Recently, Eater National reported on the rule-ridden Barn Roastery. The Berlin-based cafe caught the attention of the blogosphere after it installed a concrete blockade in order to prevent strollers from entering the premises. While no coffee shop in Seattle has gone to similar extremes to lessen child occupants, some of the city's cafes are implicitly less tolerant of kids on the premises.
With perks for all-ages, Tougo Coffee on 18th and Union in the CD deserves a lot more attention. The space goes out of its way to welcome kids while maintaining a warm environment for hipsters, seniors, and dudes working on laptops. Tougo is also one of a few Seattle cafes that's on-trend without putting on airs.
There's a hard-earned ease to Tougo that comes out of an uncertain recent past. In 2011, owner Brian Wells closed a second location on Westlake near Whole Foods and scaled back the original cafe's square footage. He also garnered community support to address a mound of unpaid back taxes. After raising $10,000 from patrons and establishing a payment schedule, Tougo appears to be thriving. A neighborhood space, the cafe isn't shy about hosting political events. Fittingly, Patty Murray spoke about legislation to regulate taxes paid by the very rich on the premises last April.
Several tables line the front of the space and a large play area with a train table, book shelf, and play kitchen hide in back. Should every cafe have a play area? No way. But a lot more could take cues from neighborhood-centric shops like Tougo that are mindful of the reality that some people have kids, some people don't, and we all need coffee. Especially the former.
While the concept has its fans and critics, Tougo joins a handful of local cafes serving a rotating list of coffee from a curated selection of roasters. Tougo is the only shop in Washington State serving beans from L.A.'s excellent Handsome Coffee Roasters. A few area coffee companies are represented, too, alongside other West Coast roasters, including Ritual and Nick Cho's and ex-Seattleite Trish Rothgeb's Wrecking Ball, both based in San Francisco. Pastries come from Macrina, La Toscanella, and Mighty-O.
Like Tougo, Milstead and Co. in Fremont serves beans from several roasters. But unlike their otherwise thoughtful drink menu, at last check Milstead declines to serve decaf. Apparently, no one on staff at Milstead gets that many pregnant women (and a lot of other people) have good reasons for drinking caffeine-free coffee. To contrast, Tougo happily offers beans with and without the boost.
This post has been edited to reflect the following corrections: Per Tougo's owner, the second location and original cafe's downsizing did not occur as a result of tax issues. Also, the coffee shop is located in the Central District.