Seattle coffee – without resorting to Starbucks
The picturesque Seattle is the home of many iconic American brands, including the global behemoth Starbucks. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband have been known to frequent Starbucks during international travel but never for coffee – wi-fi access for the price of a blueberry muffin. So, finding Seattle coffee without resorting to Starbucks is a stern test – outlets are literally on every corner.
Seattle wasn’t quite the foodie experience we hoped for. No doubt there are a lot of good restaurants but getting recommendations on where to go was hard; everyone wanted to steer us towards what sounded like high-end tourist traps. It was the same for coffee. Our first night in Seattle, we found ourselves at the 24-hour Five Point Cafe, a stone’s throw from the famed Space Needle. Despite the name, it wasn’t a coffee venue but epitomised Seattle’s grungy style – a loud, fun diner where we happily settled for a burger and beer. Of course, as is our custom, we asked the staff about coffee, explaining that Starbucks wasn’t an option for us.
Regular readers of this blog will know Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband prefer Italian-style coffee. She fully recognises there are people out there who love Starbucks and its various cohorts but she’s not one of them, especially as she doesn’t like sugar (in any form) or cream added to her brew. The barman at Five Point gave us a couple of tips and, the next morning, Greedy Girl started her search. This is not an exhaustive guide by any means, but if you’re staying near the Space Needle, all these are walking distance.
This is in the Lower Queen Anne district of Seattle, about a 10-minute walk from our hotel. It was the most highly recommended venue by the barman but we should have taken note of his initial statement, to wit: “I don’t drink coffee but I’ve heard these guys do a great espresso…”
Hmmm. We headed here straight after breakfast at the hotel (which had its own Starbucks machine as part of the spread) to find the cafe pretty much deserted, and ordered our standard piccolo latte and double espresso. There wasn’t a lot of love in this coffee. The espresso had an OK crema but, as you can see from the picture, there wasn’t much finesse with the piccolo. The coffee itself was watery and didn’t have a great flavour. From other online reviews, they seem to do decent food but not a great coffee stop. There’s free wi-fi.
127 Mercer Street
We’d seen a New York City outpost of this chain of cafes while staying on the Lower East Side but didn’t sample it – that particular outlet was literally a hole-in-the-wall and our tired feet didn’t feel like standing up while we enjoyed a caffeine hit. This outlet had decent seating inside, a range of different brews (both single origin and blends) and the coffee packed a punch. This was far and away the best piccolo and double espresso we found in Seattle and we enjoyed the complimentary small glasses of sparkling water served alongside (see the picture at the top of this post). There are also a few chairs outside for sunny days (and we picked a very sunny time of the year to be in Seattle). It’s a real find.
813 5th Ave N (and lots of other outlets in Seattle)
Cherry Street Coffee House
A sign on the window tells intending visitors that this is the home of the US barista champion. We managed to get very decent espresso and macchiato coffee here. The venue claims free wi-fi but it proved to be difficult to get a stable connection. Still, for a coffee stop it was very welcome.
5th and Denny (and lots of other locations)
Tilikum Place Cafe
This isn’t specifically a cafe but you can prop up at one of the high stools for a coffee if you want. After a reasonable lunch here, gluttonous husband decided to finish with an espresso. It looked OK, but the flavour was very mild. Perhaps not the worst choice if you’re desperate for an afternoon caffeine fix that won’t leave you wide awake late into the night.
407 Cedar Street
We’d enjoyed a long walk down by the water, on our way to exploring the famed Pike Place market. Uptown is also a chain of cafes and we chanced a double espresso. The colour was incredibly dense but the coffee again didn’t have any real oomph.
Pier 70, 2801 Alaskan Way (plus more outlets)