Seattle's Most Kid-Friendly Cafes

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Vios Cafe's tiny kid-friendly book nook
Coffee is the lifeblood of parents. In those first sleep-deprived weeks (years?) of parenthood, that morning cup is what gets you through 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls and all-night scream fests. And while any gnarly, nasty brew will do in a pinch--hey, desperate times call for desperate measures--there's no reason parents should have to make yet another sacrifice with the quality of their coffee.

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Fortunately, there's no reason why anyone in this fine city should be drinking some swill like Folgers, even when they've got a colicky newborn or an antsy toddler. Now, that's not to say you're necessarily going to find top-notch baristas serving the best local beans at cafes full of kiddies. But you know what? There are moments when patience and a few plastic toys make up for a lack of finesse. For you overextended, under-caffeinated parents, here are five kid-friendly Seattle cafes with good (or good enough) coffee for you and a play space for Junior:

Ballard Coffee Works

This delightful space may be the exception to the rule that non-breeders should avoid cafes for children, mainly because this is a cafe first and a kid-friendly destination second. Ballard Coffee Works roasts amazing beans, you'll find some expertly crafted espresso drinks, and the bacon-and-egg breakfast sandwich is refined enough for adult palates, but accessible enough for young ones. There's a (admittedly fairly busy) family area to the right when you walk in, with a train table, selection of books, and a couple of well-loved teddy bears to entertain the kids.

Mosaic Coffeehouse

Among Seattle's hidden gems, this place may be one of the most hidden. Located in the basement of a community church, Mosaic is downright cavernous compared to most of the city's cramped cafes, and space is one of the key ingredients to a successful kiddie outing. The coffeehouse is nonprofit, meaning you pay what you want for your drip (made with Fidalgo Bay beans), and there's no shame in hanging out for a while. Through the door marked "demitasse" is a separate kids' play area with mostly toddler-friendly plastic toys and a little climbing structure. Worth noting: the hours are kind of wonky, and weekday mornings are the most reliable.

Cafe Bonjour

The coffee isn't worth mentioning, really, at this cozy Green Lake cafe--a fact you may find disappointing if you had higher standards. The good news is that they have coffee, plus a full menu of crepes and sandwiches, wine and beer, and plush couches to sink into as your little one bounces around the gated kids' space that offers a slide, play kitchen, and the biggest stuffed bear you may have ever seen. Bonjour makes the perfect back-up plan to a play date at Green Lake that gets unexpectedly rained out.

Vios Cafe

More restaurant than just cafe, Vios benefits not only from its menu of Greek staples, but from its location adjacent Third Place Books. For sleepy parents, the Ravenna cafe serves Illy coffee and an array of tempting scratch-made treats in the display case, if you need the one-two caffeine-sugar punch. While the entire restaurant is set up comfortably for all ages--there are nearly 10 highchairs, too--there's a dedicated kids' space near the conjoined bookstore, where caregivers can sit around the edge and sip their beverage. Not surprisingly, the play area's main feature is a bookshelf full of picture books.

Twirl Cafe

If you don't have a kid, nanny for a kid, or spend time with a kid on a regular basis, there is no reason why you would ever--or should ever--go to Twirl. The Queen Anne cafe is designed specifically for families, meaning that there are espresso drinks and limited alcohol to placate parents and a supersized indoor play space for the under six set. The open play costs an additional $5, but it's worth it to be able to leisurely enjoy your Zoka coffee in peace. Plus, being surrounded only by other parents and caregivers means that you don't need to worry when that inevitable late-afternoon meltdown happens.

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