Frites Farewell

Cafe Presse Announces Its Final Few Months

In 2022, one of Seattle's loveliest hangouts will transfer to new hands.

By Allecia Vermillion December 20, 2021

Come visit before February. (This photo is obviously from pre-mask times.)

Image: Amos Morgan

The reasons are relatively benign but it smarts all the same: Owners Jim Drohman and Joanne Herron announced over the weekend that Cafe Presse will close in February.

“Frankly we’re just getting old and tired,” Drohman said this morning. Jokes and joviality aside, he says he and Herron are doing some long-range retirement planning: “We’re both coming up on that age.” Covid’s arrival in 2020 scuttled their schedule, and shifted the business partners from wind-down mode to survival.

But now, says Drohman, they’ve stabilized their financial position. Another significant factor was an overture from chef Grayson Corrales to take over the space. (Capitol Hill Seattle has more on what’s to come…and it does sound promising.)

The frites alone are reason enough to mourn the end of Cafe Presse. But this is one of those ineffable spots that give Seattle its texture—the kind of place we fight to retain amid new developments and glossy disruption. Presse opened in 2007, offering a place to while away mornings or afternoons with a perfect salad, classic egg dish, or a multitude of other French favorites, simply and perfectly prepared. Wine awaits later in the day (and that emphasis on print magazines sure won Presse some fans around Seattle Met's offices). It’s rare to see Parisian cafe culture translated so adeptly to the streets of Seattle.

Another successful translation, of course, is Drohman and Herron’s first spot, Le Pichet. The Belltown bistro will turn 22 next year; Drohman says the partners plan to focus their energy here for now (Le Pichet’s lease extends through 2023).

At least we’ve got a little time to make it in for a final few meals at Presse. Drohman and Herron aspire to keep the restaurant on 12th Avenue open until mid-February. “Aspire” is the key word, says Drohman. “I’ve found since Covid that any serious projection is typically wrong.

Much of the staff plans to stay until the end; some former employees even plan to return for a few shifts. Between that and the outpouring of support, Drohman admits he’s been rather choked up of late. “It’s really touching to know your work has meant something to people.”

This news comes on the heels of another closure announcement that also fragments a community built around an all-day cafe. Vif in Fremont opened in 2013. Owners Shawn Mead and Lauren Feldman billed their spot as a coffee and natural wine bar, but the quietly marvelous food was always the draw for me.

Last week, the duo announced Vif would close at the end of the year. Their reason is also a prosaic one: The low-slung building with its throwback parking lot is slated for redevelopment.

Losing any restaurant just…sucks. But let us hope, amid our current churn and chaos, some newcomers can rise to Vif and Cafe Presse levels of being exactly what their neighborhoods need.

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