Milano Espresso Lounge (Gastown)
36 Powell Street
The coffee scene on the west coast is a pretty vibrant one and Milano explains their heritage on their website in proud terms, noting their long Vancouver legacy and family traditions. Their location in Gastown is a fairly spacey lot, with high ceilings, clean lines and a mix of industrial, artsy and comfortable concepts, textures and patterns in their lounge’s design. The base of their operations – their roasting facilities – is situated in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, not too far from the likes of Menya, the busy MEC flagship and the fun to browse Dunlevy Food Equipment store.
Claiming to be dedicated to the old school Italian coffee tradition, Milano notes their key differentiator when it comes to their coffee product is their knowledge and dedication to a unique roasting and blending method – one that is not openly taught. And with their belief that what makes a great espresso is the blend quality. So much so that they even jack it up by using up to 11 beans in a blend, formulating options that run the full roast range (dark, medium, etc)!
Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe
415 Westlake Ave N
I admit freely to having some cravings for sweet stuff and giving in. The times are few and far between though, so thankfully I’m not on a permanent sugar high like some people I know who guzzle litres of pop a day or never are without a sugary doughnut with their morning coffee, a candy bar at their work desk, or pass on a daily dessert at dinner time. When I do crave something with chocolate as its primary ingredient, its often a dark variety bar.
Earlier in August, I was exposed to a variety of sample product from a Vancouver-based XOXOLAT ahead of a private function. The use and dedication to serving single origin chocolates struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of what a segment of the coffee scene is like with its strive to procure ingredients from reputable and solo operations.
While on this recent trip to Seattle, we came upon the Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe, located right by the Tesla showroom and an outpost of Serious Pie. A very large and open concept space, outfitted with a mishmash of comfortable looking and more stiffer wooden furniture. Big bright windows and high ceilings, led me to think this used to be some kind of industrial or commercial storage facility before it was transformed to the people-friendly business it is today. While primarily concentrated on the chocolate realm, they do give ample attention to their coffee beans as well for their espresso (provided by Seattle roaster Herkimer Coffee) and the loose leaf tea on the menu is from Miro Tea.
616 E Pine Street
The Capital Hill area of the Emerald City is an intriguing one to go for a stroll around in. Bars, live music venues, theatre houses, fashion boutiques, bookstores and coffeehouses abound. I think you could spend a full day up and down the main streets of this area and get in a complete day of good eats and entertainment. One of the most popular places to unwind and get a solid cup of coffee is Stumptown‘s location on the steeply inclined East Pine Street.
My only previous experience with their coffee was when I picked up some of their roasted beans in Vancouver’s Chinatown district. So I was keen on actually going to one of their two cafes in this part of Seattle. With limited seating outside and big glass windows leading inside, it was quite inviting from the sidewalk when you approach it. Stepping inside, you are in direct line of sight with the main service counter.
Uptown Espresso & Bakery
525 Queen Anne Ave N
Mon-Thu 5am – 10pm, Fri 5am – 11pm, Sat 6am – 11pm, Sun 6am – 10pm
I’ve come to discover that one of the best things of having a base in Vancouver is its close proximity to the United States and a decent sized city that is very much like the one in B.C. In less than three hours, you can be in Seattle, and have a chance to explore new sights and places to eat and drink, and still be able to get home and sleep in your own bed. Can’t say I could do the same living in two major centers in Alberta like I did over the years.
First stop after arriving in town was at a breakfast place, where we got on the waiting list – to be written about later. We then walked down the street for some morning caffeine. It was close and convenient, no pre-planning in effect. A shame I know, given that Seattle is reputed to be a great coffee town.
Dairy Lane Cafe
319 19 St NW
Nestled on a quiet street situated close to a residential neighborhood (from what I could see behind the parking lot of the building where the car I arrived in was parked), the Dairy Lane Cafe was our choice for an impromptu lunch just ahead of the madness which is the start of Stampede. As such, I was quite surprised to find a packed inside seating area, as well as all the available spots being taken up on the uncovered tables situated on the sidewalk in front of the building.
It didn’t seem like it was anywhere near any walk up traffic from the office worker crowd, but yet still busy at the noon hour. Scanning the relaxed attire of those eating already, it was clear to me that this was a casual, homey spot for clean honest grub for those who might more often than not, just live around the corner – some younger ladies who seemed to be out for a bite to eat with their girlfriends, to some guys who obviously fell into the hipster genre given their tight fitting attire and attitude, as well as strangely enough, some rougher dressed fellows who if I were to assume from the paint on their overalls, were some tradesmen on break for something to eat while on the day job.
The spot came recommended by locals and was described to me as a throwback to simpler times and with operators very keen on the whole “produced local” attitude, and knowing where their ingredients came from. The space was not very large inside and staffed seemingly by just two busy servers. Some large framed pictures hung on the wall reminded me of a by-gone era in rural Alberta, catching my eye enough to snap a photo myself. If I were to compare the looks and feel of this place to anywhere in Vancouver, I would say something like Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe & Pie Shop in Kits comes to mind.
75 East Pender Street
Strolling around in Chinatown is an interesting activity. I see many tourists doing it, with cameras slung from their necks, taking in all this part of Vancouver has to offer. Not only visually but also the many places to eat. After all, Chinese culture has a long culinary history and has pervaded its way into North American dining, and has a wide spread familiarity, albeit perhaps not always along the true lines of authentic and regional cuisine that the country has to offer and is yet under-explored by many. I’d say stick around here on foodosophy, as one of our keen writers GastronomyDomine (aka fmed) is a knowledgeable fellow when it comes to this genre and has posted more than a few reports on places you should try out. And hopefully more to come. (nudge, dudge, wink, wink)
Amid a mainly Asian collection of shops, eateries and other stores, you can find the slow spread of other kinds of places that are merging into this neighborhood. You can notice is especially if you walk from Gastown towards the heart of Chinatown. Now whether this is a good or bad thing, it surely is up for debate depending on your stance. I applaud though from a business perspective to give new things a shot, and inject old areas with new life and different choices. At least for me, coming across these on random strolls makes things interesting. Enough so to entice me to stop and go inside. The Everything Cafe was once such place.
To Go Coffee Shop / Seomi & Tuus House Object Gallery
32-21 Chae-Dong, Chongro-gu
Seoul, South Korea
With long business hours (Mon~Fri, 7am to midnight; Sat, 7am to 11pm; Sun, 9am to 10pm) and a serious dedication to contemporary art and design – given their ties to a nearby gallery – the To Go Coffee Shop housed within this quaint brick-and-glass building made for the best of both worlds. Open early enough for a warm cup of coffee to get your day going, but also laid back and aesthetically interesting with its display of modern artwork to make you want to stay longer than you normally might just to take in the scene.
The bukchon neighborhood follows a similar dual dynamic. Retro remnants of a by-gone era with traditional architecture and residences that take you back in time, flanked by rows of ultra hip and trendy shops popular with the city’s busy youth. The latter characteristic reminded me of the ura-Harajuku area of Tokyo. I have a friend who works as an assistant director at one of the many galleries here, and I’d always heard interesting things from her about hanging out and working in this district, so I had to check it out for myself, camera in hand.