Finding a place to drink and work is a delicate thing. Wi-Fi is nice. But really it’s atmosphere—not too stuffy, not too dive-y, an inviting staff—that makes it feel okay to crack your laptop. Cafes, as a rule, have this. But many cafes have a beer or wine list that looks like the sale display at QFC. Here are some places where you don’t have to compromise work to taste.
Vif is a light-filled wine bar/cafe on Fremont Avenue. The coffee’s good. The wine—by glass or bottle—is also good and natural and tends toward prettiness and approachability. And the small evening menu tends toward quick bites, olives, almonds, tartines. Caveat: They have a no laptop policy on weekends, and close by 7pm Monday–Wednesday.
I shouldn’t have to tell you this. Go to Café Presse. For work or not. The Capitol Hill stalwart is the more casual joint by Joanne Herron and Jim Drohman, the owners of also excellent Le Pichet. Presse is more relaxed, and open from 8am to 1am everyday. If you do go for work, they have plenty of solo seating—an ample magazine rack at the entrance practically invites lone dining and drinking—and their wines are solid and inexpensive.
Everything about Stone Way Cafe feels like a coffee shop. It sits quietly among Joule and the Whale Wins and Manolin in Fremont, but both in reputation and design is more subdued. It has all the amenities and coziness, but the folksy art and sandwich-heavy menu belie a surprisingly smart and expansive beer list. Cloudburst, Holy Mountain, Machine House, and newcomers like Jellyfish all frequent the taps. Wine and cider options are also available, if a little less interesting.
The wines at Brendan McGill’s new all-day downtown cafe skew French. Cocktails are interesting—lemongrass infused tequila, anyone?—and largely $10 or under. There are also breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus—full of the kind of ethically sourced new American food that McGill has built his brand on. The real draw: a laptop bar running along the front window that looks right onto First and Marion, perfect for when you think you want to work but actually want to people watch.
This Chinatown–International District cafe serves plenty of hallmarks: 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 also have mostly local rotating beers from places like Pike Brewing on five taps—a pint is $3 at happy hour—and more by the bottle. A small wine list accompanies.
Editor's Note: This article was updated April 16, 2019 to reflect new hours for Vif and Cafe Presse.