Food & Drink

Seattle Coffee Guide: The Independent Shops

By Sheila Mickool and Matthew Amster-Burton December 31, 1969

Caffè Umbria

Pioneer Square SHOP founded in 2005 (Company founded in 2002)
Beans: Caffè Umbria
Most popular drink: Americano
Wi-Fi: None (gasp!)
Caffè Umbria is a split shot: one part Pioneer Square (exposed brick) and one part Perugia (Italian tile and ceramic). OK, make that two parts Perugia: Not only is the espresso machine imported from Italy, so is the dishwasher. Sit outside on the piazza of Occidental Square, or flip open a newspaper at one of the standing tables. The foamy cappuccino is most in the spirit of this transporting cafe, which—wouldn’t you know it?—also serves gelato. 320 Occidental Ave. S; 206.624.5847

Watertown Coffee
First Hill, founded in 2009
Beans: Vivace
Most popular drink: Latte
Wi-Fi: Free
Watertown is a big, industrial cube of a place with board games and comfy garage-sale furniture, situated near Seattle University but more popular with neighborhood hipsters and university employees than students. Every afternoon it metamorphoses from coffeehouse to bar. You can get coffee all day, but how seriously could an espresso/booze bar hybrid take its coffee? Last time we were in, our barista was dissatisfied with the grinder’s performance and apologetically pulled three shots before deeming one worthy of serving. “For a straight shot, a slightly tight grind is not acceptable,” she said. The shot was perfect, of course. 550 12th Ave; 206.860.4118

Cafe Bambino
Ballard, founded in 1997
Beans: Berardo (Italy)
Most popular drink: Americano
Wi-Fi: None
It doesn’t get any more neighborhoody than Bambino. Despite the sign in the window, Bambino hasn’t been serving Ballard since 1928—it just feels like it. The bustling, tiny room is packed with regulars; nowhere have we seen more customers wearing the establishment’s shirt. Most business here is to-go, but you can stop off at the small, covered patio, which boasts live jazz performances on summer Sundays. What, “neighborhoody” isn’t a word? It is here, buddy. 405 NW 65th St.; 206.706.4934

Top Pot
Downtown shop founded in 2004 (Company founded in 2002)
Other locations: Capitol Hill, Wedgwood, Bellevue, Mill Creek, Qwest Field and Queen Anne
Beans: Top Pot
Most popular drink: Double tall vanilla latte
Wi-Fi: Free
Before Top Pot opened, there were two prevailing schools of coffeehouse décor: the Corporate Sterility school and the Smelly Couch school. OK, perhaps that’s too harsh, but the Top Pot mini-empire offers a consistent, clubby modernist design sense chain-wide. The stunning downtown location, with its leaning curtain wall facade, is simply one of the most memorable coffeehouses anywhere. It takes the vintage-books motif of the chain to the next level, literally: A staircase leads to the roomy mezzanine. Also, as you may have heard, it has doughnuts. 2124 Fifth Ave.; 206.728.1966

Herkimer Coffee
Greenwood Shop founded in 2003
Other location: Ravenna
Beans: Herkimer
Most popular drink: S


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