Tougo Coffee Co. – 1410 18th Ave. Seattle, WA
- Espresso: ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ~
- Cycle accommodations: U-rack on the sidewalk, lean space on windows, observable from inside ~
- Cafe setting: Neighborly ambience ~
- Interior seating: Variety of options, makes good use the space ~
- Exterior seating: Modest, no cover ~
- Pastry selection: Very good ~
It was a chilly 28º F early in the morning. Dense fog touched the bones. The first miles were all down hill and the cold spared no mercy on the gloved fingers. Each tap of the keyboard as we wrote this review provided a prompting ache in the fingertips, as a reminder of the cruelty of the cold. Fortunately, after the first downhill miles, the ride was predominantly uphill to reach our destination, Tougo Coffee Co. We pressed a good pace up the hills to regain circulation in the extremities.
Located on the northern edge of the Central District and neatly placed in a single story storefront on 18th Ave, between E. Pike and E. Union Streets, Tougo fit appropriately into the edge of the adjacent residential blocks. A wooden set of Adirondack rocking chairs with accompanying picnic table provided exterior seating and established a neighborly introduction. Bike parking was available outside and was readily observable from the interior. There is plenty of wall space on the storefront to lean a number of bikes while your group makes a stop.
It was apparent from our first impression that Tougo is an authentic neighborhood fixture. We enjoyed how the barista greeted familiar and unfamiliar faces; making all feel welcome. Casual conversation flavored the ambience inside. The strongly directional wooden slat ceiling was the interior feature of the space. We speculate that it was hand fabricated in place, giving it a truly unique character. Two long banquettes channel the length of the space to provide ample seating. An arm chair occupies the northern window niche and a bar height cafe table for two occupies the southern niche. The floor is a sealed patina stained concrete finish.
We paid two visits to Tougo. At the first, we had the pleasure of meeting via bicycle, Tom Fucoloro, the author of the very informative Seattle Bike Blog. He is also the editor and significant contributing journalist to the Central District News. Visit both the Seattle Bike Blog and the Central District news to learn more about Tom and the news he is reporting on. Tom recently discovered TheCycleCafe, and an introductory meeting over espresso was our proposal. Tougo was Tom’s suggestion and provided a new cafe to experience for TheCycleCafe.
The barista was welcoming and friendly, and he gave a full descriptive introduction to the flavor expectations of the two roasts being offered: Velton’s Bonsai Blend, the regular, and Handsome’s Dandy single origin was the rotating roast. We ordered the Dandy and suggested that we would like to try the Bonsai Blend afterwards to compare. The barista was very enthusiastic about the prospect and suggested that we take a seat and he would bring the espresso to us. With the adept skill of an Oktoberfest fräulein, our barista came cheerfully bearing two fists full of four tiny espresso cups to our table and identified which was which. It was spectacular service that made for a great experience. The downside was that the half-life of the first espresso pulled had expired by the time they arrived. We should have told him that we wanted them spaced apart. We give top marks for the fun experience but reserved reviewing the espresso until our second visit.
During our second visit the barista gave an equally informative description of the flavor expectations of each roast; the Bonsai chocolaty, and the Dandy bright and fruity. We appreciated how she took care to calibrate the machine and test the roast before pulling our espresso. She impressively managed multiple customers and maintained engaging banter while making multiple preparations. We started with the Bonsai Blend. The aroma was rich and was indeed chocolaty. The crema was consistent and full with moderate stamina. The coloration was caramel brown. The taste was good and developed pleasantly and finished with a sweetness. After the first espresso, a raspberry filled biscuit and a Sfogliatelle filled with goat cheese, red pepper and olives called to us from the variety of pastries occupying the case. We started with the biscuit while the Sfogliatelle was warmed and the second espresso was being prepared. The Dandy roast was as described, bright and fruity both in aroma and flavor. The crema was a light caramel color and smoothly consistent across the surface. We preferred the flavor of Velton’s Bonsai Blend.
Tougo Coffee we give you a solid four out of five wheel rating. You are definitely a worthy cycling espresso stop and we will remember you when we are in the Central District. Your service and customer care are excellent. The neighborhood character and ambience was delightful. We appreciated the introduction and information regarding the roasts being offered. The Dandy espresso was possibly slightly under extracted, but the flavor and aroma still came through satisfactorily. Produce more stamina and rich velvety texture in the crema and the espresso will be even better. Consider, as part of espresso tradition, offering a small compliment of soda water to clear the palette for the discerning espresso drinker.
Tougo Coffee Co., continue being a great neighborhood cafe experience and destination in the Central District. Cyclists descend upon them! We do not think they will mind if you clear out the pastry case and other assorted sandwich offerings.
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*Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations. We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits. Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.
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