Cosmonaut Coffee

Cosmonaut Coffee – 817 Division Ave, Tacoma WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Bike rack down low, or the elevated deck ~
  • Cafe setting: Out of this world ~
  • Interior seating: neatly packed like a space capsule ~
  • Exterior seating: above the earth deck ~
  • Pastry selection: good pastries and sandwiches ~

We had planned a big day to wheel around the South Sound from Seattle, to Tacoma, across the narrows to Gig Harbor, then to the Southworth Ferry and back to Seattle; 107 miles and 7,250’ of quality rolling and climbing awaited.

Hugging Puget Sound for the majority of the route, we were treated to breathtaking beauty, and quiet roads on an early Sunday morning in June.  This ride was one, regardless of the hurt the climbs dealt out, that placed us into an orbit of cycling euphoria.  It included steep climbs, exhilarating descents, and ribbons of back road tranquility.

Along the way there were a few moments of urban turbulence when grinding through Burien, Des Moines, and the Port of Tacoma.  We had two extra-terrestrial sightings.  First, a fist shaking and presumed toothless, pick-up truck driving male, ranting out some redneck wisdom.  The second, at roughly 10:00 AM, was a dog walking, PBR tallboy sipping, smoke dragging, muumuu clad female.  Dropping a chain on the rise of the narrow, heavily trafficked, Elle St Bridge provided the coda of the gritty urban segment of the ride and also the prelude to our mid-ride docking at Cosmonaut Coffee.

IMG_3333IMG_3352Located directly opposite of Wright Park on Division Ave in Tacoma, Cosmonaut Coffee, formerly Satellite Coffee (click here for the story), provided an excellent drop out of hyperdrive.  It was quirky, fun, and provided an excellent cycling espresso stop.  The space theme was marvelous.  We docked our rides on the upper landing bay and entered through the triple air locked door fitted with a delightful custom brass porthole.  Within the espresso chamber we were greeted by the sensory lifting scents of coffee.

IMG_3351The tight quarters inside the coffee station were fancifully themed for the space traveller.  Narrow counters with lollipop bar stools and  fixed benches were the seating choice; not luxurious but perfect scale for the outpost.  The head was equally compact, equipped with a “stink-o-meter” to monitor air quality, and a velvet print of the Enterprise to appease lingering stargazers.

The espresso bar was a neatly engineered unit with fully powered equipment.  The barista was friendly and engaged her customers while managing the helm and the till.  Food rations were good; pastries, sandwiches and more IMG_3342filled out the compliment.  The Veggie-fu sandwich from Molly’s Grown to Eat was excellent. We enjoyed finishing our sandwiches on the deck that looks over historic Wright Park, that has recently received restorative updates and  improvements to further the longevity of this delightful urban respite.  The masterplan and updates were designed by Site Workshop.

Cosmonaut Coffee, we definitely recommend you as a cycling espresso stop and give our espresso experience a four out of five wheel rating.  The atmosphere was delightful, the barista was engaging, and the espresso was excellent.  The only items that took you out of the highest orbit were, the crema did not quite attain a velvety perfection and the soda water was served in a plastic cup.  We hope to try the 6th Avenue ship that boasts a cycling roll up service window.

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Fully refueled, we launched again on our journey, enjoying sites such as Stadium High School and the beautiful housing stock along N Yakima Ave..  We made our way to the deep space portal of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  The cycling lane was excellent, particularly when compared to the death defying wormhole of the old bridge.  Our journey took us through beautiful Gig Harbor and onto scenic Crescent Vally Dr. NW.  Crescent Valley Dr. has a few thigh roasting climbs that are just a warm up to the even more punishing ascents on Banner Rd SE.  After being beaten up by the hills, we made a quick stop to check the time and ferry schedule. We discovered we were 8 miles away with only 20 minutes until the next ferry departed.  If we missed this one, there would be a full hour to wait for the next one and family obligations loomed heavily.  We hopped back into our cockpits and launched with our beleaguered legs down the line of Banner Rd.  It was straight and riddled with ups and downs.  From the apex of the first climb and in the line of site was a long daunting climb ahead of us.  Gritting teeth we hammered down the descent to gain as much speed and momentum to attain escape velocity from the impending black hole that would suck the life from our legs and any hope of reaching the ferry in time.  We pressed on and called upon Scotty to give us just a little more as we crested into a low grade mile long ascent to reached the right turn onto Sedgwick Rd., which would provide a gravitational slingshot to the ferry terminal.  Scotty delivered but the demand had our hearts jumping out of our chests.  As we sped downhill to our goal, a doe followed by her fawn sprung into the road causing an abrupt halt and narrow miss of calamity.  Picking it up again, we raced to the dock where the workers had just clipped the safety netting across the loading bay and were giving the go signal to the Captain.  We raced to the line and pleaded our case to let us on.  The workers said it would rely on the Captain’s approval and they radioed up the request.  Like dogs at the dinner table we arched our heads upward to the helm with wide longing eyes.  The Captain gave the thumbs up and we were allowed to board.  The ferry ride was a welcome respite to our knackered legs that still needed to press on an additional 15 miles on the far side of the ride.  The sprint to the ferry was exhilerating and forged a fond memory to an extremely enjoyable day of riding.

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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

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Bar Toma

Bar Toma – 110 E. Pearson St., Chicago, IL – Five out of five wheels rating

Chicago is a wonderful city that is urban to the core.  Swelling with life, art, architecture and history, the city was a welcome respite for The Cycle Cafe. However, we had concern from hearing reports that the Chicago espresso culture is lacking and finding a bona fide espresso experience will not be easy.  Our last visit to the mid-west provided disappointing results.  Our stay in Chicago was short so we tapped into our resources prior to the visit to seek out the most promising espresso in the Loop.

Bar Toma was recommended by a good friend who works in the city and is a Chicagoland native with keen insight to the dining and entertainment culture of Chicago.   It is the casual italian dining creation of chef Tony Mantuano; who is highly regarded for his culinary expertise and his fine dining establishment, Spiaggia, the only four star Italian restaurant in Chicago.  The flavors from beginning to end pleasantly lit up our palettes. The menu is filled with a host of small plate gastronomic delights to compliment 20 wood fired pizza creations.  Our meal ended with a selection of gelato that arrived, unexpectedly and to our pleasure, compliments of the house.  It was decidedly decadently delicious.

Bar Toma

As much as we enjoyed dining, our interest still lay with the quality of the espresso experience to be found in Chicago.  We asked how early they were open because we had limited time the next day and wanted to come back for an espresso.  The waitress introduced us to the key barista and manager, Steven Paluck, who offered to open the doors a touch early to serve us an espresso.  We decided upon a time and he gave us his card and told us to call him if our plans needed to change. Considering that our visits and reviews are conducted anonymously, the quality of service and personal attention was especially appreciated, but the question was still out if they could deliver a proper espresso experience?

Public Bike Rear Cog

The next morning we saddled up on a “Public” brand three speed city bike provided complimentary to guests staying at the fabulous James Hotel, which is just five blocks south of Bar Toma.  We did a quick cruise to the lake front at Navy Pier then headed north along the shore to Oak St. Beach and then made our way to Bar Toma.   The orange “Public” provided a very cushy ride and a great way to experience the lake front and Chicago.

 

We arrived at the agreed upon time and entered the doors; the staff was making preparations for the day.  The barista who was prepping the espresso bar was wearing a cycling cap, which we appreciated.  We asked to order an espresso and he apologized that they were not open yet and that he did not have everything ready to go.  Concerned that our opportunity would be lost, we mentioned that Steven had offered last night to serve us an espresso prior to opening.  The hostess let Steven know that we were there and he came out to greet us with a welcome smile, a hand shake and an appreciation that we were able to make the visit.  It was evident that Steven is truly passionate about his art of making espresso and this translated directly into a great espresso experience.

Setting the grinds

He set upon the task with concentration and an admirable attention to detail.  Just prior to the shot initiating from the machine the coffee aroma peaked our anticipation with rich full coffee essence.  Saucers were set out in the ready.  The cups floated from the machine to us.  The crema was thick, consistent, and a lovely brown with wisps of red.  The espresso was smooth and velvety as it flowed across the tongue providing a rich coffee flavor and lasting sweet finish. We liked it so much that we had to have another just to make sure.

The Espresso

Bar Toma serves illy coffee and is an illy espresso bar.  We admired the sleek design of the espresso machine.  It was a special collaborative product designed by illy with the help of Italian architect Luca Trazzi.  Steven took the time to educate us about illy coffee and the care and method illy takes to preserve the freshness and quality of the beans.  He also shared the following information about a traditional method of enjoying an espresso:

Crema – The importance of crema in espresso is that it awakens your pallet.  The flavor is light and bitter with soft leather notes and hints of chocolate and caramel. As the crema dissolves on your tongue, the oils will coat your mouth and tongue.  You will feel a slight tingling sensation on your tongue, which will reappear in different forms with every sip.

Coffee Liquor – Considered the purest form of coffee, the espresso liquor is a rich and vibrant liquid that has depths of flavor with every sip.  Traditionally, espresso is meant to be drunk in four sips. The first sip is the introduction of the crema which provides a sharp bitterness that leaves your tongue tingling with a very pleasant warmth on your lips. The second is your introduction to the coffee liquor, which will be rich, robust, bitter, and have a strong tobacco and leather quality; very similar to drinking coffee with the grinds still in it like Cowboy Coffee.  The third sip will be full of chocolate and caramel flavors and have a lot less bitter; fine floral notes will be achieved and linger till your final sip.  The fourth and final sip will have a sweet and delightfully pleasant finish much like candy but with a richness that lasts for a long time.

Bar Toma, we give you five out of five wheels rating for a great espresso experience.  The Cycle Cafe recommends that you give them a visit to experience a proper espresso.   Bar Toma gives the wanting espresso culture of Chicago hope for the future.  Our only recommendation is to offer a bit of seltzer with the espresso and all will be primo!  We look forward to our next opportunity to enjoy an espresso at Bar Toma.

To read other espresso reviews click the Home link.

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Espresso being crafted. Notice the gelato case at the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bar Toma exterior with outdoor patio seating in background of the Public bike.

Menu – click this link to see the menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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