Anchored Ship Coffee Bar

Anchored Ship Coffee Bar – 5306 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  None directly outside ~
  • Cafe setting:  Cozy ships theme ~
  • Interior seating: Good variety of choices, intimate setting ~
  • Exterior seating: Two cafe tables, good street view ~
  • Pastry selection: Excellent variety and quality ~

2013IMG_2423Anchored ShipAhoy mates!  Scrub the barnacles off your shoes and come aboard.  Anchored in Old Town Ballard, directly on the south end of the Sunday Farmer’s Market, Anchored Ship Coffee Bar has an ideal location for taking in the activity of the street.  This spot has been a coffee bar for over 20 years with Anchored Ship being the third generation enterprise.  We think the ships theme is fitting for the Old Town Ballard setting.

2013IMG_2437Anchored ShipThe storefront is discrete.  If you find yourself in front of the Ballard Inn, you are half a block too far south.  Outside are a two small cafe tables and a complimentary doggie water bowl for Rover to quench his thirst.  The anchor logo on the glass is framed by the bright red painted wood stiles and rails of the door.


2013IMG_2436Anchored ShipWarm coffee aromas greeted us as we entered.  Inside is cozy but did not feel cramped.  Naturally finished fir warms the starboard side, and painted wood seals the port side of the deck.  The galley is well contained and has a full variety of quality pastries and food items to select from.  Theo’s chocolate and chocolate covered espresso beens are there to tempt you as well.  The TruBru pour over station on the counter was simple with a modern aesthetic.  Multiple seating options are available including window bars, cafe 2013IMG_2448Anchored Shiptables, and a long narrow mess-deck table to host a larger group.  A narrow flight of stairs takes you up to the quarterdeck for a quiet stowaway spot to read a book, have a get acquainted coffee, and possibly “set a course for adventure and your mind on a new romance”.  We were starting a new book, “The Immortal Class”, a bicycling romance of sorts.

The barista was friendly, engaging, and pleasantly took our 2013IMG_2446Anchored Shiporder.  Herkimer Coffee is served at Anchored Ship.  Upon taking the espresso order, she immediately poured out a glass of soda water for us, much to our satisfaction.  She took concentrated care in the packing and preparation of the grinds, and then expertly pulled the espresso.  It was presented with a saucer, spoon, and a smile to cap off the presentation.  The aroma was rich, and the crema was consistent and full.  The flavor of the coffee had a good progression from a first bite of acidity to a lingering sweetness.

2013IMG_2442Anchored ShipAnchored Ship Coffee Bar, we give you a rating of four out of five wheels for our espresso experience.  We highly recommend you as a destination cycling cafe.  The espresso experience was spot on.  Our only comment  is that the crema lacked top quality stamina, and the level of viscosity could be slightly greater to develop a velvety and delightful espresso. We visited twice and had consistent service and quality from two different baristas, so compliments to your team and the training you invested in them!

2013IMG_2451Anchored Ship 2013IMG_2450Anchored Ship 2013IMG_2440Anchored Ship 2013IMG_2425Anchored Ship 2013IMG_2435Anchored Ship 2013IMG_2438Anchored Ship

 *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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Black Coffee Co-Op

Black Coffee Co-Op – 501 E. Pine St. Seattle, WA 98122

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations: Available on street ~
  • Cafe setting: Spacious, daylight, ~
  • Interior seating: Good quantity and variety ~
  • Exterior seating: None observed ~
  • Pastry selection: Vegan – case was empty ~

Black Coffee CoopIMG_23882012The Cycle Cafe stumbled upon Black Coffee Co-Op.  Black Coffee is self described as, “…a worker’s cooperative, café, community space & infoshop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Black Coffee serves specialty coffee & tea, vegan food & pastries, and delicious beer & wine. In addition, the Black Coffee Co-op hosts all sort of community events, maintains a small public library, and has a selection of independently produced literature…”

Black Coffee CoopIMG_23742012Black coffee can, without a doubt, be described as interesting.  Before entering, we did a bit of quick research by reading the paper flyers posted on the windows and gained a cursory understanding of Black Coffee.  We at least understood that it was a co-op of sorts.  As we jotted down descriptive attempts in our Field Notes book, we struck out a few terms like hipster, edgy, student culture, and in a bit of exasperation landed on “somewhat counter culture”.  As it turns out Black Coffee appears to have roots born out of anarchist philosophies.

Black Coffee CoopIMG_23872012The interior is large and spacious with copious amounts of natural light, which was a delightful indulgence on a dark dingy day in the deep of winter at the north 47th parallel.  The setting had an appearance of repurposed use with a happenstance character that may be considered befitting to the ideology of its foundation.  Worn wood floors were balanced against the tall exposed car-deck ceilings that are supported on heavy timbers.  There was a community of seating options from grandma’s living room, to window bar, to tables and chairs; all had some stretch of burgundy and wood tones.

Black Coffee CoopIMG_23862012“Vegan Grub” was advertised as the food source.  We could not help to think that vegan and grub can be construed to have an oxymoronic relationship, considering that a grub is a living creature.  May we suggest Vegan Fare as an alternate menu title.  Fare seems more befitting to the commune environment.  Apparently the food side of the commune had taken the day off because the pastry case was barren at noon.

Black Coffee CoopIMG_23832012We were kindly greeted at the espresso bar and made our order.  We asked a few questions regarding the Kuma brand coffee being served, specifically if it was 100% arabica.  Seattle based Kuma, is notably transparent in its “Direct Trade” purchasing practices, where over half of their coffee is direct trade sourced. The comrade playing barista did not know the answer but called up to the loft where the founding comrade who knew the answer was reposed.  100% arabic was called down from above.   The barista went in search of an espresso cup; he shuffled, sorted, moved, and finally alighted Black Coffee CoopIMG_23772012upon one that we can only assume chose us, as if it was Harry’s Potter’s wand.  He went about his work appearing to be whispering questions regarding timing to a comrade barista who whispered what appeared to be an answer back.  The espresso was delivered with a big smile, it was quite bubbly, the espresso crema that is.  The liquid content was high and the crema lacked stamina and richness.  The aroma was faintly pleasant and the flavor did not develop to the potential we believe the Finca Rosma single origin roast of Kuma coffee had to offer.

Black Coffee we were on the verge of withholding a rating at this time since you only narrowly qualified as a recommended cycling stop.  Because of your unique character we decided to give you a rating of one wheel.  Keep in mind that we only write up cafes that we recommend as worth a visit.  One of the key factors is that the pastry case was completely empty.  After putting in many miles cycling on the road, having a bit of “grub” or “fare” is necessary.  The espresso shot was not what we would consider well crafted and lacked the qualities of a good espresso or any sense of espresso tradition.  However, the environment was pleasant, the barista friendly, and the seating options copious.  Complimentary Wi-Fi was available.  There are accommodations for bicycle parking directly outside and the interior space can accommodate a peloton if needed.  The left of center feel makes it quite intriguing and a good getaway spot to gather to plan a social revolution.  We recommend that the people, in solidarity, pay Black Coffee a visit.  We wish you well and hope to see more communal focus on developing the craft of pulling a high quality espresso and serving it properly.

Black Coffee CoopIMG_23792012


*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.

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Milstead & Co.

Milstead & Co. – 770 N 34th St Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations: Limited to street, convienient off the Burke-Gilman trail  ~
  • Cafe setting: Spacious, daylight, ~
  • Interior seating: Good quantity; low and high tables ~
  • Exterior seating: Access to a large court of the History House ~
  • Pastry selection: Average pastry selection ~

Recently, we have stopped at a number of boutique coffee houses around town, that are keeping with the trend of serving single origin artisan roasted coffee.  Some of the roasts recently tried include Stumptown, Intelligencia and Heart; Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Guatemalan single sourced beans.  Much like a single malt scotch, or a fine wine, a single origin coffee has distinct regional characteristics attributed to describe its flavor, aroma and texture.  Tasting and exploring the different world varieties is a journey of discovery of the delights released from the bean, brought out by the roast, and ultimately the proper brewing of the coffee.  While the enjoyment of the flavors is a worthy experience, it often does not result in the finest cup of espresso; particularly in the hands of a an unskilled barista.  The grinding and timing of the shot needs to be dialed in precisely.  If the cafe has not completed the appropriate amount of discovery regarding the qualities, the flavor, and the chemistry of the roast, the results can be a disaster.


We made a stop at MIlstead and Co. and think that they have got it dialed in.  Milstead did not serve a house go to espresso blend; our choices were a Kenyan from Heart and a Guatamalan from Stumptown. They appropriately advised us on what to expect in the flavor, and suggested that we stir the Kenyan to emulsify the sugars.  They made the appropriate adjustments to the grind and the machine to draw the most from the finicky disposition of the single origin coffees.


Milstead and Co. is tucked under the Aurora Bridge.  If you are tourist in the area, you can make a quick stop up the hill to see the Fremont Troll, followed by a quality single origin at Milstead & Co., then continue on to take in the rest of Fremont.  There is not a big sign, so one can ride past without even noticing Milstead; the 770 address number is the most evident way-finding element signifying their existence.  The cafe is spacious, with ample seating, and room to host cupping events.  The interior is simple and smartly completed; natural wood is the unifying element of the design. Warm seasonal decorations filled the centerpieces on the tables, and embraced the tip jar to add a personal touch of decor.  The swag ropes and stanchions begged for a different solution to manage queue control for the coffee starved masses; there should be a market for resale on Ebay.   Coffee, tea, and brewing accoutrements are tastefully displayed for sale.  Outdoor seating is provided complimentary by the courtyard of the adjacent History House, when they are mutually open.

We give Milstead four out of five wheels for our espresso experience.  They greeted us warmly, introduced us to the coffee they were offering, and provided some instruction, on how best to enjoy each espresso made from the single origins being brewed.  They provided a soda water unprompted with the espresso.  We appreciated the flavor treat and the adventure of the single origin, however,  it is difficult to bring home a top notch espresso flavor with a single origin.  In our humble opinion, we think it is advisable for quality coffee shops to have a go to constant for an espresso blend and keep the option open for single origin roast.

*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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Brewed – 601 Main Street, Vancouver, Washington

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations: Limited to street ~
  • Cafe setting: Cozy, daylight, unique decor, well displayed, ghost ~
  • Interior seating: Loft plus limited entry level ~
  • Exterior seating: limited, covered ~
  • Pastry selection: Did not see a display, menu of food offerings ~

Journey to Vancouver Part II  – (Part I)

Vancouver received a Bicycle Friendly Community Bronze award from  the League of American Bicyclist.  The City of Vancouver, in conjunction with the City of Portland, has created a combined bicycle map, to help plan an urban ride sure to have many opportunities to discover points of interest in both cities.  Vancouver also provides a base to start and finish, a Columbia River Gorge bicycle tour.  The Oregon department of transportation published a tour map that describes three routes to help plan a scenic cycling tour of the river gorge.  We have driven the route along I-84 many times and can attest to the beauty a bicycling expedition would offer.   A loop from Vancouver to The Dalles, Oregon, traversing the north and south side of the river gorge, would be approximately 200 miles.  A stay at the Inn of the White Salmon, in White Salmon, Washington, is recommended for a good night sleep and a sumptuous breakfast in the morning.  Another tour that would involve considerably more climbing and distance, would be to route south, around Mt. Hood, via state routes 26 and 35; this course would certainly provide scenic splendor.

Our second stop for an espresso in Vancouver was at Brewed coffee.  They are located in a street level storefront, of the historic, and purportedly haunted, Heritage Building on Main street.  Brewed has placed a trifecta of offerings together as part of the freshly opened,  multi-generational, family owned and operated, coffee house, restaurant, and wine bar.  The interior is compact, and features a reclaimed lumber faced bar as a a signature element.  There is loft seating, as well as seating on the main level.  We enjoyed that the metal sign, displayed in the interior, was formed by the inverse remnant of the letters cut for the exterior signage.  Decorative art glass lights provide a touch of color, and a subtle sense of connection to the historic character of the building.

We were pleasantly greeted and welcomed by the proprietor, a.k.a , the brother, as we entered the cafe.  The chattering sound of coffee beans being loaded into the grinder warmed our anticipation of an espresso.  Brewed develops and roasts their own coffee blend.  This particular day, perhaps a consequence of the preternatural prowling of Joyce D. Thomasen, the ghost of the Heritage Building, the blend of coffee being used was a mystery of the unknown.  Although we preferred to suspect our theory of a specter at play, it was quickly dispelled, and the culpability of the “Mystery of the Unknown Roast”, was quickly assessed to the father, who had allegedly delivered the freshly roasted beans, then promptly had any knowledge of which beans had been roasted, wiped clean from his cerebral cortex.  Fathers, if not good for floating a business, are certainly good for carrying a share of cause and effect consequences.  The barista, a.k.a. sister of the operation, quickly got to work, grinding the beans, leveling, then tamping, and finally delivering the grinds to the La Marzocco machine, to work some magic.  The espresso was delivered with a buoyant and enthusiastic smile; in a cup, sans saucer, spoon, or any other accompaniment.  The crema was whitish and relatively thin, and the aroma was light.  The flavor was not robust, however, we enjoyed the taste, and the light sweetness that developed at the finish.  We suspect that the espresso was potentially pulled too quickly, or was under extracted, or possibly the grind was too course, to allow a fully developed crema, flavor, and aroma.  Brewed, we enjoyed our experience at your cafe.  We give our espresso experience with you two out of five wheels.  The rating was buoyed by the enjoyable and enthusiastic service, as well as, the pleasant finish of the espresso.  We encourage you to hone your espresso craft in order to deliver the finest espresso possible, and suggest you review David Schomer’s publications: “Techniques of the Barista” and “Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques”.  They are excellent resources for refining the quality of the espresso.   David Schomer is a recognized world expert in espresso craft.  Read The Cycle Cafe’s Rating Guide, to gain an idea of what we look for and see at the best espresso bars, then add a personal touch of your own.  We look forward to returning in the future.

*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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Torque Coffee Roasters

Torque Coffee Roasters – 501 Columbia St. Vancouver, Washington

  • Espresso – ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ 
  • Cycle accommodations: Lots of space, nowhere to secure
  • Cafe setting: Spacious, daylight, quirky, lots of opportunity
  • Interior seating: Variety, retro living room, pews, metal cafe tables
  • Exterior seating: Picnic tables, lots of space no cover
  • Pastry selection: Good with unique variety, limited quantities

Journey to Vancouver Part I – (Part II)

Just eight miles away, via a hop over the Columbia river, Vancouver resides in, what some may perceive as, the shadow of Portland Oregon.  There definitely seems to be some level of Portlandian influence, and it would seem, that Vancouver is actively seeking to carve an identity of its own, influenced, but not overshadowed by its neighbor across the river.   Vancouver residents have an advantage, they enjoy the benefits of no income tax by living in Washington, and the benefit of no sales tax, when shopping in Oregon.   Sales tax avoidance penalties exist, but seem difficult to enforce, with the exception of large purchases that require registration.

Vancouver Washington is located on the banks of the great Columbia River.  Meriwether Lewis described it in 1806 as, “the only desired situation for settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.”  Hudson’s Bay Company established the first European settlement and Fort Vancouver in 1824; along with the settlement came the decimation of native populations, due to introduction of European presence and disease.  Founded in 1858 the city of Vancouver has an appealing Western historic character.  This character however, quickly gives way to strip mall sprawl as one travels beyond the center of town.  Downtown appears to be undergoing revitalization with new development, retail shop and restaurants inhabiting the historic downtown core.  It is pedestrian friendly and easily walkable.  Streets feature painted cycling lanes to provide a narrow slice of the pavement to the preferred mode of transportation.  Sunday features a large Farmer’s Market at Esther Short Park; it is an event to socialize, pick up fresh goods, and much more. The market is held, rain or shine, mid March through the end of October.  Vancouver’s revitalization of the downtown core must be showing signs of success, particularly  signified by the rise of two new boutique coffee bars, striving to carry the torch of artisan coffee culture forward.  We visited the two recently opened cafes, Torque Coffee Roasters, the subject of Vancouver Journey Part I, and Brewed, the subject of Vancouver Journey Part II.

Our “exhaustive” online research revealed, that there were no reputable cafes in Vancouver.  Relying on word of mouth ultimately proved more fruitful; we asked a few locals, and Torque Coffee Roasters and Brewed, were constantly referenced.  We were pleasantly surprised that Torque Coffee Roasters was located directly across the street from the Hilton, where we were staying, and the place of the event that brought us to Vancouver Washington.

Torque was opened in April of 2012, and is located in a renovated auto repair garage that still features many of the artifacts, such as the hoisting beam and gantry, concrete floors, and spill drain.  There is a large uncovered exterior seating area, that is brought to life by a wall mural of pastoral scene featuring a women plucking an apple from a tree.  When the weather allows, a large rolling garage door can be opened, to join the exterior to the cafe interior.  The Interior is vast and appears to still be seeking its motif.  The most distinctive feature is the large wall mural of the I-5 bridge towers integrated with the Torque logo.  The collection of retro furnishing, refurbished church pews, and metal cafe tables provide a variety of seating choices.  The cafe bar is a wide open corral, distinguished by a pumpkin orange painted bead board front, with an oak countertop.  The openness provides a clear window into the back of house necessities of the operation, including a detailed view of the collection cleaning agents and metal garbage can.  Just beyond the bar is a cache of what appeared to be a selection of Torque apparel for purchase.  We found the whole cafe ambience to be quite interesting, and with great opportunity for future merit.  We suggest that it has not yet fully gelled into a detectable character befitting the marvelous moniker, Torque.

We were warmly greeted as we entered the cafe and stepped up to place our order.  Upon ordering the espresso, the owner and barista, informed us that they were testing a new roast from “Red Line Rosters” in Portland, and that the roast has a particularly tart flavor to it.  We appreciated the warning to our tastebuds.  He informed us that the shot needed to be pulled rapidly, roughly 18 seconds, otherwise the flavor of the shot would completely drive off the road.  The espresso was served with a saucer and spoon, no soda water.  He graciously urged us to enjoy the espresso and settle the bill afterwards.  The aroma was subtle, the crema a light carmel color, with an appropriate thickness that provided a velvety touch to the palette; the barista deservedly receives credit for expertly crafting the crema.  As promised, the shot flavor was tart, and did not develop a rich coffee flavor, or a lingering sweetness.

We decided to have a second espresso, to give the roast a fair chance, and to survey the pastry selection. The counter was now serviced by a charming young woman who was delighted to give us a tour of the pastry case that featured, a modest quantity, but good variety, of selections from the BakeShop in Portland.  The pastries were top notch, even the bran muffin was moist and delicious.  As we ordered the second espresso, the owner noticed, and quickly popped up to coach the appropriate timing for the espresso pull.  It was a solid tart repeat performance.

Torque, we give our espresso experience two out of five wheels.  We enjoyed, the service, and the quirky aesthetic of Torque, and recommend it as a cafe stop in Vancouver.  We think it will serve as an excellent cycling stop for those enjoying a ride in the area.  The friendly engaging service paired with your evident knowledge and craft of espresso is full of great promise for Torque to flourish, and we hope it does.  The flavor of the espresso is what brought down your rating for us.  We appreciate Torque’s willingness to be a testing laboratory for roasts, but think it advisable to provide the test roast as an option, and preserve a signature roast selection for those who grow to love it.

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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Caffè Ladro

Caffè Ladro – Upper Queen Anne – 2205 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA

  • Espresso – ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷
  • Cycle accommodations: Limited
  • Cafe setting: Cozy, somewhat mysterious ambience
  • Interior seating: Window seats and banquettes
  • Exterior seating: Adirondack chairs, under cover
  • Pastry selection: Good with unique variety

Ladro Exterior

The gift of dry and sunny days has turned almost instantly to wet and cold.  The autumn weather held but a few days, before it yielded to the gray skies more customary of Seattle winter.  Our Rapha rain jacket has been proving an excellent companion to this early onset of the “big dark”, as we like to call the Seattle, post autumnal equinox, weather.

Ladro Logo

Upper Queen Anne was our destination and Caffè Ladro was the spot of choice.  Ladro was founded in 1994 at its Queen Anne location.  We were intrigued by their logo, a tall figure wearing a trench coat and fedora.  This dark figure is the “coffee thief” translated from italian to caffe ladro.  Dubiously inspired by a customer who said that they would be stealing customs from the adjacent coffee shops across the street; the name stuck, and Caffè Ladro was born.  From humble beginnings , they  have grown to thirteen locations in the greater Seattle area at present.  Caffè Ladro recently began roasting their own blend, and that is what we had the opportunity to try on our visit.


The Queen Anne location is narrow and modest in size.  Fronting the cafe is a row of adirondack chairs, tucked neatly just beyond the drip line of a sidewalk awning.  Parking for cycles is scarce.   The cozy interior is defined with high backed banquettes of seating and two raised storefront window niches.  Luxuriant hand blown glass globes of pendant light fixtures intimately illuminate each table.  The dark warm tones of the interior seem appropriate for a coffee thief.   The wood floors are complimented by a

Art Glass

stamped red tin wainscot.  A screen of art glass richly defines a soffit above the espresso bar.  The stately La Marzocco espresso machine owns the bar.  Sumptuous pastries, baked by Caffè Ladro, filled the case, and a large apple pie taunted anyone who dared to try to exert will power to deny eating a slice. Our waist band breathed a sigh of relief as we somehow were victorious over the pie’s allure.


The baristas were upbeat, and created a pleasant atmosphere, as we strode to the bar to place our espresso order.  We were delighted, when immediately following our order, we were asked if we would like a soda water; which of course we accepted.  The barista took diligent care in leveling and packing the coffee.   We sipped our soda and targeted a table to sit and enjoy the espresso and read a few pages of the new Rouleur.   The espresso was delivered with care and a subtle sense of grand arrival.  The aroma was rich and flavorful.  The crema was consistent, velvelty, and flowed smoothly across the tongue.  The flavor was robust and a sweetness developed appropriately with the last sip.  The sweet coffee flavor lingered wonderfully, like pleasant company.

Caffè Ladro we give our espresso experience with you five out of five wheels.  We considered being critical and knocking you down a notch for the crema wanting to be a touch more reddish in coloration, but the flavor and aroma of the shot, as well as the engagement of the baristas, in combination with the accompaniment of soda water, carried the day for you!

The espresso

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.

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Zeitgeist Coffee

Zeitgeist Coffee – 171 South Jackson St.  Seattle, WA

  • Espresso –  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷
  • Cycle accommodations: Limited – single rail, light posts or street signs.
  • Cafe setting: Original, decidedly cool, evocative, authentic Seattle character
  • Interior seating: Ample quantity, variety of choice, spacious
  • Exterior seating: none
  • Pastry selection: Average with variety

Early morning, cars parked, red and blue dawn light, made this Sunday the ideal choice for an urban bike ride.  We took to the streets, making our way to Lake Washington Boulevard with the intent to circle Mercer Island, but the steady unchecked pace, and the lure of riding lakeside, kept us straight and west of the water.  We continued the pace, pedaling on to Seward Park, including a spin around the criterium circuit.  The crit circuit propelled us out of the park, and up Seward Park Avenue, and then with a hairpin right further up Wilson Ave; through the heart of the Beacon Hill neighborhood.   We headed west on Genesse, then north on 41st Avenue South, which transitions to Mt. Ranier Dr. South — taking  us through the center of the Mt Baker neighborhood, and then north again along

Zeitgeist Entry

31st Ave S., until intersecting S. Jackson St.; the crest of Leschi!  The route was a satisfying urban segment, without many traffic obedience stops required.   From this juncture, there are multiple route choices to further a destination;  Zeitgeist Coffee was ours. We headed west to Pioneer Square, via South Jackson St.; with its broken pavement, steel plates, and gaping pavement joints, ready to swallow or throw us from the bike at any moment — the sight of Zeitgeist Coffee was more than welcome.

Newspapers and Ironwork

Zeitgeist, was an old friend from from days past, when our daily work place was in Pioneer Square.   We found the decor to be evocative of a 1930’s – 40’s setting, and expected the scene to change from color to black and white and hear a voice over from Rod Serling  at any moment.  The coffee house is spacious with abundant seating. The well maintained natural wood finishes, in combination with the large heavy timber columns, and brick masonry bearing walls, lift the high bay ceilings of this old warehouse space.  The large selection of daily papers, displayed in a well crafted wood case topped with

Espresso bar & back wall

ornamental art deco ironwork, strongly captures the end of the espresso bar.  Within the seating area is a stand up bar with a slate top and  center mounted pedestal reading room light; perfect for taking in the daily rag.  Behind the bar is a display of vintage coffee brewing paraphernalia, as well as, what we believe to be, an early mid-century modern, electric wall clock.  Art work is displayed and changes out monthly as part of the Pioneer Square first thursday gallery walk.  The cafe always seems to have a buzz within, to evoke a sense of zeitgeist!

Custom cups

The question for us was if the espresso experience would be able to capture the sense of zeitgeist?  In a glass case was a variety of average quality pastries to choose from; the donuts looked most promising to us. The cashier, with perfectly styled hair and eyebrows, pleasantly took our order and passed it along to the barista, who seemed to be invisible behind the espresso machine.   We asked if they offer a soda water with the espresso; unfortunately not.  The barista whispered that the espresso was ready, and it emerged mysteriously, as if from a mouse hole in the wall.  The espresso was served with only a spoon to accompany the custom designed cup and saucer.   The aroma was not particularly robust, the crema had a deep reddish brown hue with a bubble  the size of a hot air ballon ready for lift off; it proved to be thin on stamina as well.  The flavor, unfortunately, was decidedly sour, and a disappointment, given how much we love the ambience of Zeitgeist Coffee. We think the unusual stretch of dry sunny days must be impacting the espresso quality in Seattle, as this was a second reputable cafe, that has recently produced a sour espresso for us.  Perhaps a soda water was needed to cleanse the palette?  Zeitgeist, we have no choice, but to give you a single wheel rating.  The ambience and character of the cafe is splendid, but a sour espresso is just that.  We will come back another day with high hopes for a better espresso taste to up the rating.  Your cafe has a great setting for enjoying a coffee,  a conversation, and a spirit of the age.

The espresso

Keep on rolling…………………………………TheCycleCafe!

There’s Waldo

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Fuel Coffee – Montlake

Fuel Coffee – Montlake – 2300 24th Ave E.  Seattle, WA

  • Espresso – ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷
  • Cycle accommodations: Rack takes multiple cycles, can be directly observed
  • Cafe setting: Bright, warm, cool auto theme, pleasant, authentic Seattle character
  • Interior seating: Ample quantity, variety of choice, spacious
  • Exterior seating: Chairs that wrap frontage, limited cover
  • Pastry selection: Good – feature High 5 Pie

Another stellar day for a ride in Seattle to enjoy crisp air, blue skies, blue water, and mountain silhouettes. We took a spin that included the loop around Mercer Island. This is a segment that provides a stretch of steady unchecked pacing with a few rollers and some snappy s-turns. The community center, when on a counter clockwise route, provides for a clean rest stop early in the mornings, except for Sunday, when they open at eleven.

On the return route, we sprinted west across Lake Washington on the I-90 bridge, then north on Lake Washington Boulevard, and on through to the end of the Arboretum, where we took a sharp left and made our way to Fuel Coffee to refill our tank with a taste of espresso. We enjoyed Fuel Coffee and their setup up, and as one may expect, it has an automobile theme to it.  As much as we

1956 Mercury Hubcap

are cycling advocates, we also enjoy seeing automobile memorabilia.  Fuel Coffee has this motif going for it; from the signature fuel pump lantern logo to a wall display of auto paraphernalia.  What we believed to be a vintage 1956 Mercury hubcap particularly peaked our interest; the profile of Mercury is just cool.

There is an old and awkward bike rack outside that can prove to be a challenge to use if one is overly fussy about parking your ride. We used it and could keep an eye on

Window bar & bike rack

the bike from our seat at the window bar. Metal arm chairs wrap the cafe corner and provide a good setting to watch the Montlake neighborhood scene along the moderately busy 24th Ave East.  Montlake Bicycle Shop is located caddy-corner and is convenient if one needs a mechanical assist or if your beleaguered old ride begs for an upgrade. A shallow canvas canopy on the west side shades the cafe windows from the sun, but certainly holds no hope to keep one dry on a wet day.  Dogs are accommodated for and can slurp a drink from a community bowl placed just outside the entry. The interior provides ample seating and has a bright southwest corner for the dark gloomy days when one wants to enjoy a good cup of coffee inside. The pastry selection is enticing and features the delights of High 5 Pie.

La Marzocco machine

A sexy looking La Marzocco espresso machine with sleek lines and racing stripes establishes a distinct presence at the espresso bar. Too bad there was a paper flyer taped unflatteringly to it, otherwise, we would have called it molto sexy!  The crew was pleasant and engaging; the cashier took our order and queued the cup, saucer, and spoon for the barista.  We asked if they serve a soda water with the espresso; the barista without hesitation cracked a can and poured us a cup.  He took noticeable care and satisfaction in the preparation of the espresso.  It was a ristretto style

Interior shot with La Marzocco racing stripes & defamation by flyer

shot with a consistent crema that was highlighted with reddish streaks.  The aroma was good and the flavor full.  The sweetness of the finish did not develop to its full potential.  We decided to have a second to judge consistency of the pulls.  The second matched the first very closely.  Fuel Coffee uses Caffe Vita roast.  The barista had a likable enthusiasm for his craft, and expressed that he would enjoy the opportunity to develop Fuel’s own roast, at some time in the future, when the time is right for the owners to make that level of investment.

Fuel we enjoyed your cafe and recommend it as a stop when in Montlake.  We rate our espresso experience four out of five wheels.  We liked the cafe ambiance, the passion and engagement of the staff, the willingness to serve a soda water, and the taste of the espresso. Offering a soda water unprompted will add a nice touch of espresso tradition and, if the unflattering aesthetic of cracking a can is not an appealing, consider investing in a small portable do-it-yourself soda water decanter.  The finish of the espresso has room to develop a higher degree of sweetness.  We look forward to returning and visiting your Capitol Hill and Wallingford locations in the future.

Keep on rolling…………………………………TheCycleCafe!
Fuel exterior 1

Fuel exterior

Memorabilia display

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Brussels Express : a documentary by Sander Vandenbroucke


It is hard to believe that the capital of Belgium, a country steeped in cycling majesty, has some of the worst traffic congestion and is one of least cycling accommodating cities in Europe.  Brussels Express tells the tale from the vantage point of a bicycle courier business making a difference and riding above the waste of the vehicular suffocation that envelops Brussels.

The documentary artfully captures the story and layers in meaningful environmental commentary from a number of cycling and traffic management perspectives.  The representatives from Pedal BXL deliver the message well and without a disdain for vehicles or vehicle operators as we see so often from bicycle advocates.

The cycling footage is inspiring as well is the overall quality of shooting in the piece.  Look for the seemingly endless shot up the spiral stair.

Set aside twenty minutes, pour an aromatic cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy this documentary expanded to full screen


Lighthouse Coffee Roasters

Lighthouse Coffee Roasters – 400 N 43rd St., Seattle WA

  • Espresso – ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷
  • Cycle accommodations: Limited space, can be directly observed
  • Cafe setting: Bright, lively, pleasant, authentic Seattle character
  • Interior seating: Ample quantity, cozy
  • Exterior seating: Limited, no cover
  • Pastry selection: Average

It was a beautiful September summer Seattle morning.  The glinting azure and emerald colors filled the spectrum of our vision as we rolled along breathing the crisp salt air of Puget Sound.  It was a morning that made the drizzly dark days, long endured, seem to be a phantasm, never to return.  When we set out for the ride, we determined Lighthouse Coffee Roasters was the espresso destination.  We knew that they were north of Fremont and would provide a refreshing stop toward the end of the journey.

Lighthouse entry

Lighthouse Coffee Roasters is small batch roaster who has been providing fresh roast beans on a daily basis for over a decade. They occupy the bright corner of N 43rd St. and Phinney Ave N, which is just north of the center of Fremont.  A long wooden bench and a rock seat wall provide exterior seating to enjoy a cup of coffee.

The interior is simple with painted walls and ceilings.  The espresso bar is angular with a dark wooden top and is ringed with classic red vinyl cushioned diner stools.  There is a cozily spaced corral of seating, that provides for a dynamic and lively setting amongst the


display of what we assume to be local art on the walls.   A cast iron roaster is showcased at the back of the cafe with large burlap sacks of coffee beans stacked in adjoining company.   A large selection of roasted coffee is for sale and is displayed in glass jars behind the espresso bar.  The aroma of coffee fills the air.


Menu board

We stepped up to the cashier to order an espresso and were impressed by the fair prices.  It was very busy and by 10:30 AM the selection in the pastry case was rapidly diminishing.  The staff was pleasant and engaged their customers making for a warm and inviting welcome.  While waiting we romanticized about an elegant espresso experience, having recently viewed a video of a cafe in Milan, where the baristas were smartly dressed men with pressed, collared, white, short sleeve shirts, and thin black bow-ties.  We were snapped back to Seattle, and Lighthouse roasters, where the baristas were men civilly attired with black tank tops, concert tee-shirts, shorts, and possibly Birkenstocks.  We will take pleasant and friendly any day and were warmly greeted.  Our

Espresso Bar

order was taken then passed along to the barista who went to work with great care.  The espresso was served lonely on a saucer with no spoon or soda water.  We were served a glass of ice water on request.  The aroma did not live up to the pleasant coffee fragrances filling the cafe.  The crema was thin and inconsistent with outcroppings of bubbles and mottled colorations.  The cup was not wiped clean before serving.  The flavor proved to be one dimensional; it started bitter and finished bitter.

Lighthouse Coffee Roasters we give you two out of five wheels rating for the espresso experience.  Your staff and barista had good customer engagement and your setting was an authentic Seattle neighborhood place worth visiting.  The espresso craft needs some work to perfect the crema and flavor of your fine coffee.  We have had an excellent Lighthouse blend espresso pulled at the Dutch Bike Company, so we know your roast can deliver a good cup.  Consider providing a soda water and spoon with the espresso to bring a touch of espresso tradition to your customers.

We look forward to a follow up visit as well as purchasing some fresh beans for our moka pot.

Sacks of beans

Selection of roasts

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