I have visited an handful of cafes in Seattle so far, and I think it might be worth my time to give you the lowdown of some of the ones I like and dislike.
Ghost Note Coffee (Bellevue Ave)
[A good spot to work despite its confusing twists on traditional coffee.]
This is a relatively new spot that has only been open for a couple months. The cafe is a triumph in interior design and serves mediocre coffee in such a stylish way I don’t even care if it tastes horrible. And some of the coffee does indeed taste horrible. The cafe brews iced coffee to order (something I’ve never experienced before) which results in a grainy, bitter, barely palatable beverage. The espresso experience is fine (probably because they aren’t taking artistic liberties with the process), so I usually get a shot and work in the corner near the restrooms. The cafe is excellent for work and study. This, I am convinced, is the primary focus of the cafe. Outlets are aplenty, seating is everywhere. The walls are lined with long tables and I have spent a good two hours working on projects here. The color scheme of the cafe is a pleasant aquamarine paired with white, and it even makes you feel more productive just by stepping in. Tidy, clean, and all around a great experience as long as you avoid their iced coffee experiment.
Elm Street Coffee Roasters (2nd Ave)
[An impersonal, high-end cafe that offers a quality espresso experience.]
With an interior design scheme straight out of a Kinfolk Magazine, it’s hard to feel terribly comfortable at Elm Street. Unlike Ghost Note, they definitely take pride in their coffee products, and I have had pleasant espresso experiences here almost every time. I find the espresso light, complex, and smooth. It’s hard to say too much about a cafe that is consistent and has provided what you expect from a third-wave cafe: good coffee. The atmosphere is professional, delicate, and stark, so it’s a good place to sit for a professional chat and less ideal for working. My favorite spot to sit is along the bar, though that’s probably because I’m either typing, reading, or standing for a moment while having a quick drink. The tables are low and there are nooks and booths to recline in, and I find that the angular design invites semi-formal interactions.
Porchlight Coffee & Records (14th Ave)
[A delightful cafe/record store with a calm and creative atmosphere.]
Porchlight is the most charming cafe I have visited in Seattle yet. First, the customer service was noticeably excellent. My barista was friendly, personable, and made me feel welcome the entire time I was at the cafe. I got an espresso and a muffin, served on a yellow food tray like the kind you would find in a school cafeteria. While I read and worked on my muffin, several people came in and announced to the barista that they were look for some records. In the back of the store is a small vinyl collection, which adds to the atmosphere and fondly reminds me of my favorite cafe in the world, Courier Coffee in Portland, Oregon. This cafe was clean, cozy, and cultivated a unique feeling that I will definitely want to return to. When I look for a cafe, I look for spots that take pride in their product, and Porchlight’s product is its coffee experience.