Sometimes it feels like a diner, packed with locals nibbling on light bites. Or maybe it’s more like a family friend’s place, with bikes hitched out front and chairs spilling out onto the sidewalk. Even though it’s located on Georgetown’s north end, All City feels like the center of the neighborhood.
This Summit Avenue shop is all about tactile experiences. Magazines and newspapers hang from the walls to be thumbed through while the record collection provides a soundtrack by way of everyone from the Jackson 5 to Destroyer. The drinks, pulled and poured by a discerning and unhurried staff, could be served in a fancy Gibraltar glass or out of a bright orange mug—all the care but none of the fuss.
After growing a reputation around its legit cold brew and fair-trade beans, the Duvall-based roastery opened a proper cafe downtown, with more on the way. Pour-over coffee and espresso abound, but cold brew—nitro, plain, or say, mixed with milk and a minty housemade syrup—is a natural hit here, as is the “quaffle,” a made-to-order hybrid of croissant and cinnamon roll pressed into a waffle iron. The dark wood and tile decor is cozy, and a traditional table setup mixes with bar seating and a pair of couches to encourage morning bites, lengthy laptop sessions, languorous lounging, or afterwork meet ups.
Participate in the decades-long tradition of academic caffeinating under the tall ceilings of the self-proclaimed oldest continually running espresso bar in Seattle. This UW-adjacent hub, accessible through an old alleyway—a real old-cafe-in-Cambridge sort of situation—has strong coffee, tons of tables, and overflow seating upstairs for finals week.
Owner Solomon Dubie brings Ethiopian coffee traditions to Seattle (a city with a significant Ethiopian population and full of Ethiopian coffee but little sense of Ethiopian coffee culture) inside a former Rainier Valley convenience store. Coffee’s poured from an ornate clay pot that looks like a cross between a teakettle and a desk lamp. Grounds steep at the bottom of the pot, called a jebena, and produce a surprisingly clean—and strong—cup. The avole, the first taste of the first pot, begins Ethiopia’s traditional coffee ceremony.
Owner Michael McConnell has managed to grow an upstart coffee shop that catered to musicians into one of the largest coffee companies still under independent ownership more than two decades later. Caffe Vita has locations in Los Angeles, New York, and a presence in airports across the country, yet Caffe Vita remains indelibly local. Coffee skews towards darker, Italian-style roasts, much like most Vita cafes: The lights are generally low—more like a bar where you might make some dubious decisions shortly after midnight than a destination for reading the Sunday Times.
Seattle Coffee Works—one of the city’s original geeky coffee temples—opened a Capitol Hill outpost, where it’s less espresso factory and more reading nook; there’s even a hanging macrame chair in the back. But that doesn’t mean the coffee is any less exacting. Expect a minimal yet on-point approach to coffee, with a handful of espresso and milk drinks plus the standard brewed-to-order slow bar options.
This Chinatown–International District cafe serves a familiar assortment: crepes, coffee, sandwiches, gelato. The seating is either communal or at small tables—both great for when you don’t feel like annexing too many extra seats with your vocational or scholastic detritus. They have a rotating lineup of mostly local beers from places like Pike Brewing on five taps—a pint is under $5 at happy hour. A small wine list and cocktail menu accompanies.
Elm Coffee Roasters provides a showroom for what is happening in coffee right now: light roasts and a clean space in which to showcase them. No bus bins or condiment station in sight. Just a marble bar lined with patrons sipping bright single-origin espresso.
The baristas at Empire take that extra step to make the day easier—brewing your cup of coffee by French press or AeroPress (your choice) and making cashew milk in house every morning for the lactose wary. It’s the little things that elevate quotidian caffeine into something of a personal indulgence.
On one of Capitol Hill’s most idyllic blocks, neighbor of Cornish College of the Arts and the late Harvard Exit Theatre, Joe Bar remains a year-round gem. Wait out the cold behind fogged-up windows with a crepe and a latte served in one of those satisfyingly round cuppable mugs, or brave the brisk air out on the sidewalk with a late-afternoon coffee that rolls into an early-evening glass of wine.
Every day Seattle coffee drinkers order espresso pulled from a La Marzocco machine without knowing much of the company’s rich Italian history, or the fact that the U.S. headquarters for the leading espresso hardware manufacturer in the world is located right here in Ballard. Or, perhaps, that it has a showroom and cafe whose space is adjacent to music station KEXP in which its ambitious multiroaster format brings in new roasters from all over the world with a menu that changes every month.
As the name implies, Porchlight does two things well. The coffee menu is on trend in its simplicity, accompanied by a vinyl collection curated for the variant tastes of the city. Everything from the beverages and the music down to the rotating art, curated merch, and minimal decor is a window into what’s cool right now on the Hill.
What used to be an auto garage at the end of the West Seattle Bridge now houses a charming coffee pit stop. The space is small, but Realfine provides a perfect spot for a quick tune-up by way of an Americano before that morning commute to the office. And when Stumptown vacated its Pine location Realfine swooped in to join the Hill’s ever-growing roster of caffeine pushers.
Slate’s three outposts—from the Ballard flagship to destinations downtown and in the University District—want to change the everyday coffee ritual. Instead
of ordering a drip to go, sit down for a deconstructed latte, an espresso flight, or a seasonal drink that feels like a caffeinated cocktail without the booze.
There’s coffee, to be damn sure, but this Beacon Hill caffeine stop is also known for community. The Station hosts a neighborhood-wide block party every year and is unfailingly vocal in support of artists and activists. What’s more, the Mexican mocha is one of the city’s finest.
Look to Victrola as an example of how to be a purveyor of coffee that values accessibility as much as quality. If you want to break down roast profiles, the baristas are game. Laptop workers seeking a drip coffee bleached with cream and sugar are also welcome.