Chicago – Espresso Destinations 2014

Chicagoland is the area of my roots, and being so, has provided opportunity to visit fairly often.  It seems not too long ago that the effort required to find a fine espresso was a tribulation, and taking a cycle ride across town was a perilous endeavor.  As much as time has passed and faces have changed, Sandberg’s poem, Chicago, seems in many ways as relevant today as it was when originally published a century ago in 1914 by Poetry Magazine.  Under the waves of present day violence and political grift and graft, the “City of Big Shoulders” can be seen with “lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning”. New investments into urban space such as Maggie Daley Park and in multi-modal infrastructure bears proof that the pulse and heart of the people can be felt.  The growth of urban bicycling and abundance of fine espresso houses are part of the “stormy, husky, brawling” laughter raising Chicago above the fray.  The implementation of cycling infrastructure is impressive, and by witness of our non-scientific survey, it is robustly used.  The Divvy bike share program has taken off with flourishing success;  Kudos to Chicago for leading the way!  The number of coffee houses to visit has grown handsomely with a variety of gems to choose from.

4000 fattened fossil fuel miles of flying to and from Seattle and Chicago burdened my eco-footprint.  To lighten the trip, planes, trains, car-shares, and bikes, were relied upon to traverse the country to “The Region” or “Da Region”; the affectionate Hoosier moniker for Northwest Indiana.  With not a cubic micron to spare, our  Chrome Industries backpack was precisely loaded to outfit the trip to allow seamless transition from one mode of transportation to the next. The multimodal relay went like this:  Brief walk to a  Car2Go, transition to the Link Light Rail, ride to SeaTac, fly to O’Hare, hop the “L” Blueline, ride a Divvy Bike, and finally roll on the South Shore Line to the Gary Metro Center.  From there my wonderful parents chauffeured me to their home.

Repeating this trip a number of times over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to explore and highlight some Chicagoland espresso destinations. Dock your Divvy to read the run down of cafe recommendations.

Heritage Bicycles General Store – 2959 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

IMG_4170 IMG_4171 IMG_4176 IMG_4177 IMG_4175 IMG_4169

How could we not like Heritage General Store, a mashup of bikes and coffee! Nestled in Lincoln Park, they evoke the feeling of a neighborhood corner store. Enjoy a properly served espresso, warm yourself within the bright day-lit interior, and view the working bike shop in action.  They are builders of fine urban cycles that exude class and tradition.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

 

Caffe Streets – 1750 W. Division, Chicago, IL

IMG_8637 IMG_8638 IMG_8639 IMG_8640 IMG_8643 IMG_8655

One word for Caffe Streets, style!, well worth the stop just to experience the interior. Pretend you are an architect and check out the custom ceiling.  The cobra head street lights define the espresso bar and definitely light the way to a well cared for and properly served espresso.  There is plenty of cycle parking outside and a sidewalk seating corral to enjoy your beverage al fresco.  Caffe Streets is located on the south boundary of Wicker Park, the seemingly center of mass of Chicago’s coffee houses.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Bowtruss Coffee Roasters – 2934 N Broadway, Chicago, IL

IMG_8408 IMG_8409 IMG_8411 IMG_8413 IMG_8414IMG_8416

Bowtruss’ original roasting facility that caters to the local shops and restaurants is just a few blocks walk from a Divvy bike station.   Enjoy the aromas of the roast while partaking in a beverage at the modestly sized front of house coffee bar.   They small batch roast and serve a properly crafted espresso.  I enjoyed the espresso so much that I bought a bag of beans to go, even though I had no room to spare in the backpack.  Fortunately, I could take advantage of the Divvy bike cargo rack and enjoyed a ride on the Lakefront Trail leading into downtown with Big John beckoning the way .

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

Dark Matter Coffee – Osmium Coffee Bar 1117 W Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL

IMG_8403 IMG_8404 IMG_8406 IMG_8407IMG_8405

Os, atomic number 76, has an other worldly bluish iridescent glow to its decor.  Located on Belmont, in the heart of the Lake View neighborhood, Osmium is one of three Dark Matter identities. Os is focused on espresso and finely crafted coffee beverages that are not dependent on milk and sweeteners but the natural flavor characteristic of the roasts. “In a world driven by technology and science, we are the gravitational resistance rooted in skill and philosophy…” is the lead sentence of Dark Matter Coffee’s manifesto.  A noble cause that we can lift an espresso to.  The friendly barista pulled a fine espresso with bountiful crema.   He also engaged in some good conversation.  Unfortunately time was short and I had to beat feet to the next Divvy bike, otherwise I would have lingered a bit longer.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

The Wormhole Coffee – 1462 N MilwaukeeAve. Chicago, IL

IMG_6433 IMG_6439 IMG_6441 IMG_6443 IMG_6447 IMG_6450

Fill your flux capacitor at The Wormhole Coffee. The unique decor absolutely takes one back to the future.  1980’s era sci-fi memorabilia is the theme and rings back future memories. Keep your eyes open for the the storefront, it maintains a low profile; probably to not attract too much space trash. The complimentary bowl of Lucky Charms hit the spot and provided just enough fuel to power a ride into downtown on N. Milwuakee Ave..  The staff was very friendly and engaging, and we look forward to a return trip.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Espressamente illy – 455 N Cityfront Plaza Dr, Chicago, IL

IMG_4148 IMG_4149 IMG_4155 IMG_4160 IMG_4161

Molto sexy! Espressamente is one of illy’s finely appointed Italian coffee bars.  After arriving on the red-eye, I made my way through the dawning hours of the Chicago streets to Espressamente, who who thankfully opens at 6:00 AM to cater to those in need. Polished and glossy, it is a gem set perfectly at the base of the NBC Tower.  Order and enjoy your espresso at the bar in Italian style.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Intelligentsia Coffee – Chicago

Intelligentsia Coffee, founded in Chicago, can also be found in NYC and Los Angeles.

1871 Coffee Bar – 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza Suite 1212

The 1871 location will have to be filed in the archives, it has recently closed operations.  Back in 2012 it was our first IC connection

Monadnock Coffee Bar – 53 W Jackson Blvd.

IMG_4227 IMG_4230 IMG_4235 IMG_4236 IMG_4238 IMG_4239

Located at the base of the Monadnock Building, a bastion of architectural prowess, Intelligenstia is well grounded within the massive load bearing brick facade.  The interior is a throwback to a traditional Italian espresso bar with marble topped tables complementing the original tiled floors.  The traditional styling pays appropriate homage to its setting.  Bustling with caffeinated Chicagoans, one could feel the heart of the city’s business pulse in motion.

Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Millennium Park Coffee Bar – 53 East Randolph Street

IMG_6629 IMG_6642 IMG_6649 IMG_6652 IMG_6660 IMG_4247

Conveniently located off the northwest corner Millennium Park, the terminus of the South Shore Line, Intelligentsia’s Millennium Park edition is simply and elegantly styled.  Amidst the busy morning caffeine rush hour, appropriate craft and exceptional service tended to the ethos of the espresso experience.  The barista chatted it up a little and liked the fact that I was living the dream and cycling in some rough weather.  Following the espresso, a Divvy bike was pulled at the Daley Center plaza, tribute was paid to the Picasso and then the Marina City Towers, I then made haste northwest via the abounding cycling infrastructure supported by Chicago.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~

La Colombe – 1552 N Damen Ave.

IMG_6666 IMG_6667 IMG_6671 IMG_6673 IMG_6676 IMG_6672

La Colombe was founded in Philly by two partners who met in Seattle.  They developed “culinary coffee”; inspired by the techniques of European roasters and an evolving fine american cuisine.  Located  below the Damen ‘L’ stop, La Colombe is set within a gritty Chicago urban texture.   Plenty of cycle parking is in the area to serve the multi-modal commuters and urban riders.  A delicious espresso with a bountiful crema was enjoyed.  The self serve soda water station is a nice touch so make sure to take care of yourself.

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~

Uptown Cafe – 1400 E. Lincoln Way, Valparaiso IN

IMG_4183 IMG_4184 IMG_4187 IMG_8570 IMG_8425 IMG_4188

If you need to get to northwest Indiana from Chicago, take the South Shore Line, an interurban commuter rail that connects from the Millennium Park station to South Bend Indiana.  The peaceful rail trip from Millennium Park to the Gary Metro Center takes just under an hour for a meager $6.00 cost.

You might tell yourself that NW Indiana is not known for its specialty coffee houses and you would be right.  Presently, the exception is Uptown Cafe, which  is an espresso oasis for “The Region”.  It is strategically located across the street from the world renowned comics, gaming, and graphic novel shop, Galactic Greg’s, run by Greg Karras, author of the graphic novel, CLASH.  Uptown is also situated at the edge of Valparaiso University.  It is well appointed with a modern and stylish cafe bar and serves a fine espresso in a fancy Bodum double glass insulated demitasse.  I had the good fortune to share an espresso and conversation with Galactic Greg who was donning a smashing custom Captain America leather jacket.

  • 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 3.1.3

Celesto Espresso Mobile Truck

Celesto Espresso Mobile Truck – Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations: On the go ~
  • Cafe setting:  A fantastic truck ~
  • Interior seating: Fabulous, but only on invitation ~
  • Exterior seating: That is all there is ~
  • Pastry selection: A fine modest selection ~

February 22, 2014 cold, wet, and gray are the descriptors for the day. The weather forecast promised that an 8:00 AM departure time would provide a window of opportunity for a dry ride.  Upon review of the mendacious weather app, we saw that the bright red warning icon was flashing, saying snow was a possibility in the higher elevations.  Turning a blind eye to that, a final check of the polished red brake levers of the Wilier was made.  As the cranks turned, a drizzle filled the air closing the promise of the dry window.  We were committed now and forged ahead climbing up to the top of Discovery Park to get warm and then to Perkins lane where freezing rain stung into our cheeks on the descent.  Red alerts went off to say that the ride may need to be abandoned if the freezing rain continued.  Fortunately, it was brief and yielded to larger drops of fluid precipitation.  Looking at the glistening sleeves of the red Rapha rain jacket, today would be a day that will test the quality and performance of the gear.  Another fleeting wise thought was that today would be a good day to use an indoor trainer.   If that was the case, we would not have the opportunity to go out in search of our motivator for the ride, Celesto Espresso Mobile Truck.  Would we find it? Would it be in its promised location on a day like today?  Could Celesto provide a quality espresso?  Most horrifyingly, would it be served in a paper cup?; lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!  We pressed onward making for the dependable West Seattle loop, out beyond the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, up Marine View Drive, and then back northbound using the treacherous heavily motorized 35th Ave SW which provided the highest elevation point of the ride and heavy slushy drops that wavered between snow and rain.  Only ten miles of glistening pavement stood between us and an espresso.  Rain had penetrated through both gloves and booties but the Rapha rain jacket  and winter collar kept our core warm and dry.  A brief chill that slithered in during the descent brought back memories of the 2012 Tour de Blast.

Pausing at the Port for a moment to admire the Smith Tower, we mentally charted a route to South Lake Union (SLU) and the Center for Wooden Boats (CWB), the promised location of Celesto.   The strategy was to warm up by climbing Western Avenue from Pioneer Square and then cut over to SLU via Virginia Street.  The steep climb on the wet cobbles of Virginia required concentration to make it to the top upright without incident; we were now on axis with our destination.  With the chill setting in, was this craziness to go in search of an outdoor truck for the ride’s espresso reward?  Pedaling on, we started the descent to Lake Union; scanning forward in search of Celesto.  Raindrops on our glasses refracted the green light of traffic signals and blinding white beams of oncoming headlights, then we spotted it in the distance, a small glowing red ember, tucked between IMG_5543the cedar shingled roofs of the CWB.  Beckoning us forward, we made our way toward the warmth of the truck’s vermilion radiance.  The foreboding weather had kept most of the visitors away but not Celesto, it was stationed stalwartly between the proud totem pole and the stack of lonely wooden dinghies, whose turquoise hulls complemented the bright fluid script and logo of Celseto.  Basking in the glow and charm of the delightfully restored truck was enough to warm the day.  Clumsily fumbling around with numb hands for money and camera we made preparations for the espresso order. The window slid IMG_5527open and we were pleasantly greeted by Celeste, the proprietor of the truck.  We asked and were granted permission to lean the bike on the truck and were mindful to rest it gently so as to not blemish the paint.  Through shivering lips an espresso was ordered and to our delight it was offered in porcelain and not paper.  Celeste set busily to work crafting a wonderfully aromatic cup.  The flavor was robust and satisfying and provided a lingering sweetness on the palette.  A second espresso was needed and it was IMG_5529equally delicious.  Celesto fulfilled our expectations and we give it a solid four wheels rating and make it a recommended cycling espresso stop when on the go.

Much to our delight we were given a backstage tour of the truck.  The stow-away drivers seat flipped away and provided access in to the neatly developed interior.  The simplicity of the drive council was outstanding; a large steering wheel with just a couple of dials and switches set into a flat metal dash was all that was needed to navigate the rig. We lingered a bit near Holmes, the heater, to admire the artwork sporting a skeleton in a camper.   Finished with the tour and once again outside, we were powered by Celesto espresso and madly pedaled home to finish the ride.

Celesto is open on the weekends at the Center of Wooden Boats and in the future Sundays at the Fremont market.

IMG_5546 IMG_5545 IMG_5544IMG_5535 IMG_5533 IMG_5538IMG_5537 IMG_5540 IMG_5539

*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 3.1.3

Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse

Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse – 19003 Front Street, Poulsbo WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Available in the side court ~
  • Cafe setting:  Bohemian! ~
  • Interior seating: Plenty of seating choices ~
  • Exterior seating: Plenty available, no cover ~
  • Pastry selection: Good options for refueling ~

Poetic waxing can only provide this scenic ride justice.  Summer relenting into Autumn;  Chill morning air tempered by virtue of exertion;  Deciduous warming tones brushed an evergreen canvas. Pathways unrevealed, extended, exhilarated, winding descents; Friendships forged future.

IMG_4285 IMG_4288 IMG_4289

This cycling journey took us north out of Seattle to Edmonds, to catch the ferry to Kingston.  The morning was crisp with blue pristine skies. Quiet early morning roadways made for favorable riding.  Pronounced and glowing with the rising sun, the Olympic mountains cut a beautiful profile across the sky and above Puget Sound; they beckoned us to board the ferry and continue our journey towards the west. Disembarking the ferry, we pedaled non-stop southward through Indianola, then around Miller Bay and through Squamish.  Continuing on, we headed north then west, navigating our way to Poulsbo and our midpoint destination, the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse.  Climbing southward out of  Poulsbo, a wonderful three mile stretch of rolling coastal roadway, Lemolo Shore Drive, was a fitting treat.  It connected to  the busier SR 305 and the Agate Pass bridge joining the peninsula to Bainbridge Island.  We conducted a tour of the east side of the island and visited the Vintage Bicycle Museum at Classic Cycles while we waited for the return ferry to Seattle.  The conditions of the day were perfect, the scenery phenomenal, and the camaraderie rewarding.  While the picturesque nature of this ride would be satisfying any time of year, the autumn colors made it magnificent.  Round trip, departing from the Fremont Bridge, was about 60 miles and 5500’ of elevation gain.

The Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse (PBCH) was a delightful cycling cafe stop.  We were ready to recharge after traveling some 35 miles and 3500 vertical feet.  Located at the northern extreme of the Poulsbo town center the PBCH was painted strikingly yellow with blue accents and presented with paradoxical quietness to the street.   Small in scale, the facade gives way to a large variety of interior seating with breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the Western Peninsula.  A side court is an excellent exterior room that provides a secure spot to park your bikes and enjoy a cup.

IMG_4301 IMG_4300 IMG_4293

Food selection is good, including pastries, sandwiches, and soup.  Serving a custom Mukilteo Coffee Roasters Poulsbohemian blend, the PBCH proffered some fine espresso preparations.

IMG_4299 IMG_4297 IMG_4290

The service was friendly and the barista/cashier did an admirable job of multi-tasking coffee, food, and coin.  We self-served a glass of filtered water to cleanse the palette prior to partaking in our cafe indulgence.  Moving to the finer points of the espresso; its best attributes were the aroma and the flavor.  The crema was smooth, although, frail; dissipating quickly. The progression of flavor was good and did provide a sweet lingering coffee flavor.  Overall we give the espresso experience a solid three wheel rating.  PBCH, you are definitely a recommended cycling stop and strategically placed for those exploring the area by cycle.  We look forward to stopping again.

IMG_4295

*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 3.1.3

Monorail Espresso

Monorail Espresso – 510 Pike Street, Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  On the go! ~
  • Cafe setting:  Walk up window ~
  • Interior seating: None ~
  • Exterior seating: None ~
  • Pastry selection: Chubbies ~

Skid your fixie to a halt and order an espresso at Monorail Espresso.  This is your on the go spot for an excellent espresso when in downtown Seattle.  Socketed into the the south facade of the former Coliseum Cinema, now Banana Republic, Monorail coffee maintains a long standing presence.

Monorail Espresso is a walk up espresso bar.  Do not park the bike, go straight for the espresso, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.  No futzing about wondering what you want, put your order in and let the line keep moving.  Cash only and tourist’s questions answered for a nominal fee.  Only one choice for food here, Chubbies.  Regretfully we did not order one; they looked much like our favorite chocolate chip cookies; made by Grandma.  We must go back to try them and update this post with the results.

Expectations were low when we asked to have the espresso served in hardware and with a soda water.  We were accommodated on both accounts.  The soda was served in an espresso cup and espresso served in a Japanese tea cup.  Aroma excellent, crema like fine velvet, texture like it should be, and flavor was exquisite.  Needless to say, this espresso hit the spot.  Traditions and formalities of cups, saucers and spoons aside, the quality of the espresso rocked the day. Monorail Espresso we give your espresso a five out of five wheel rating!

IMG_3400 IMG_3399 IMG_3398

*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 3.1.3

Issaquah Coffee Company

Issaquah Coffee Company – 317 NW Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Plenty of space, limited cycling specific ~
  • Cafe setting:  Spacious good daylight ~
  • Interior seating: Plenty, with options ~
  • Exterior seating: Exterior decks, some under cover ~
  • Pastry selection: Good & Plentiful ~

May’s bike month and Cycling season had kicked into full gear and beautiful weather IMG_3117launched it forward with splendor.  The goal of this ride was to complete a century and since timing did not work out for riding companions, it had to be done solo. Reaching 100 miles would include a route around the north end of Lake Washington, a stretch east, along Lake Sammamish, a climb over Issaquah, a switch back to the east along SE May Valley Road, south to the Cedar River Trail, then west into Renton, a transition north along Lake Washington Boulevard and finally ending with a few climbs in Discovery Park to eek out the last few miles to mark the century.

IMG_3118The route included three trails, the Burke-Gilman, the Sammamish River, and the Cedar River trail.   The Sammamish River Trail, the best of the three in our opinion, provides beautiful countryside scenery along the water’s edge.  Taking it early in the morning is recommended to offer the best continuous riding and fewest pedestrians.  The trail terminates in Redmond Washington.  East Lake Sammamish Parkway, a 10 mile stretch of quality roadway with a good shoulder, provided satisfying uninterrupted hammering of pedal strokes that guided us to the destination espresso stop, Issaquah Coffee Company.  Previously we were under the impression that Issaquah was devoid of a quality indie coffee house.  Thanks to a tip from one of our readers, Issaquah was saved from this stigma and now has the honor of having a recognized Cycling Espresso Stop, Issaquah Coffee Company.

IMG_3137Tucked on the south side of Gilman Village, Issaquah Coffee Company is most easily accessed off NW Juniper Street.  From the north, East Lake Sammamish Parkway changes to Front Street North; go west on NW Holly street and continue west to the end where you must turn right on 3rd Ave NW which will tee into NW Juniper Street.  Turn left then take the first right into the parking lot where you will see the gabled roof of Issaquah Coffee Company.  Enter from the west side where there is a front porch hosting a few adirondack chairs under cover.  There is a large deck to the north as well as another one to the east.  There is a small bike rack next to the garbage and recycling containers, hardly a fitting spot to rest your fine ride.  While there is limited cycling specific parking, plenty of space is availabe on the deck.

IMG_3129IMG_3123Inside there is a large amount of seating with multiple options including, soft couches and chairs, as well as cafe tables.  It is a pleasant simple interior with ample daylight to warm the hardwood floors.  The large flat screen TV is a bit of an anomaly to the other wise peaceful cafe setting, fortunately the volume was not turned on.

IMG_3122IMG_3125If you have worked up an appetite there is plenty of food and a good selection of sweet and savory items.  Sandwiches in addition to pastries are available for purchase.  The veggie quiche was called to our plate.  It was warm and delicious.

Our espresso experience was good.  Stumptown Hairbender is served at the cafe.  We were warmly greeted at the counter and placed our espresso and food order.  A soda water compliment was served upon request.  As is preferred, our payment was taken prior to the espresso being made.  Our food was prepared and then the espresso was delivered making the timing and delivery just right.  The crema was thick and rich and had the typical characteristics we see with Hairbender.  The aroma was full and offered an excellent prelude to a satisfying progression of delightful coffee flavor.  It was an excellent first espresso that begged a second one be ordered to help energize our legs to make the next 57 miles of the days effort.   The second espresso was pulled by a different barista.  A small cappuccino cup was used instead of a proper espresso demitasse, so the crema dissipated rapidly and the temperature of the shot was lost.  The flavor was generally the same but the espresso experience faltered on try number two.

Issaquah Coffee Company, we definitely make you a recommended cycling stop.  The staff is friendly, there are plenty of seating options, and enough food choices to serve the peloton.  We give the espresso experience three out of five wheels rating, primarily taken a notch down due to the faltering on the second pull and primarily the delivery; easily remedied.  We enjoyed the visit and will plan to stop again when in Issaquah.

IMG_3120

IMG_3130 IMG_3131IMG_3124

IMG_3128 IMG_3127IMG_3116

*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 3.1.3

Hotwire Online Coffee House

Hotwire Online Coffee House – 4410 California Ave. SW, Seattle WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  ~ Can lock to fence, observable in patio
  • Cafe setting:  ~ Cozy
  • Interior seating: ~ Limited, 4 computers for internet access
  • Exterior seating: ~ Covered patio area
  • Pastry selection:~ Average selection, Mighty O donuts

IMG_2820The forecast called for 25 mph winds, heavy rain, hail. and thunderstorms.  Determined to go for a ride, the fenders were strapped on, rain jacket was donned in preparation.  The early morning offered forty degree temperature, dry skies, and strong winds that dried the pavement of the previous days of rain that seemed to have been falling unrelentingly.   Conditions proved less than predicted.  Sprinting into the wind on the flat route along the waterfront, we spied Bertha, the largest deep bore tunneling machine in the world.  Berthawas being staged and prepped to rip earth asunder to create Seattle’s new tunnel that will replace the aging Alaskan Way viaduct.  Chiefly, the route was flat, in spite of the fact, the steady wind provided fiercesome resistance.  Rounding the turn onto Harbor Avenue, the wind turned from foe to friend and propelled us upward as we peeled off to make the climb up California Ave SW and to Hotwire Coffee, the mid-ride espresso stop.

IMG_2821 IMG_2823Hotwire is nestled next to the West Seattle post office and is deposited into a tiny brick building that appears to be a former gatehouse of a building complex with a previous life.   Our historical investigation ended with this supposition and begs for further research.  Ironwork fencing encloses a quaint covered courtyard that one enters through to gain access to Hotwire.

IIMG_2822nside, one steps immediately from the door to the espresso bar to place an order.  They have neatly packed the coffee house with a bevy offerings including, food, beverages, tea, coffee and mexican mochas.   If in a hurry, Textwire can be used to fire your advance order in so it is ready when you arrive. Natural brick provides a warm and textured backdrop to the barista, busily brewing beverages.  There is a sliver of high counter with two bar stools, four computers lined up along the window, and a two seat cafe table, if you want to linger a bit.  Red tubular glass  table lamps cast a glow within the space.

IMG_2944The cashier was buoyant and full of personality that lit up the place.  She took our order and delivered it to the barista who expertly pulled an espresso.  This was our second visit to Hotwire and the quality of espresso was good on both occasions.  The aroma was rich, the crema, while not pristine, had good depth.  The flavor of the coffee was excellent with a robust satisfying character and sweet chocolaty finish.  We were provided a splash of soda water on request.  The presentation of the espresso was different each time, it came once with saucer and spoon, another time just the cup, and a third time in a small cappuccino cup.

IMG_2825

Hotwire we enjoyed our visit very much and will certainly return for another delicious espresso.  Bravo to you!  We give you three out of five wheels for the  espresso experience.  The flavor was very good and certainly will make for the best espresso based beverages.   The service was wonderful.  The crema had some minor outcroppings of bubbles and needs a touch more fullness to provide an exquisite accompaniment to the delicious flavor.

IMG_2947 IMG_2936 IMG_2950

*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 3.1.3

Bustle Caffé

Bustle Caffe –  535 W McGraw St., Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Limited secure – observable
  • Cafe setting:  ~ Bright, Well laid out, Tasteful
  • Interior seating: ~ Many options, plenty of seating
  • Exterior seating: ~ Available, not covered
  • Pastry selection:~ Good selection – Sandwiches

2013IMG_2703Bustle Marking the last weekends of the 2013 winter, we made our first back to back ride of the year to properly close it out.  Bainbridge Island delivered quality scenery and quiet roads, plus a few hills on Saturday.  A Sunday ride to Alki Point punished us with a stiff headwind, however, we reaped the reward of the tailwind on the northbound return route.  Boosted by the wind we raced along through Mrytle Edwards Park and took the newly opened pedestrian and bike bridge that provides safe passage across Elliott Ave to lower Queen Anne.  Jettisoning us out directly onto 3rd Ave W.,  the bridge placed us into perfect alignment to make the climb to the top of Queen Anne and to our destination, Bustle Caffe.

2013IMG_2704BustleWith the exception of the flamboyant script of the sign, the exterior of Bustle Caffe looks a bit austere with a dark bronze colored metal siding.  The building has history and was built over 100 years ago as a grocery store.   It has been restored and retains some of its original decor inside.  A patio embraces the west side of the shop and must be popular on a warm sunny day.

There is no convenient place to park and secure your bicycle.  If traveling in a group, leaning the bikes against the outer wall seems the best option to be able to keep a safe eye on them.   Being out on a solo ride, a telephone pole on the corner sufficed; we hope it was not visited  by any doggies.

2013IMG_2698Bustle 2013IMG_2699BustleInside, Bustle Caffe transforms from the dark bronze exterior into a delightfully bright cafe setting.  Painted with a buttery yellow, the walls are warm and cheerful.  Two floral center pieces were placed strategically on the tables; when combined with the north light of the windows, a spring like atmosphere was made.  Two floral themed 2013IMG_2697Bustlechandeliers complement the space well, we wondered if they were part the history of the building.  There is a host of seating available, including a painted white bench and marble topped cafe tables.  The front of the house is lively and social, and a back area provides opportunity for a more secluded and quiet setting.  Free wi-fi is offered and there were a number of people making use of it.  Bustle is dog friendly and has treats available for Rover.  There was a pair of pudgy pugs hanging out with their moms during our visit.

2013IMG_2693Bustle 2013IMG_2690BustleThe food selection is  good with a healthy variety of choices.   Fresh homemade pastries and organic sandwiches fill the case.  In addition to coffee, they serve beer, wine, juices and “revitalizing elixirs”.  Attibassi Italian espresso is the coffee of choice for Bustle.  It is flown in weekly, as we understand, from Italy.   Bustle’s web site says it is flown in from “Bologna Spain”.   Without going to exhaustive research we are pretty confident that the coffee comes from Bologna, which is in the northern part of Italy.  Just thought we would point that out if they want to fix the reference.

Riding the last leg of the hill climb up McGraw St. to reach our destination made us more than ready to revive with an espresso before the leg home.  The baristas were very cheerful and engaged the customers pleasantly with conversation.  We ordered our espresso; a soda water was provided as a compliment upon request.  There were two working the bar and we were able to have the business of exchanging payment completed prior to the espresso being served.  It was presented properly with a saucer and spoon.  The aroma was pleasant.  The crema was thick, rich, and sustained itself well. The color would be considered on the light side, perhaps it was the effects of the buttery yellow paint.  The texture was creamy and flowed well across the palette. The flavor was good and progressed pleasantly to a sweet finish.  As a bonus, if you order a second espresso it is only one dollar.

2013IMG_2692Bustle

Bustle Caffe we enjoyed our espresso experience and give you a four out of five wheel rating.  The baristas provided excellent service and made one feel welcome in the cafe.  The atmosphere is pleasant, inviting and offers choices of seating.  The espresso was good and the fullness of the crema was the highlight.  It lacked just a bit of robustness of aroma and flavor.  We will be back again to enjoy a quality espresso experience.  Perhaps SDOT would be willing to add a bike rack out front if requested, click the SDOT link to learn more.

2013IMG_2704Bustle 2013IMG_2702Bustle 2013IMG_2701Bustle 2013IMG_2694Bustle 2013IMG_2675Bustle 2013IMG_2700Bustle

*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 3.1.3

Compass Coffee

Compass Coffee – 1304 Main Street, Vancouver, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  ~ Good, Observable, Some under cover
  • Cafe setting:  ~ Well proportioned, Good Daylight, neighborly
  • Interior seating: ~ Variety of options
  • Exterior seating: ~ Available & Covered
  • Pastry selection:~ Good Selection, homemade

This is the third in a series of trips made to Vancouver WA over the past months.   Driving up and down Main St. we passed by Compass Coffee and knew that we had to make it a destination on the next visit.   The third time was a charm, and we paid a visit on a quiet Sunday morning.

2013IMG_2610CompassHoused in a small single story brick building with a cedar shingle roof, Compass makes a quiet unassuming presence from the street.  Cafe tables are set out under the roof eve for dry cover in inclement weather.  The sidewalks are broad enough to allow the tables to pull out beyond the eve to capture some sun when it is out.  Bike parking opportunities are plentiful and easily observable from the interior.

2013IMG_2613Compass2013IMG_2620CompassThe proportions of the layout inside are very good with a square seating area hosting a number choices from couches and cafe tables, to a high seat at the espresso bar.  A large slab of natural timber formed the bar top and was the feature element of the space; the barista was the craftsman of the piece.  We were drawn to the timber and could not resist taking a 2013IMG_2629Compassseat at the bar.  Two cold drip brewing towers are the center piece of the back bar.  A dramatic progression from the top decanter, down a  spiral of glass distiller coils, and finally landing in the carafe is the journey the slow cold brewed coffee takes.  They were not in action today but we would love to see them at play.  When the weather warms up a bit more they will start up again to produce this highly concentrated and potent brew.

2013IMG_2627CompassThe pastry selections were one of a kind home baked goodies.   The assortment was modest and provided an appropriate variety of selection.  The savory biscuit called to us and we obediently ordered it.  Compass Coffee is a roasterie and serves their own creations.  Delirium is the go to espresso blend and Neryi Gaturiri a Kenyan peaberry was the single origin served.  “Coffee is Culinary” is Compass Coffee’s mission statement.  Living up to the mission you can choose to have your coffee brewed in the method of your choosing.

2013IMG_2611Compass2013IMG_2612Compass2013IMG_2615CompassBeing warmly welcomed to the espresso bar we were made comfortable.  Four or five people were in the cafe and a friendly couple visiting from the Tri-cities region of Washington State were at the cash register enjoying and providing some conversation.   Familiar banter was at play between the locals and assumed regulars.  Feeling right at home, the conversation was easily entered into.  Straight away, the impression of being a regular at the cafe rested upon you.  Yesterday evening, the first ever game night was held  and it apparently went on late into the night and is now under consideration to become a regular event at the cafe.  The levity of the morning continued and we learned the flowering business plan of a young woman who was sitting at the bar; sworn to secrecy, no more can be said about it.  For the record we vote for the longer and more poetic name, should the dream become a reality.  Brian the barista and part owner, demonstrated a knowledge and passion for his craft and educated us about the characteristics of the roasts being offered.  Delirium blend was our roast of choice to start with.   Directly after placing the espresso order we were served a traditional soda water prior to any other preparations beginning.  He was very intentional, concentrated, and precise with his methods.   Accompanied with a saucer and spoon, the cup was born swiftly to us, clean of spatter or smudge.  The crema was consistent with a reddish hue.  The aroma was warm and pleasantly foretold of the flavor.  The texture of the sips were rich and flowed wonderfully across the palette; delivering a progression of flavor that culminated with a sweetness and hints of cocoa flavor.  We tried the Gaturiri next, and of the two, we preferred the Delirium roast for an espresso.

2013IMG_2621Compass

Compass Coffee, we give you a five out of five wheel rating for our espresso experience with you.  The quality of preparation, adherence to tradition, appropriate priority to craft, and a proper presentation was warmly received.  We enjoyed the fun and friendly atmosphere provided by the barista, and that played directly through to the customers.   Continue the great work and we will definitely make a stop again.

2013IMG_2622Compass 2013IMG_2617Compass 2013IMG_2631Compass

*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 3.1.3

Cortona Cafe

Cortona Coffee – 2425 E. Union St., Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:  ⨷ ⨷ ⨷  ⨷  ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  ~ Good; Two U-Racks observable from inside plus over-flow space to lean cycles.
  • Cafe setting:  ~ Good neighborhood cafe
  • Interior seating: ~ Cozy entry level with loft seating
  • Exterior seating: ~ Uncovered
  • Pastry selection:~ Fresh waffles, average pastry assortment

2013IMG_2641CortonaIt was a foggy friday morning and we took the day off to extend the President’s Day weekend to a four day holiday.  We plotted out a 50 mile ride that included a loop around Mercer Island, a stretch along Lake Washington Boulevard past Seward Park, and a return route home including  one of our favorite cross town passages through the Central District.  Our destination stop was Cortona Cafe, which was exactly at mile forty of the ride.  We took no stops until we reached Cortona Cafe; making it a welcome site.  As we arrived the sun was burning the layers of fog away and casting a beautiful light onto the cafe.

2013IMG_2585CortonaCortona was founded in 2009 “with a desire to foster a place of reconciliation and community in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood…with a focus on empowerment, hospitality, and community building” as stated on their website.  Cortona, a hillside town in central Italy, is the namesake of the cafe.

Tucked into the corner of a newer development directly on the southwest corner of 25th Ave and E. Union Street, they offer a quality neighborhood presence.  Three timber frames contain the exterior seating area that has access to quality morning and mid-afternoon sun.  Exterior seating is without cover and makes it is a fair-weather offering only.   There is space for half dozen or so seats.  A small corinthian pedestal column, minus a few letters, resides at the border to advertise the cafe.  Two u-shaped bike racks are easily observable from inside.   If more space is required for cycle parking, the timber frames can do in a pinch.

2013IMG_2652CortonaOne enters directly on the corner of the building into a very cozy first level.  There is limited seating provided by benches. More seating is available in an upstairs loft that can be reserved for special occasions.  Two large divided light windows are the key feature within the space.  Free Wi-Fi is offered to encourage one to sit and stay a while.

 

2013IMG_2662CortonaWaffles are the specialty gastronomic draw at Cortona. The pastry case has an average variety of selections. Empanadas and hummus are also on the menu to satisfy those in need of savory.   The kitchen and espresso bar are efficiently packed in to the confines of the lower level.  Cortona uses Seattle based Herkimer Coffee as its roast of choice.  They also offer a variety of teas and other beverages.

 

2013IMG_2594CortonaJoe the barista, was dressed smartly in proper barista attire; black slacks, tie, and pressed shirt.  He apologized that it was casual friday and that he was not wearing his typical vest.  This added a quality touch to the espresso experience.  He said he was inspired from a trip to Italy and witnessing how baristas typically dress.  While preparing the espresso, Joe simultaneously managed pleasant conversation, readied a waffle, and provided a high level of customer service.  We were offered a soda water which we gladly accepted.

Cortona, we give you three out of five wheels for our espresso experience.   The espresso aroma was good.  The crema was consistent, had quality coloration, and sustained good stamina.  The flavor was appealing, provided a good progression, and finished with a lingering sweetness.  We appreciated the quality of service and that a soda water was offered as an accompaniment.  A quick tidy up of the cup to remove the spatter from the rim and the addition of a cafe spoon would have taken the presentation of the espresso to the next level.  We visited Cortona Cafe the previous week and found the espresso to be consistent with the exception that a soda water was not offered, however, the cup was tidied. In spite of the fact that the cashier on our first visit seemed to be having a bad day and serving customers was an inconvenience.  We  enjoyed our experience and will stop by again in the future.

2013IMG_2650Cortona

 

2013IMG_2587Cortona

 

2013IMG_2664Cortona 2013IMG_2660Cortona 2013IMG_2659Cortona

*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 3.1.3

Broadcast Coffee – Capitol Hill

Broadcast Coffee (Capitol Hill) – 1623 Bellevue Ave. Seattle, WA

  • Espresso:   ⨷ ⨷ ⨷   ~
  • Cycle accommodations:  Lean space on windows, observable from inside ~
  • Cafe setting: Simple, Clean  ~
  • Interior seating: Variety of options, makes good use the space ~
  • Exterior seating: Modest, Minimally covered~
  • Pastry selection: Modest ~

2013IMG_2491Broadcast CHBroadcast Coffee’s Capitol Hill location tucked neatly into the store front of a fairly newly developed building.   Secure bike parking is limited, and you will want to make sure to keep your cycle in plain view against the window, or it may quickly vanish if unsecured.  Perhaps when the construction project underway, directly south of Broadcast, is complete a bike rack will be installed.  If not, Broadcast, we recommend that you call (206) 684-7583 and visit http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikeracks.htm to understand the options and request SDOT to provide accommodations for securing cycles near to you and preferably observable from within the cafe.

2013IMG_2490Broadcast CHThis part of the city seems to be rapidly transforming with new development and Broadcast Coffee took the opportunity to recently settle into their second location.  The original location is at 1918 Yesler Way.  We will plan a stop there to compare in the future to gage consistency of brand.  There are a few chairs outside available to sit and sip a coffee and watch the activity of the neighborhood. We state no guarantees that the narrow canopy will keep you dry on a rainy day.

2013IMG_2479Broadcast CH2013IMG_2488Broadcast CH2013IMG_2489Broadcast CHInside is simple and clean, with sealed natural finish concrete floors and exposed  structural concrete columns and slab ceiling.  Pendant lights draw focus to the coffee bar, which is finished with a warm natural wood transaction top and basket weave tile facing on the front.  The natural wood highlights are consistent throughout the coffee house, giving it warmth and a touch of character.  There is a wall display of coffee and a few coffee sundries available for purchase.  A vintage filmstrip projector caught our eye and brought back memories of  an A.V. cart being rolled into a darkened classroom room for a filmstrip show with accompanying beep tone to signal when to advance to the next frame.  In our humble opinion, a few more bits of A.V. and broadcast paraphernalia will fill out the decor of this new location just right.

2013IMG_2485Broadcast CHThe young man tending the espresso bar greeted us warmly with a smile and provided a good introduction to the coffee roasts they were serving.  Dueling grinders were in operation. Grinder one was loaded with Stumptown Hairbender, and grinder two was loaded with a single origin ethiopian heirloom from Sightglass coffee bar and roastery of San Francisco.  We discussed a bit about the qualities of each and how a single origin can be difficult to pull a good quality espresso with.  We have had our fair share of Hairbender and with some thoughtful nudging from the barista we decided upon the Sightglass.

2013IMG_2480Broadcast CHWith a satisfied order taken, the barista served a soda water immediately and our expectation of a good espresso was set into place by the quality of the ritual that was being delivered.   The barista was noticeably focused and took thoughtful deliberation in his preparations.   He was careful to keep a tidy cup and delivered the espresso with deft movements placing it gently in front of us.  The crema was wonderfully consistent and full.  The aroma was clean and smooth.  The texture of the coffee was good and provided an excellent flavor progression with a lingering sweetness to finish.

Broadcast we give you a solid four out of five wheels.  The coffee bar is pleasant, clean and simple.  The service was excellent and the espresso preparations done properly with attention to tradition.   The pastry selection was limited like the bike parking.  One might fuss that the espresso crema could have had a more reddish tint and a smidgen more velvety texture across the palette, however,  all the other qualities ruled the day.  Bravo, we know that we can come to Broadcast for an espresso performance well done.

2013IMG_2481Broadcast CH

2013IMG_2482Broadcast CH2013IMG_2486Broadcast CH 2013IMG_2477Broadcast CH 2013IMG_2476Broadcast CH2013IMG_2484Broadcast CH 2013IMG_2478Broadcast CH

*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 3.1.3