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.
316 Virginia Street
There are definitely folks out there who take their pizza seriously. It’s no joking matter to them. From the in-depth discussions about the best kinds of flour to use, the optimal oven environments and of course the ideal toppings to make the perfect pie, the discussion will never result in everyone agreeing on one definitive pizza as the “best”. At foodosophy, we’ve certainly not been shy about expressing our thoughts and sharing our experiences at various pizzerias around North America as can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Wow, that was a lot. And not all of them either. :)
Now from the Tom Douglas empire comes a boldly named enterprise that would apparently be an apt gathering spot for interesting gourmands willing and able to discuss all things pizza. Serious Pie. Just adore that name. On this visit to Seattle, we had this particular address programmed into our minds but by shear chance, we walked right past the other location in South Lake Union, after checking out the nearby Tesla car showroom. But keeping with our agenda, we hoofed it back to Virginia Street as we weren’t quite hungry yet after our late morning meal back at Toulouse Petit.
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge
601 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Booze with breakfast. Sad but true, that was the criteria upon which some research was done as I had a thirsty companion who was riding shotgun on this trip. Trying to get our drink on well before the night game at Safeco Field, this place popped up as the sole option. Surprisingly, it also turned out its a pretty well known joint. Dodging the lineup and delaying our entry into the place with a coffee from down the street, we were able to get a pair of stools at one of the rectangular communal tables – fittingly right in front of the beautifully stocked bar. As it said on the menu, “daytime drinking has never been so dignified, fun and guilt free…”.
There was a special pricing event going on during the hours we were here, so it did knock a few green bills off the total tally. With a section devoted to some more uncommon creations, my dining partner and I chose from that area, skipping past the usual eggs/toast combos, that we might have otherwise chosen. Our picks: the cured pork cheeks confit hash and the smoked salmon and asparagus hash.
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.
618 S Weller Street
The International District of Seattle is sort of a dodgy place in the very late evening hours. Whenever I’m there, I always get accosted by some homeless folk, and it happened again this time strolling through there seeking a place to eat. As we navigated the streets and noticed that we were approaching the closing time of several restaurants in the area, we quickly popped into a familiar sight from Vancouver – a Vietnamese pho joint.
According to the company’s website, “in 1983, the first Pho Hoa restaurant opened in San Jose with a tiny kitchen and a few seats”. Its now branched out to many other areas across North America and surprisingly even into some countries in Asia. Not really knowing this, it was kind of strange to run into the familiar signage on the streets of this city in the Pacific Northwest.
It seemed that we were not the only ones with some late night hunger pains, as inside the place was occupied with a few larger groups of Asian youths. With some pressure to get our orders into the kitchen before they gave up on the night, we began with a duo of spring rolls – one deep fried, the other fresh. In hindsight, I suppose ordering anything cooked in a vat of hot oil at the end of a restaurant’s business hours is not wise, as the oil is probably very stale and infused with a lot of impurities. I didn’t notice any foul scent nor was it overly colored, so it seemed like we lucked out.
Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company
813 5th Ave N
There is just something innate about living on the we[s]t coast that seems to drive the people here into the warm embrace of a welcoming hot cup of good coffee more so then perhaps other parts of the continent. Some sources peg Seattle as averaging about 160 days of the year with a measurable rainfall and getting 92cm of the wet stuff per year (compare that to say Los Angeles, which receives just 30cm). No wonder this gem in the Pacific Northwest is often referred to as Rain City.
An unproven theory that I hold is that when the outdoors are unpleasant but still tantalizingly temperate enough to make one long to be outside in non-rainy weather, it makes for an ideal environment for the development of a strong network of neighborhood cafés. For what better way to pine for better weather and gaze outside at it hoping for a shift in Mother Nature, than in the company of friends and neighbors, all huddled together in a homey place buzzing with the hum of active conversation that signify the free sharing of thoughts and ideas, with everyone sipping on a cup of aromatic and deep flavored coffee.
Does that paint a warm and fuzzy picture? I sure hope it does…
Doing a quick scan of the online community for some favored coffee houses in Seattle produces a plethora of results. Luckily, I left this legwork to my traveling companion and we found that we were starting our day in a neighborhood with one on the list nearby. Good for us, as we both needed an early caffeine jolt to get started that morning. And so with that, we quickly made our way to Caffé Vita in the Queen Anne section of town, and found it nestled into a quiet street-side building, across from some newer condominiums. Apparently, this location was the original base (established in 1995) of this four-café operation, which also has its own roasterie.