As perhaps America's most caffeinated city, or at least its most caffeinated on artisanal beans and masterfully crafted lattes, Seattle has no shortage of coffee shops. In the roughly half-mile radius around the heart of Ballard, there is a dozen spots to get a great cup of joe--a ridiculous-sounding density, even to those of us who love coffee and cafe culture. And each of these places has a stream of customers from dawn to dusk.
Cugini Cafe, the former inhabitant of 5306 Ballard Ave. N.W., was not a notable place in this sea of extraordinary cafes. In another neighborhood it may have been a knockout, but there was simply too much competition; it was a pretty girl surrounded by supermodels. Cugini served a good cup of Phinney's Herkimer drip and had its team of regulars, as they all do, but it lacked a certain sense of style and self that you could find easily around the corner or down the street.
The address' new incarnation, Anchored Ship, has given the space a makeover, which may be just what it needs to hold its own. Though the owners haven't changed and there was hardly a blink between closing and opening, Anchored Ship is a testament to how a few key changes can turn a tired business into a worthy new destination.
Dotting the windowsills--and hanging from the banister that leads to a cozy loft upstairs--are succulents and air plants, bringing the green of outdoors into the light-filled shop. Much of Cugini's mismatched furniture has stayed, though the air of a thrift shop is gone. Now, tying the offbeat chairs and two-top tables together are bits of classically Ballard design: pieces made from reclaimed wood, clear bottles holding this and that, and the odd knick-knack.
Herkimer beans are available by the bag, but the best way to have them is prepared by the friendly baristas--same as it was with Cugini. The espresso drinks are all served with double ristretto shots, perfect and short, with bold flavor and a smooth finish. On one of these warm days, the toddy can't be beat. Anchored Ship uses Herkimer's drip blend for this iced treat, and the bright notes sing through a dash of cream and simple syrup. Pour-over coffee is available if you want to try single-origin beans from Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, or El Salvador. And while they aren't baking their own goodies, Macrina provides morning-appropriate pastries like seeded onion bialys and buttery raisin brioche slices, and sweet bites come from local businesses like Street Treats.
When Caffe Fiore is too busy and Ballard Coffee Works seems too far, try Anchored Ship--it's just right.