alter the flavor with cream and syrups. Herkimer also serves pastries from Macrina and doughnuts from Mighty O if you crave some sweet sustenance.
The Green Lake Zoka mothership, housing its familial pack of adorably dressed patrons in a spacious, rustic sanctuary of wi-fi, gives this U-District condo-insert a bit to live up to. Surprisingly, Junior delivers. The coffee's just as good, and the caffeine shockwave is complemented (or if the jitters ensue, combated) by a superior selection of cafe food
Looking for tranquility? Try Victrola's Beacon Hill location. The menu is the same--artisanal roasts and espresso blends coupled with a smattering of pastries. The difference is size. This room, one of Victrola's two Capitol Hill sites, is significantly more spacious than its Beacon Hill cousin, and is usually crowded with Capitol Hill residents whiling away the time as they have done since coffeehouse culture was new. It makes for good people watching, but not peace and quiet. But it's just about the coffee, right?
Walking into Lighthouse Roasters in upper Fremont is like stepping into a friend's ramshackle kitchen and being brewed a pot of stunningly fresh gourmet coffee. Known for its addictive taste, Lighthouse's coffee is made even better because it's sold by owner Ed Leebrick, who lives right next door and is on a first-name basis with just about everyone in the neighborhood (and, actually, probably the entire city). Leebrick's staff is as eccentric as he--his team of baristas are exponentially livelier than Starbucks drones and like to give esoteric lectures on classical music when they're not dumping ice cubes down each other's pants.
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