Critic's Notebook

When Is a Restaurant More Than a Restaurant?

When it’s a community. Welcome to Seattle’s next big thing.

By Kathryn Robinson October 10, 2016

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Ada's Technical Books and Cafe (and Community).

Open the door onto Ada’s Technical Books and Café on Capitol Hill’s 15th strip and you’ll feel it immediately: The sense of community. From one end of the airy expanse of tables to the other in this uncommonly pristine space, patrons are pursuing their common interests in science, technology, math, or engineering—reading, studying on laptops, or chatting quietly over vegan breakfast scrambles or veggie gyros or flaky buttermilk biscuits with jam and steaming mugs of macchiato.

Or glasses of beer and wine.

Welcome to one of Seattle’s coolest nascent trends: Restaurants that function as community gathering places. Some are affiliated with non-profits or churches, providing gathering spots for members and other interested parties. Others are inside specialty retail operations, namely bike shops and bookstores, attracting the like-minded into new collaborations with each other.

Danielle Hulton, the computer engineer who co-owns Ada’s, opened the store six years ago with no café. When she moved the business to its present location three years ago, her manager at the time brought a lot of food service experience.  Hulton figured a café would only enhance her mission. “The reason I began a bookstore like this was to built community around science and tech,” she said. “Providing a place where people could sit down over food and drink—it felt important. It furthers that community sense.”

A co-working space, events lineup, and book clubs for those with interests from puzzles to sci-fi deepen Ada’s pursuit of camaraderie, along with a soon-to-open event space next door, off the courtyard, for what Hulton calls “another layer of community.”

Read about Ada’s and two other bookstore cafes in this month’s issue of Seattle Met.