Everyone knows that Seattle has long been a major coffeehouse city. Besides the big chains (Starbucks, Tully's, SBC) there are feisty, smaller (and better) local contenders like Vita, Vivace, and Ladro, not to mention notable one-offs like Capitol Hill's B&O, Bauhaus, and Victrola. [As of 2007, Victrola is no longer a one-off.] This page is a place to put together some quick notes on notable Seattle coffeehouses past and present; try to keep it to no more than a paragraph on each, you can always link out to another page and write a whole article.
Some people say that a "coffeehouse" and a less elaborate "espresso bar" are two different things. We say some people make too many distinctions for their own good.
You may also want to see the coffee page for a description of the different types of coffee typically served at coffeehouses.
On the list below, the † symbol indicates a now-defunct coffeehouse.
Ancient history (founded before 1965)
- t Cafe Encore The first coffeehouse est. 1957 at 5615 University Way N.E.(building gone?)
- † The Eigerwand (University District)
- † The Llahngaelhyn, Eastlake/U. District (just south of University Bridge, 3242 Eastlake Ave E) July 1965 - July 1968. See http://www.llahngaelhyn.com/.
- † The Pamir House
- † The Edge
The early years (founded 1965-1979)
- † The Last Exit on Brooklyn (U. District), founded 1967 at 3930 Brooklyn Avenue N.E. Home to chess players, go players, guitar players, two-bit hustlers, and coffeehouse intellectuals. After the death of its founder Irv Cisski in the early 1990s it moved to the Upper Ave (the 5200 block of University Way N.E.) and died a slow death. Home of the world's sloppiest peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- The B&O (Capitol Hill), still going strong, though these days it's more of a dessert place and sandwich shop. Seattle's first elegant coffeehouse: you could go here on a date and not be laughed at for it.
- The Allegro (U. District), still going strong, on a north-south alley a half-block east of The Ave. Grad student central, especially for the perpetual grad student or damn-why-didn't-I work-out-how-to-be-a-perpetual-grad-student.
- † The Cause Celebre (Cap. Hill) "Capitol Hill's living room" (1978-?)
- Star Life on the Oasis, formerly the Grand Illusion (U. District) This shop shares a building with a movie theater titled the Grand Illusion, which used to also be the name for the coffee shop. (In between these names, it was called "Still Life on the Ave", and shared a management with the now-defunct "Still Life in Fremont".)
- Dilettante (Broadway, Capitol Hill, and several other locations). Founded 1977. Seriously self-indulgent desserts (and chocolates). Coffeehouse atmosphere, but they do have a beer and wine license (perfect for layer cake and a dessert wine).
The boom (founded 1980-1989)
- Espresso To Go, alias ETG (1982?) ''''Fremont. Fremont proper's first espresso house. A hole in the wall with a tiny inside seating area looking out on the street and sidewalk seating. Founded by Mike, who later died of AIDs. As far as I know, this espresso haunt is still alive.
- Vivace (founded 1988). Two Capitol Hill locations. One includes their roasteria, but probably the more notable is a walk-up on Broadway with only sidewalk seating. On a summer day, the crotch-rocket motorcyclists and the Narcotics Anonymous crowd mix with actors, musicians, artists, ex-dot-commers, bartenders, GLBTs of all forms, a tree surgeon or two and the occasional street junkie who just bummed a very good cup of coffee. These groups are not mutually exclusive. (Additional indoor location opened 2006 on Yale, near the REI flagship store.)
- Uptown Espresso (Lower Queen Anne). Established in Lower Queen Anne in 1985. Since then, Uptown Espresso coffehouses have opened in West Seattle (1999) and Belltown (2001). The Belltown location -- located on the corner of 4th & Wall -- offers free wireless internet access.
- † Caffe Paradiso (Pike Street, Capitol Hill), now a Café Vita.
And the beat goes on (founded 1990-present)
- All City Coffee (Georgetown). Living-roomish space in an old building, in a part of town that definitely feels like a different, more industrial city. There's a guitar sitting in a corner, and people occasionally play it. There's wireless, but it doesn't feel at all like an office. There are flyers for just about every alt-art or left political event in town. Coffee from Café Vita.
- † Coffee Messiah (Capitol Hill), full of religious kitsch, displayed with irony; very vegan, but not exactly wholesome.
- Joe Bar (Capitol Hill), across from The Harvard Exit on Roy
- † The Speakeasy (Belltown). It started out in 1995 as a cybercafe with good art on the walls and venturesome entertainment in the evening. For several years, it was Belltown's living room. Meanwhile, the business evolved more and more into an Internet Service Provider. When the cafe burned down on May 18, 2001 (, ), owners Gretchen and Mike Apgar decided it was time to get out of the cafe business; [http:www.speakeasy.net the ISP] is still going strong.
- Victrola (Capitol Hill). For years after the demise of the Cause Celebre, 15th Ave E. lacked a "living room". Now it has one. Coffee roaster and cafe - Victrola Coffee
- FRANK North Captiol Hills only Cafe formerly Darwin cafe , serves Caffe Vita coffee, Louisa's and other pastries, free wireless, always interesting art and tables are handmade windows/doors with resin and collectables. Baristas are so nice there.
- Q Cafe (Interbay), non-profit neighborhood cafe featuring direct trade coffee [Stumptown Roasters] and tea, art gallery, live music, and community events. Probably one of the biggest space cafes in Seattle if not the largest. Two desktop kiosks [free use with purchase] and free WiFi as well. Q Cafe
- RedLine (Capitol Hill). A friendly coffee house, which also serves beer, wine and gourmet sandwiches.
- Zeitgeist (Pioneer Square). Elegant as all get-out, the enormous menu over the serving bar looks like a remnant of an 19th century commodities exchange. Free wireless. Try the tarragon-laced grilled tuna sandwich. Founded in 1997.
- Zoka (Tangletown, between Wallingford and Green Lake). Started in 1997, Zoka roasts its own coffee. Much serious studying, many laptops. There's a recently added (2004) second location near University Village which seats nearly 100 people. Zoka bakes/prepares all of its own food and has weekly concerts at both locations. Zoka Coffee
- Mighty-O Donuts (Tangletown, between Wallingford and Green Lake). The bakery and coffee shop was established in 2002. Organic donuts and fair-trade organic coffee.
- Herkimer Coffee (Phinney - Corner of Greenwood Ave N and N 74th Street) Herkimer Coffee. Good coffee and free wireless bring both laptops and conversations to this newer coffee house in the Phinney/Greenwood neighborhood. Founded in 2003, the space has a string of small tables suitable for small groups and singles with laptops across from the espresso bar and a long table suitable for larger gatherings along the street. The name comes from where the owner grew up - in Herkimer, NY.
- Top Pot (several locations). Founded in 2002 in an old brick building a few blocks from Broadway, on Capitol Hill. It has since expanded, with shops in Wedgwood and Downtown. Top Pot is known more for its doughnuts than for its excellent coffee.
- Lounjin (University District, on the Ave), Full of class. The rich dark red walls and rich floors relax the soul. They serve Zoka Coffee, Blue Willow Teas, 7 wines, imported & domestic beers, and their claim to fame is 18 varieties of sake (rice wine) from traditional, to warm, to flavored. They also serve appetizers with an Asian touch that complements their beverage offerings. They play jazz and if you want you can even see how the world is going on CNN if you ask. Free Wireless Internet, and its fast. Just get a username and password from the baristas. Lounjin
- Café Wannabee: eclectic decor, random crockery, books for sale or reading, espresso, chai, and tea, and certainly the most unusual dining tables to be found in a Seattle coffeehouse.
- Seattle Coffee Works (Downtown Seattle). This is the ultimate Microroast Cafe. They have ten microroasters on tap from around the Seattle area. You can taste those microroasters' epresso blends side by side in a signature flight of espressos called The Works. Theo's Chocolates, Sengware cups, Essential Baking, and also home-roasted fine single origins make this Seattle's Best Place for a Coffee Tasting. Free Wifi.
TO BE CLASSIFIED by founding date
- Bauhaus (Pine Street, Capitol Hill).
- Top Pot (3 locations: 5th Ave Downtown, Summit, Wedgwood)
- Lladro (7 locations)
- † Café Roma (University District and a former location on Capitol Hill)
- Espresso Express (Roosevelt Dist.) In a former garage.
- Diva Espresso (several locations)
- El Diablo Coffee (Queen Anne) Seattle's only Latin style coffee house.
- Fremont Coffee (Fremont, naturally)
- Sureshot (University District) - The UW Daily Article on Sureshot
- JUMP! Gourmet Espresso (Capitol Hill). Get a bit of jazz with your java. An outdoor espresso bar featuring Lighthouse coffee, pastries and a bit of jump blues, rockabilly, and swing.
- FRANK ( 2406 10th ave E) serving Caffe Vita coffee, great art, wifi,
Seattle Coffee Blogs:
- The Barista Extraordinaire's Coffee Blog: Here