An original that's stuck around
The last of the Ave’s famous coffeehouses that pioneered the genre, this laid-back roaster also owns the title of the city’s oldest coffee shop. The espresso drinks are good, but the atmosphere -- and the old-school poster wall -- are iconic and historic.
Laid back and comfortable, like a pair of old jeans
The “Home of the Velvet Foam” was one of the first local shops to stake their reputation on producing better quality espresso drinks. The original location (in Uptown, naturally) opened in 1984, and the mini-chain is now seven stores strong and has produced many future coffee shop owners -- though the shop itself was owned by the great-grandson of Oscar Delaloye, Seattle’s first coffee roaster until his death in late 2018. Now, the mostly spacious, comfortable stores are managed by Fonté, who roasted their coffee -- meaning they are still both a great place to do work or take a meeting, and to order any drink latte-style drink for a taste of that velvet foam.
History in a cup
To clarify: This is not the first Starbucks. That was a block away on Western Ave. But it is the oldest currently operating store in the chain, and it does have lots of old logos, a special signature roast, and almost 45 years of history (plus the occasional epic line). The narrow space with vintage-style espresso machines doesn't invite people to stay at all -- the opposite of later stores -- but it's worth a linger at the worn-wood counters and a browse of the original brass bean-bin labels.
A classic, remade
Bauhaus’ current location is barely a shadow of its one-time glory as the epicenter of Capitol Hill’s coffee culture -- a place where people spent entire days whiling away time over cups of coffee under the watchful eyes of the book-lined walls, and where soon-to-be-famous bands would meet. But the more polished current version does its best to evoke the library-like original location, just in a more polished, modern way. It may lack the musicians meeting-and-dreaming of the original, but honestly, so does all of Seattle.
Get a feel for cart culture
When Chuck Beek opened Monorail Espresso’s original cart in December 1980, it was the first espresso cart in the city and opened the floodgates on the trend. Later, it morphed into more of a sidewalk window and Beek has since sold it to a former barista, but the business continues on. Grab your drink and sit at the tables in front to watch the world go by--just like everyone did in the '90s.
Capitol Hill and South Lake Union
An espresso master makes his ideal shop
When David Schomer opened his espresso cart on Broadway in 1988, he was just getting started in the espresso industry. Today, he’s revered as one of its foremost experts -- and the guy who made latte art a trend -- but he also still runs shops that pull some of the city’s most perfect shots. The sidewalk bar retains the old-school feel better, but the large, warmer store up the street also has a mural of the company’s history wrapping around the counter. Order anything with an espresso shot to get a feel for Schomer's precision.
Museum, radio station, coffee shop
The KEXP Gathering Space and La Marzocco café only just opened in 2016, but the Italian espresso machine manufacturer’s role in Seattle’s coffee scene earns its showroom a spot on the list. Seattleite Kent Bakke began importing their machines in the late ‘70s, eventually buying the company and supplying them to Starbucks and just about everyone else in town. The sprawling, modern open space with killer tunes -- thanks to the radio station housed there -- is one of the most lovely places in town to sit and hang out for a few hours. The menu changes monthly with the various roasters rotating out, so have the barista make you whatever that month's featured signature drink is.